Why Katie Taylor has already cemented a unique place in Irish sporting folklore
From Olympics gold to domination on the professional stage, Taylor is a game changer
KATIE Taylor is the most influential Irish sports person ever.
No other Irish man or woman has changed the face of a global sport like she has.
And she did it twice — firstly in the amateur ranks, playing a pivotal role in securing women’s boxing a place in the Olympics, before transforming women’s professional boxing in the last seven years.
Now she has more than earned the right to have a homecoming fight in Croke Park.
The calamitous bungling which deprived her of that honour is a damning indictment of the Irish Government, the GAA, and her promoters Matchroom.
Now, the focus switches to the 3Arena where 2,366 days after the Olympic gold medallist made her professional debut in London, she finally gets an opportunity to showcase her talents on home soil next Saturday.
One of the curious aspects of Taylor’s two-decade-plus journey is that none of her career defining fights at amateur or professional level took place in Ireland.
Until she steps into the ring at around 11.30pm next Saturday, arguably the most important fight she has had in Ireland was in the National Stadium on Halloween night 2001.
As a 15-year-old she made her official amateur debut in the first ever sanctioned female show in Ireland.
She won her Olympic gold medal in London. Her five World amateur titles were secured in New Delhi, Ningbo (China), Barbados, Qinhuangdao (China), and Jeju (South Korea).
Likewise, her six European titles and five European Union titles were all fashioned on foreign soil. The IABA and their paymasters, Sport Ireland, were woefully remiss in not hosting at least one European championship event during her career.
So far in her professional career she has graced some of the most iconic sporting arenas in the world, including New York’s Madison Square Garden —where her 19,000 sell-out clash last year against Amanda Serrano was the first female fight to top the bill there — London’s Wembley Stadium and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Tragically for Irish sport, and professional boxing in particular, the 2016 Regency Hotel shooting and the subsequent vicious gangland war meant it was deemed too much of a security risk to stage a show featuring her in Dublin until now.
Katie admits there were times she almost gave up hope of ever getting the opportunity to showcase her talents in Dublin. But now the moment is nigh.
“I am just so excited because this could be the biggest moment of my career so far, having a chance to become a two-weight undisputed champion in front of the people who have supported me for years and years.
“I guess there is a bit of added pressure this time around in front of the home crowd. But I have the experience of fighting on these big occasions when there is a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I am just getting on with things,” she said.
It’s a measure of Taylor’s integrity as an athlete as well as her own self-confidence that she opted for the most difficult challenge imaginable for her debut in Dublin.
Chantelle Cameron is not making the short journey across the Irish Sea to pay homage to the undefeated and undisputed lightweight world champion. She wants to become the biggest gate crasher in the history of Irish sport.
This will be a different contest to Taylor’s previous 22 fights in the pro ranks. For the first time, her opponent was not vetted and approved by her innermost circle led by her long-time manager Brian Peters.
Instead, with the prospect of the homecoming fight disappearing once Amanda Serrano opted out, Taylor took the initiative and challenged Cameron with a message on Instagram.
Arguably, Taylor is past her prime. In seven weeks’ time she celebrates her 37th birthday. Cameron is 31, unbeaten in her 17 professional bouts and will be fighting at her optimum weight of 140lb.
All but one of Taylor’s previous 198 fights at both amateur and professional level have been at 135lbs. So, she will be definitely operating outside her comfort zone.
But nothing ever fazes her. She has perfected the art of producing her best performances when the need is greatest.
“I perform so much better when I am under pressure. I am a pressure fighter. For my whole career, I’ve been feeling the pressure. This is exactly where I want to be,” she said.
She does takes pride in the role she has played in development women’s boxing.
“A few years ago, we were worrying about whether we were going to sell out little York Hall (in London) and here we are a few years later; the progress has been incredible. I definitely have a sense of pride in having the chance to inspire some young girls out there as well.”
“I am going to have to be at my very, very best on fight night. People are saying this is going to be an even better fight than Serrano’s. I’m just excited about it,” said Katie.
The nation holds its breath.
LATEST | Spanish cops also arrest Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh’s son Jack in huge blow to Kinahan network
LATEST | Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou agrees deal to join Tottenham – reports
EXCLUSIVE | Prison staff fear for mental health of killer who ‘constantly’ covers himself in faeces
'madness' | Viral video shows crowds gathering as drunken teen girls brawl at popular pier
Signed off | Welfare payment: Families to get €100 child benefit bonus this month
LATEST | Soil from Portugal reservoir compared to samples from prime Madeleine McCann suspect’s van
flight risk | Travel ban for Tallaght man (27) charged over €180,000 drugs seizure
Threat to kill | Dublin man pleads guilty after threatening to petrol bomb garda’s house
Abuse Claims | MI5 agent obstructed paedo probe into notorious Kincora boys’ home, court told
devastating | Jury sworn in for trial of man accused of murdering Fermanagh family of four in house fire