Thursday 17 October 2019

Bray Boxing Club shooting: How Pete Taylor used the old boat shed to train daughter Katie to become Olympic champion

Pete Taylor was shot in Bray. Inset, with daughter Katie
Pete Taylor was shot in Bray. Inset, with daughter Katie

Sean McGoldrick

Pete Taylor became one of the most recognisable faces in Ireland in the noughties when he guided his daughter Katie to world dominance in women's boxing, culminating in her historic gold medal performance at the London Olympics in 2012.

Less than nine months out from the Rio Olympics four years later, their training partnership came to an unexpectedly abrupt end. In the ring, Katie endured a horrid 2016, surrendering her World and Olympic titles.

Following the Olympics she announced she was turning professional and signed for the Eddie Hearn Matchroom in the UK. Even though she has only fought on nine occasions in the pro game she has already won the IBF and WBA World professional lightweight titles.

However, her father has no role in her career. She is trained by American Ross Enamait who is based in Connecticut and her Irish manager is Meath-based Brian Peters. Katie is currently in the US training for her next fight which is likely to take place in the UK in July.

Pete Taylor has continued his career as a coach and is currently training two unbeaten Irish professional boxers, David Oliver Joyce, who boxed for Ireland at the Rio Olympics, and a promising Kildare boxer, Gary Cully.

Aged 56, Taylor was born in Leeds. He came to Dublin in 1975 when he was sixteen to work in an amusement arcade in Bray. While his parents returned to the UK, he decided to put down roots in Ireland, though he did return home briefly to complete his education.

Taylor had done some boxing in England and he took up the sport again when he settled in Ireland. His own career climaxed in 1986 when he won an Irish Intermediate title.

It was through her father's involvement in the sport that Katie became a boxer which, at the time, was regarded as an 'off-limit' sport for women in Ireland.

On his way to training in Enniskerry Boxing club, he used to drop Katie to athletics training. One night the athletic training was cancelled due to bad weather and Katie went to the boxing gym in Enniskerry instead.

"I remember the night well," recalled Pete years later. "It was my last year boxing and I was getting ready for the All-Irelands. I looked around at one stage and Katie was inside the ring sparring with one of the lads. She had no gum shield or anything but she loved it straight away."

Having reached the mandatory retirement age of 35, Taylor had to hand up his boxing gloves. He decided to set up a new boxing club, St Fergal's, based in Bray.

The first three members were his children – Peter, who had a successful career as an amateur, Lee and Katie. At the time there were no officially sanctioned competitions for women boxers in Ireland.

In the early years of her career her father would tuck Katie's hair under her headgear and she would be listed in the programme as 'K Taylor' and would box boys in underage tournaments.

Before long her reputation spread but it wasn't until October 31, 2001 that the first-ever sanctioned women's boxing contest took place in the National Stadium.

Katie, who was also an accomplished soccer player and was capped for Ireland, had her first official win on that show. Guided by her father, her career took off at international level when she won her first European title in 2005.

Later that year Pete Taylor sold his electrical business in order to devote himself full time to coaching Katie while she dropped out of UCD and became a full-time boxer. The old boat shed near Bray harbour, which Pete acquired, became the epicentre of the project.

That same building was where Pete was shot this morning in an incident that left one man dead and another injured.

There was initial disappointment when the International Olympic Committee turned down a request to include women's boxing on the Olympic programme.

But the Taylors pressed on and for the next decade Katie and her father were the headline act across the world stage in women's amateur boxing, winning five World championship, six European championship and five European Union championships.

But it was her success in the lightweight division at the London Olympics in 2012 which garnered her international recognition. It was also a personal triumph for Pete Taylor as another of his fighters, Wexford native Adam Nolan, also qualified for the London Games.

The club that Taylor setup in the old boat shed eventually became Bray Boxing club. Conditions were primitive, however. There were no showers and the boxers had to use toilet facilities in a nearby pub.

But when the then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited the club in the run-up to the London Olympics he promised governing funding to upgrade the facilities.

In 2014, following a €300,000 transformation, Katie Taylor opened the new state-of-the-art training facility near Bray Harbour.

The project was funded by a €190,000 grant from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and €100,000 from Bray Town Council.

"It's a legacy now for the people of Bray," Pete Taylor said at the time.

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