Sparring with Katie Taylor – ‘You could hit her with seven kitchen sinks, she’d take it and throw eight back’

Amateur boxer Amy Broadhurst spent two weeks training with world champion Katie Taylor ahead of the super fight with Amanda Serrano

Sparring partners: amateur fighter Amy Broadhurst in training camp with Katie Taylor (left) in Vernon, Connecticut

Amy Broadhurst with Katie Taylor

Amy Broadhurst with Katie

Sinéad Kissane

Amateur boxer Amy Broadhurst spent two weeks last month living close to Katie Taylor’s world. She stayed in a hotel in Vernon, Connecticut and when hotel staff asked what brought someone from Ireland to their town, Broadhurst told them she was there to spar with Katie Taylor. “Who?” they asked.

Taylor has been living and training in Vernon, a rural American town around 90 miles outside Boston, for nearly five years. The hotel staff never heard of Taylor and googled her to find out more about this Irishwoman living among them.

“There’s no distractions over there. Nobody really knows who she is over there,” Broadhurst says about Taylor’s life in America. “Over here (in Ireland), you’d have everybody asking for pictures. So, I think she’s away in the a***hole of nowhere, you’d say, and is just fully focused”.

Having some skin in the build-up to the biggest fight of Taylor’s professional career came out of the blue for Broadhurst.

Two months ago, one of Taylor’s management team contacted her to ask if she’d be interested in coming to America to train with Taylor before her super-fight with Amanda Serrano in Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Broadhurst (25), who’s 10 years younger than Taylor, couldn’t believe it. She had never sparred with Taylor, but the world champion has caught her out before with an unexpected move.

Three months after she won gold at the London Olympics in 2012, Taylor made a surprise visit to Coláiste Rís secondary school, Dundalk to congratulate a 15-year-old Broadhurst after she won a European schoolgirl gold medal.

Amy Broadhurst with Katie Taylor

Broadhurst was the first Irish female boxer to achieve that feat since Taylor did it. Ten years on, Broadhurst didn’t need to be asked twice when Taylor came looking for her help ahead of the biggest fight in women’s pro boxing.

Broadhurst’s two-week stint in Taylor’s inner circle in Connecticut involved sparring every second day, sometimes it was 10 two-minute rounds, other times it was eight three-minute rounds.

Taylor’s team paid for Broadhurst’s flights, hotel and paid her for the two weeks she was there. Broadhurst didn’t care about the money, saying, “honestly, I didn’t really want to be paid each week. I would have went over for free”. What was priceless for Broadhurst was being in a ring with a fighter she idolises.

The flip side was the pressure that initially brought.

“Oh god, the first day I was so nervous ’cos I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know whether she was going to be way too good for me? Was she going to give me an absolute beating? Was I going to surprise myself? Everything was going through my head.

“The first two or three spars, getting in, I was really nervous. But after that, it was grand ’cos we sparred six or seven times like it was normal,” Broadhurst says.

Amy Broadhurst with Katie

“Katie’s mentality towards everything is just unbelievable. She has the talent, she has everything that will win a fight but when it comes to the mental side of it she’s 100 per cent all there. You know some people might fold under a bit of pressure, or they might not be able to handle such a big fight like this, but she’s the complete opposite. Nothing fazes her.”

Taylor’s coach, Ross Enamait, advised Broadhurst how to go at Taylor during training. They also wanted her to throw the kind of body shots Serrano is known for.

“It’s just a typical southpaw, like every southpaw in the world throws these certain punches. She’s just working with southpaws all the time and naturally those punches come anyway. I couldn’t really pick a fault (with Katie’s form). She has the best body shots that I’ve ever been in with. And her speed. You could hit her with seven kitchen sinks and she’d take it, and she’d throw eight back at you. She’s really, really tough”.

Broadhurst had her 25th birthday on St Patrick’s Day while she was over in Vernon. She didn’t want to tell Taylor but she still found out and brought her out for cake and coffee to celebrate.

If the pair weren’t training in the evenings, they might go and watch other boxers spar. Is it a lonely existence over there for Taylor?

“I don’t think it bothers her. I remember asking her does she get bored or anything, but she has friends over there. She’s always on FaceTime to her mum and dad and then she trains twice a day as well, so before you know it, the day is done.”

It’s not the first time Broadhurst has been a final test for Ireland’s best boxers.

Kellie Harrington and herself have a competitive past and, on Harrington’s request, Broadhurst was the last boxer to spar with her in the holding camp in Japan before she went into the athletes’ village in Tokyo last summer.

Broadhurst, who hopes to compete in her first Olympics in 2024, says she gets as much out of sparring as the boxer she’s there for – and hopes to show that when she competes in the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Istanbul next month.

“The one thing that’s standing out to me is I actually believe in myself a lot more, my confidence is very high.

“When you have Katie Taylor, the best female boxer to ever live, come looking for your help, that’s saying something.

“And then sparring Kellie all the time. Like, there’s two Olympic champions I’m working with.”

Broadhurst will be at a training camp in Italy when Taylor fights Serrano on Saturday night. She’s the expert witness in knowing what’s likely to come Serrano’s way.

“I don’t really see this girl (Serrano) beating her. I think Katie will win, unless something freakish happens where she gets caught with a punch and that’s it.

“I think – I could be completely wrong – but Amanda Serrano is a bit of a hype train.

“Just because the titles she’s won and the people’s she beat have all been at lower weights. Whereas now, she’s actually getting in with somebody who’s the same size as her, who’s quicker than her. I don’t think she’s actually prepared for what’s going to be in front of her.”

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