Sunday 28 December 2014

Katie is a champion – she should be treated like one

Published 23/02/2013 | 04:00

Katie Taylor kept her end of the bargain last night, splashing a little gold dust across the National Stadium on boxing's night of the Oscars.

She was, as ever, uniformly classy and accomplished against Poland's Karolina Graczyk, the old venue shuddering in acclaim of our Olympic champion. Outwardly, you could have passed it off as a perfect homecoming.

It was her first fight since that stirring August Thursday in the ExCel Arena and she was in front of an appreciative crowd, knowledgeable of the vast investment of time and pain required to get her to this altitude.

But Katie can't but have felt a little used, a little disrespected too. With no credible Irish opponent, her presence on the Elite finals card was a simple Irish Amateur Boxing Association strategy to sell tickets. The original intention had been to stage last night's show at Citywest, a venue capable of holding 6,000 people, three times the Stadium's capacity.

Intentions

But by the time the IABA unveiled their intentions, Katie had already sold out the Bord Gais Theatre for a Brian Peters promotion tomorrow evening and been booked to top a second show in March. Peters had plunged into the vacuum Taylor found herself in after London, with the IABA betraying no discernible plan for the Olympic champion. This was smart business, Katie's profile having dramatically sky-rocketed since the Games.

There was suddenly a new market for Taylor, access to a non-traditional boxing audience. The 'Road to Rio' shows tapped into it. And the absence of any IABA representative from the announcement of those shows told you all you needed to know about the governing body's view of seeing Katie's 'homecoming' slip between their fingers. Hence the imperative to get her on last night's Elite finals ticket, albeit in exhibition mode. Katie was their fighter, their biggest potential cash cow.

So Taylor, with her dad and coach, Pete, alongside, sat at a dais on January 31 to promote the National Championships. They answered questions about her preparations for the European Championships this autumn, which Ireland was due to host. Katie's schedule for the entire year was being shaped around her bid for a sixth consecutive European title. Unknown to them, the IABA had already been informed that the Championships had been postponed until 2014. Yet, none of the officials present saw fit to inform the Taylors that their schedule was now, effectively, redundant.

Ten minutes after Katie and Pete left, journalists were told by an IABA official that it wasn't "looking good" for the Euros to be held at all in 2013. This despite the Association being in possession of a letter explicitly stating that the Championships had been postponed for a year. The Taylors, naturally, felt humiliated on discovery of the truth. Pete described it as "messing around with people's lives".

Exactly three years ago, this column suggested it might be helpful if the IABA took to treating Katie more as a person than a commodity. We were promptly summoned to South Circular

Road and put straight on certain 'facts', not least that any impression given of the Association disrespecting either Pete or Katie Taylor was utterly bogus.

The official line, I don't doubt, remains the same today.

But, incredibly, last night's ring announcer neglected to even mention Katie when introducing the full evening card, only rectifying the error after a discreet reminder from someone at ringside. Taylor must sometimes wonder whether the officers of the IABA consider her a champion or an inconvenience now. She's far too mannerly, of course, to ever ask the question.

A burden that has never encumbered this column.

Irish Independent

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