Thursday 14 November 2019

Vincent Hogan: Gold medallist still boxing clever with life decisions

FROM the moment she was crowned Olympic champion, the Irish Sports Council knew there would have been something hopelessly careless about losing Katie Taylor to the professional ranks.

Because in London, Katie didn't so much become a role model for Irish sport as a constitution for how elite athletes should live their dreams. Taylor's popularity took an emotional charge quite independent of Ireland's other medallists the moment she secured gold against Russia's Sofya Ochigava.

In and outside the ring she radiated the kind of grace that could impart class to a mud-wrestle.

With her perfect ring-craft, her looks, her even-tempered self-awareness, she must have looked an oil-rig to all the professional promoters drawn to the ExCel Arena, like breeders to the thoroughbred sales in Goffs.

There was never any doubt that Katie would have her suitors, particularly from America where there has always been a market for the "Fighting Irish".

But that world was, palpably, never a world Katie Taylor yearned to enter. At different junctures since her extraordinary homecoming on Bray seafront, she has referred to the pro game as "a cut-throat business". While her father and coach, Pete, made public overtures for Katie to hang her gloves up, her own attention seemed endlessly drawn to Rio.

But for Taylor to pledge her future to the amateurs, she needed to be sure of what exactly she was signing up to.

A key element had to be some form of commitment that would guarantee Pete's presence in her corner for the next four years. The Sports Council has long been acutely aware of the outside interest in coaches like Mr Taylor, Billy Walsh and Zaur Antia and appear determined that all be retained in boxing's High Performance Unit.

In the strictest sense, Katie's Sports Council salary will be dwarfed by the professional offers she has rejected. But since London, her earning potential has sky-rocketed with a seemingly endless supply of commercial opportunities now falling her way. In other words, her day job is not her only source of income.

By staying at home, Taylor has -- essentially -- retained control of her career. It is the right decision, inside and outside the ring.

Irish Independent

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