golden girl | 

Katie Taylor’s greatest challenge will not be an opponent but knowing when to quit

Katie Taylor has boxed officially for 20 years. Before women’s boxing was sanctioned in Ireland in 2001, she had to disguise as a boy to get fights
Katie Taylor, right, lands a punch on Firuza Sharipova

Katie Taylor, right, lands a punch on Firuza Sharipova

Seán McGoldrick

The one opponent even the greatest fighters cannot beat is Father Time.

Katie Taylor has boxed officially for 20 years. Before women’s boxing was sanctioned in Ireland in 2001, she had to disguise herself as a boy to get fights.

She had 175 fights as an amateur – winning all but 12 of them. She extended her unbeaten professional record to 20-0 on Saturday night in Liverpool.

She has reshaped the parameters of female boxing.

Almost single-handedly she secured Olympic status for women’s boxing. As a professional, she has raised the profile of women’s boxing to a level never seen before.

As Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn suggested on Saturday night, nobody deserves a defining moment in their career more than Katie Taylor.

It is set to come next Spring – on either April 23 or 30 – in the mecca of boxing: New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Taylor has fought there on two occasions on the undercard of World title fights.

But this time will be different: she will be the headline act when finally meeting her long-time rival Amanda Serrano, who, at 33, is two years younger.

The tragedy for Taylor is the defining moment of her career may have come too late.

There has been an unmistakable weariness about her three performances in 2021. Though she has never looked like losing, the spark has definitely dimmed.

Granted, mandatory challenges are a chore. Even Muhammad Ali didn’t always float like a butterfly. Some of his performances were prosaic too.

Katie Taylor’s greatest challenge will not come against Amanda Serrano or another future opponent. It will be knowing when to quit.

There was a perception in boxing that Amanda Serrano, a nine-weight World champion never really fancied stepping inside the ring against Taylor regardless of her public pronouncements

But her team is smart enough to know that she now has a real chance of beating the Irish fighter.

Ironically, had the fight gone ahead as originally planned in May 2020 – it was scuppered due to Cobid-19 – the odds would have been stacked in favour of Taylor.

But the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction in the interim.

But at least once Katie returns to her training base in Connecticut after spending Christmas with her family in Bray she can focus on Serrano.

The Puerto-Rican American needs to win a final warm-up fight next weekend in order to clear the way for their mega showdown.

“We have trained for Serrano twice, so I think we know her pretty well, “ said Taylor’s trainer Ross Enamait.

“She is a good southpaw, she goes to the body well, she has a good engine, is experienced, punches with both hands. We know it is a tough fight.”

The belief in the Taylor camp is that the prospect of being involved in a multi-million-dollar fight which will garner world headlines will bring the best of the defending champion.

“When you are in there with the best fighters you definitely rise to the occasion as well,” suggests Taylor though accepting it is a 50/50 fight.

“She is coming in believing she is going to win 100 per cent and so am I. This is what makes the best fights in boxing. She is obviously very experienced and has a huge knockout ratio. Since I started the professional game this fight has been talked about.

“This is genuinely more than I ever dreamed of – to have a chance to headline in MSG, the most iconic venue in boxing, the Mecca of boxing. This is exactly why I became involved in professional boxing.

“I remember even against Eva Wahlstrom (Taylor fought her in the MSG in 2018) and hearing the Olé, Olé, Olé around the stadium. It was incredible. So, I can’t imagine what is going to be like if I am headlining it.”

Taylor has always trusted her advisors led by manager Brian Peters to take charge of everything that happens outside the ring.

It was obvious during Saturday night’s press conference that she had left the details of the biggest fight of her career in the hands of her advisors.

‘Is it going to be the Hula Theatre?’ she asked Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn who was sitting alongside her.

The MSG complex contains a main auditorium which can accommodate 20,000 for a boxing match or the smaller Hua Theatre which has a 4,000 capacity.

Hearn confirmed that they have an option on the main auditorium and the plan is to stage the fight there. “You better get selling, it is a big place,” he joked.

He acknowledged the involvement of YouTuber and sometimes boxer Jake Paul in the management of Serrano’s career had changed the goalposts in terms of the commercial value of the fight.

“He is going to bring a lot of attention to the fight as well. He has done a great job for Amanda Serrano. He has really increased her value for this fight.

“We want the fight to be as big as possible and I think we would be doing ourselves a little bit of an injustice by just doing 4,000. So, I would like to see how big it can grow.”

Hearn still keeps the first text Katie sent him after the Olympic Games in 2016 asking was he interested in promoting her if she turned professional. Did he ever imagine then that one day she would headline a show in Madison Square Garden?

“It was always a dream. We have done so much; it has all been down to Katie. She has boxed in some incredible venues, she has headlined, she has been co-main event, she has always got a tremendous reception.

“With everything that is happening in women’s boxing right now I feel now is the time that she should get that moment. It will be an iconic moment and she has had many iconic moments. But I kinda feel this is the one she deserves.

“Serrano deserves it; women’s boxing deserves it because everyone has worked so hard over the last few years. There are so many great fights week in, week out now and I really believe it is all because of Katie. That will be her defining moment,” said Hearn.

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