Wednesday 29 January 2020

'Go and box the head off them' - Olympic champion Katie Taylor reveals her gran's advice

Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor relies on mum Bridget to keep her positive and grounded before fights

Katie and Bridget Taylor hope they are on the road to Rio this summer. Photo: Barry McCall
Katie and Bridget Taylor hope they are on the road to Rio this summer. Photo: Barry McCall

Andrea Smith

She may have fans and supporters all over the globe, but boxer Katie Taylor knows who will always be in her corner. "My mam Bridget has always been my rock, and she's the go-to person for everyone in the family," Katie says, of the woman she teases for always being the loudest voice in any stadium. "If we're feeling down or low, we all go to her."

At 29, the lovely Katie is the youngest of Bridget and her husband Pete's children, and has three older siblings - Lee, Sarah, and Peter. Katie is aunt to Jason (15), Jake (13), Aaron (9), Leon (7), Maddie (3), Amelie (2), and Zion (1). "I love being an auntie and having the kids around," she says. "I spoil them too much so I'm not the best babysitter. We're all very close and it's a mad house sometimes between dogs and children."

Bridget grew up in Bray, Co Wicklow and met her English husband Pete when he was helping his dad who was working in the amusement arcades on Bray seafront. They had their first child when Bridget was 17 and were married in England. Bridget had four children under seven at one point, and credits her own mum Kathleen Cranley (after whom Katie is named) with being a marvellous help to her.

"Whenever Katie comes home from a competition, my mam says, 'Isn't it great that Katie is punching the heads off people all over the world," says bubbly Bridget. "She's a real character and is known all over Bray, where she's really popular."

"My gran is my biggest fan, and she tells me to, "go and box the head off them," before any competition," laughs Katie.

Bridget says that Katie was quiet and well-behaved as a child. She began boxing at 10, coached by her dad Pete, and it soon became apparent she was special. Her dad was by her side as she rose through the ranks, winning one Olympic, five World and 12 European gold medals, but he is now no longer involved. While this naturally raised some eyebrows when it was revealed recently, Katie, who trains six days per week, is quick to set the record straight.

"My dad is on a bit of a break at the moment, and there is nothing more to it," she says. "He has put a lot of work into me over the past few years, so he's entitled to a break. It took a bit of time to adapt, but my coach, Zaur Antia, has been there all along too so it hasn't been much of a change. The training is always hard and intense, and I have a love/hate relationship with it."

To unwind, Katie likes to walk her two dogs, Italian Mastiff Marvin and Staffie Hagler - named after famous boxer, Marvellous Marvin Hagler. She says that Bridget makes life easier for her by having her meals ready when she comes home from training. "I just work away behind the scenes, doing the normal practical things that most mammies do," says Bridget. "When it comes to nutrition, it's not rocket science, it's just real food and proper cooking."

Katie's brother Peter is a theoretical physicist and former winner of the BT Young Scientist of the Year competition. What does Bridget think is the secret to having such successful children? "They are all so different so I just encourage them to be themselves," she shrugs.

Christian life is at the core of their family life, and the Taylors attend St Mark's Pentecostal Church. Bridget became involved when some members were involved in a youth club she was in and they impressed her. "My faith has helped me rear my family, because I was definitely on a different path back then," she says. "I was very wild, and there were a lot of drugs in the area I grew up in and you could go either way really. It has definitely helped me to see the importance of being an example to my children. I took that role seriously and wanted to put the time into them."

Katie says the most important part of her fight preparation is when Bridget comes in beforehand to pray with her. It isn't fashionable now to speak so openly about your faith, but she doesn't feel brave expressing her views when Christians in troubled countries are being murdered for their faith. "It's an absolute privilege to know Christ and to be faithful to him," she says, "and I can't step into the ring if God doesn't go before me."

Katie is currently in training for this month's 2016 Olympic qualifiers, and admits to being nervous about qualifying. She and Bridget are delighted to be part of the 'Thank You, Mum' campaign by P&G, the company behind brands such as Ariel, Duracell, Fairy, Gillette, Pampers and Olay. It recognises and thanks mothers for the important roles they play, and will support athletes, mums and families on the ground in Rio at the P&G Family Home, which serves as a 'home away from home' and will be a big help to Bridget if Katie qualifies.

"Rio is very expensive to get to, but come hell or high water, I'll be there," she says. "There are times during a fight that I feel like running out of the arena, because it's tough when it's your child, but I would rather be there supporting her."

Katie says that once you reach your goals, you have to strive for new ones. She is also her own harshest critic, and is glad of having her mum to talk to when the going gets tough. Speaking of whom, Bridget looks great as she's doing a bit of working out herself, and says that "Katie isn't the only one in the family who packs a punch". "And I certainly wouldn't mess around with her," jokes Katie.

The P&G Proud Sponsor of Mums campaign will feature through its sponsorship of the Rio 2016 Olympics

Sunday Independent

The Left Wing: Ireland's Six Nations target, a French revival and Ian Madigan's future

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport