Tuesday 28 January 2020

Katie has little to gain but much to lose in London bout

Katie Taylor and Kimberly Connor at the weigh-in yesterday ahead of their WBA & IBF World Lightweight Championship bout in London tonight Photo: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor and Kimberly Connor at the weigh-in yesterday ahead of their WBA & IBF World Lightweight Championship bout in London tonight Photo: Sportsfile

Seán McGoldrick

Texan Kimberly Connor-Hamby faces a life-changing challenge tonight in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,000 in London's O2 Arena when she aims to snatch Katie Taylor's two world lightweight belts.

The odds are stacked against the 37-year-old mother of three who holds down a full-time job in the Central Arkansas Water company in Little Rock. She is available at odds of 20/1 to end Taylor's nine-fight unbeaten record in the pro game.

"Taylor has caused me to go through Hell, but Hell is where killers are made. Due to my full-time job, I have to run before work and then train afterwards so I hardly get to see my children, ten-year-old Mackenzie and twin boys Cash and Cage who were born in 2015.

"But my sacrifices will pay off in the ring tonight. I would be a dream come true to win. I'm only boxing because of pure grit and heart. It takes my whole family to help me with my children."

Connor is earning an estimated $10,000 for the fight. Though it's about ten per cent of what Taylor will pick up, it is still her biggest ever purse since she turned professional in 2004. "There is no money in women's professional boxing yet," she lamented.

Watching Ireland's first professional female boxer Deirdre Gogarty in action against superstar Christy Martin on the undercard of the Mike's Tyson title fight against Frank Bruno in Las Vegas 1996 in the company of her grandfather initially sparked her interest in boxing.

"It landed a seed in my mind. When I moved to Little Rock I found a boxing gym and started my journey at the age of 20."

This will be her third attempt to secure a world title. In 2011, she challenged Puerto Rican-born, Brooklyn-based Amanda Serrano for the IBF world super featherweight title but suffered a second round TKO.

Serraro went on to become the only female boxer to win world titles in five different weights; she is bidding to make it six in September and will almost certainly be a future opponent for Taylor.

Meanwhile, Connor's career went into a tailspin and following her loss to Serraro she only fought once in the next four years. Initially she was sidelined with a ruptured anterior cruciate.

But a phone call from her current manager Les Banano on the first birthday of her twins prompted her to relaunch her career.

She got a second opportunity to secure a world belt in March 2017 when she travelled to Argentina to challenge Victoria Noelia Bustos for the vacant IBF lightweight title but lost on a unanimous points decision.

Bustos surrendered that belt to Taylor when they met in Brooklyn at the end of April. On all known form, Taylor will win, and, indeed, should achieve her first knockout success since stopping Jasmine Clarkeson in Brooklyn last summer.

Coincidentally, Connor's last fight was a points win over Clarkeson in July 2017.

So confident are the Taylor camp about the outcome of tonight's fight that they have already announced her next fight which is planned for Chicago on October 6 against Amanda Serraro's older sister, Cindy.

Even though Taylor's stated aim is to become the lineal lightweight champion by securing the WBC and WBO belts held by Delfine Persoon (Belgium) and Rose Volante (Brazil) respectively, the reality is that for the foreseeable future her focus will be on increasing her profile in the United States.

But everything hinges on tonight's bout where Taylor has little to gain but much to lose.

Irish Independent

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