Thursday 18 October 2018

It's better than a dream but I'm glad I waited to turn pro - Katie

Paraic Duffy admits the new calendar won’t suit every county. Photo: Sportsfile
Paraic Duffy admits the new calendar won’t suit every county. Photo: Sportsfile

Sam Wheeler

Life in the pro game could hardly be working out any better for Katie Taylor after a miserable final few months in the amateur ranks, but the new world champion has no regrets about not making the transition earlier.

The 2012 Olympic champion picked up the WBA lightweight belt in only her seventh pro fight, and the "crash-bang-wallop" style in which she won it has sent waves of excitement throughout her sport, according to promoter Eddie Hearn, who reckons she's already one of the top five biggest draws in boxing - of either sex - in Britain and Ireland.

Taylor will be headlining a bill in England next month ahead of a unification bout in Dublin next spring that will be one of the biggest fights ever staged on these shores.

Her management team are confident that she is starting to 'break' America; she stands on the brink of global superstar status and untold riches.

There has certainly been a turnaround since the summer of 2016, when she looked jaded, in and out of the ring.

Invincible in the amateur game for so long, she was beaten in the first round at the Rio Olympics, having lost a number of high-profile fights in the build-up, and rather slunk into the professional code with her tail between her legs, with fears that she could be a beaten docket.

Now, there's no doubt that her mojo is back. It was obvious in the ring on Saturday night and it was obvious at yesterday's press conference as she joshed with Hearn and was at ease with the media, smiling throughout.

She is never going to court publicity but she is comfortable in the limelight. And she seems thoroughly happy with her lot, although she views the WBA belt as only the start - she also claimed, half-jokingly, that she could have "10 more years in me".

Taylor (31) says beating Anahi Esther Sanchez to take the title was "probably on a par" with her Olympic gold.

"Having the chance to box on the biggest stage in front of maybe 50,000 people and the fact it was such a tough fight and such an exciting fight, it was a great way to win a world title," she says.

"To unify the division would be an absolute dream. There's a lot of great champions in and around the lightweight division and there's so many superfights to be made in the future, so it's going to be very, very exciting."

Explaining the difference between the pro and amateur codes, she says: "It's a lot more gruelling in the professional game. You're boxing a 10-round fight, there's no head-gear and there was a lot of head clashes at the weekend that you wouldn't be used to in the amateur game.

Intense

"It is completely different, even the training that's involved in professional boxing is a lot more intense, but it's a challenge that I've absolutely loved over the past 11 months."

But doesn't she feel she should have made the switch when she was younger?

"I've not had any regrets. I think I turned pro at the right time, when I felt like it was the right time," she says.

"Before that I didn't really have the heart for the professional game, but after Rio I knew it was time for a change. Thank God I made that decision."

If Taylor ever had concerns about dealing with promoters and the sometimes seedy commercial side of pro boxing, they soon dissipated.

"When I walked into Eddie's office over a year ago, we definitely had the same vision. I knew it was the right decision for me, and I knew it was going to be very, very exciting. It's exceeded all my expectations so far. This has been more than a dream, really."

To Taylor, celebrity and wealth are by-products of her desire to keep challenging herself and bettering herself, as well as "changing people's perceptions of women's boxing", which she has certainly achieved.

She could make herself more famous and more wealthy quicker if she played the publicity game, but there will be no trash-talking, and minimal PR appearances.

As Hearn says somewhat wistfully: "Katie is not the kind of person who looks for recognition. She loves to be in the gym. You're not going to see her at after-dinner events or on TV shows. She just wants to train, and anything that gets in the way of her schedule she just won't do."

If Taylor is to become a household name outside Ireland, it will be through her fists rather than her mouth. And it will help her cause that she has no interest in fighting 'patsies'.

"There's not one person in the division she wouldn't fight," says Hearn. "Katie wants to be in real fights. Because of the barriers of the sport, she needs to be in proper fights.

"That's why we need a good opponent for December, because if she's headlining, it needs to be a real fight. People need to walk away from there going, 'wow, what a great fight - that was incredible.'

"We've got momentum at the moment, but that can change very quickly."

Irish Independent

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