Thursday 8 December 2016

Dream debut helps Taylor call the shots in professional game

Ciarán Gallagher

Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30

Katie Taylor forces Karina Kopinska on to the ropes during their super-featherweight bout at Wembley Arena on Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor forces Karina Kopinska on to the ropes during their super-featherweight bout at Wembley Arena on Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile

Katie Taylor took the first step to fulfilling the great expectations of her promotional team by starting the first chapter in her professional career on Saturday night at Wembley Arena.

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Matchroom Sports boss Eddie Hearn has talked up the 2012 Olympic champion's superstar potential in recent weeks, and the promoter was veering between prize-fighting's usual hyperbole and more realistic grand plans in the immediate aftermath of his new signing's clinical paid debut win over journeywoman Karina Kopinska.

Katie Taylor celebrates her win. Photo: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor celebrates her win. Photo: Sportsfile

Croke Park was cited as a potential venue for a homecoming world title fight next year, but first Taylor faces the sizeable task of transforming women's boxing from its current status of sideshow to what is a generally chaotic sport in promotional terms into a real money maker.

Perfect

UFC's promotional success with female fighters such as Ronda Rousey has set a template for Hearn and Taylor's manager Brian Peters to emulate, and they reckon the Bray woman could prove to be the perfect business model for boxing.

"She's all business, all serious. These first two fights, it's so important to get the right start and honestly, even if I wrote (a script), it wouldn't have been as good as what happened," said Hearn on Taylor's ruthless start to her pro career before she returns to the ring in Manchester in two weeks' time.

"I believe she can win a world title now, but there is no value in winning a world title now. Let's become huge and then go to, I thought the 3 Arena, but now I guess we'll have to say Croke Park," added an excited Hearn, who was greatly impressed by Taylor's TV-friendly demolition job on Kopinska.

Taylor embraces her mother Bridget after her victory. Photo: Sportsfile
Taylor embraces her mother Bridget after her victory. Photo: Sportsfile

The 30-year-old Bray native blitzed her Polish opponent in impressive fashion - marking only the 27-year-old's second stoppage loss in a 25-fight career - after Taylor forced referee Robert Williams to step in to halt the lightweight contest 58secs into the third round.

"Well you have to obviously impress on your pro debut and get everyone talking and you have to be able to fill out these stadiums in the future," said Taylor, on making a big impression live on the Sky Sports broadcast bill. "So if you want to be a headliner in the future you have to absolutely impress in every single fight.

"I've always wanted to be a history maker and break down a lot of barriers," continued the five-time amateur world champion on her hopes of revolutionising the niche strand of the sport.

"I think I've done that in amateur boxing. So I think I've got the platform to do that in the pro ranks as well," added the Bray native, who was essentially afforded the status of a headliner in last week's promotional build-up to the bout in a notable show of faith from Hearn his Sky TV partners.

The glitz and glamour of the pro game is new to Taylor, who needed some coaxing from Hearn not to wear a plain ring attire in homage to her hero Kostya Tszyu, the Russian-Australian former world champion, who used to wear black shorts and boots similar to Mike Tyson's no-nonsense get-up.

Instead, Taylor's black shorts were emblazoned with gold trim, appropriately enough considering her five amateur world titles, six European crowns and 2012 Olympic crown.

"I said if you get off to a flyer, the sky's the limit," said Hearn, who admitted Taylor's potential marketability has him seeing dollar, pound and Euro signs. "I can't wait to see the interest from the brands."

Hearn has already booked Taylor a support slot on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's December 10 heavyweight title defence in Manchester while she also looks likely to feature on a March 18 fight bill in New York's Madison Square Garden.

"I don't want to take advantage of the Irish supporters, we can't just rely on them," said Hearn on waiting for the right time to schedule a homecoming bout. "If she wants to change games and knock down barriers, she's got to do it in different markets. And she's smashed it in here tonight.

"I think realistically (it will be) five or six before we go back to Ireland. . . We want to go out to box in America, see what happens there, give her a chance to become a superstar. . . then back to Ireland for the big one."

An opponent for the Manchester show is expected to be confirmed early this week, although Hearn admitted that the London 2012 gold medallist is unlikely to face a real test until around her fifth paid fight.

"I'm happy to box whoever right now," said Taylor, who acknowledged the drop in the quality of her opponent from her international amateur competition, three of whom defeated her in 2016.

But Taylor added: "I'm getting good quality opponents when I'm sparring so it is not as if my form is dropping at all. I'm getting the best of sparring out in America and I'm feeling very, very sharp."

The Bray woman will be back in training in Ireland today under her new US-based coach Ross Enamait.

"She did great; she stopped her in the third round, so there's not much you could complain about. We'll sit down and look at it," said Enamait.

Irish Independent

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