Sunday 17 December 2017

Katie: 'I've carried on my mother's pioneering spirit'

While there has been a lot of focus on her dad and former coach Pete, it is Katie's relationship with her mother which has also seen her through recent challenging and changing times. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile
While there has been a lot of focus on her dad and former coach Pete, it is Katie's relationship with her mother which has also seen her through recent challenging and changing times. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Some things don't change in the life of Katie Taylor. Before her professional bout tonight at the Manchester Arena, Katie and her mother will resume a pre-fight routine they've done all their lives. Bridget will go to her daughter's bedroom an hour before they leave the hotel and she will begin the process of fixing Katie's hair for show-time. But this is private-time.

Bridget will have chosen a piece from the Bible and she will read it to her daughter in the hope that the words will inspire her. And then they will pray together.

Katie Taylor with Milena Koleva following the weigh-in ahead of their Manchester Fight Night super featherweight bout. Photo by Lawrence Lustig/Sportsfile
Katie Taylor with Milena Koleva following the weigh-in ahead of their Manchester Fight Night super featherweight bout. Photo by Lawrence Lustig/Sportsfile

Katie has said in the past that this is "perhaps the most important part of my pre-fight ritual".

They stuck to their routine on the day of her 2012 Olympic Final when Katie could sense the emotion in her mother's voice as she read out a piece of scripture.

Inspiring

"I think there's nothing more inspiring than hearing God speak to you," Bridget says. "I would normally just pray that God would protect her, just to settle her nerves".

Now that Katie has switched from an amateur to a pro boxer, little has changed when it comes to this part of her pre-fight build-up.

But a lot has changed in the life of Katie Taylor.

Katie now lives in the town of Vernon, Connecticut where she's close to her new training base and coach Ross Enamait.

It is the first time in her life that she's had to go it alone without her family close by.

Some things stay the same like her training being the centre around which everything else revolves. But she's now living on her own in an apartment in a different continent. She now cooks for herself.

It's a lot different to when she used to live at home. "I'm a typical Irish Mammy and I would have done it all for her," Bridget said this week. "She's now learning how to do life on her own if you like, so it's a whole new experience for her."

Because there's a sense that Katie grew up before our eyes it feels like we don't need to know her personally to appreciate how family-orientated she is yet she is sacrificing time with family, including young nieces and nephews, in pursuit of her other love of boxing.

Bridget has visited her daughter a few times since she moved to Vernon and helped do up her apartment. She even used the same colour (teal) that they have in their home in Bray.

"It will cheer you up when you get up in the morning," Bridget tells her daughter.

But the move hasn't been easy. Bridget found it tough leaving Katie behind in America because while her week days are a routine of eat, sleep, pray, train, it's the weekends her mam also thinks of.

"We would talk most days. I think weekends are really lonely for her. Boxing is a lonely sport anyway," Bridget adds.

Maybe Katie is also able to get on with this way of living because of another strong female family influence in her life: her Nanny Kathleen who she was named after (Katie's name on her birth cert is Kathleen). She's her mother's mother, and it's said, that Katie and Kathleen have the same temperament.

Simplistic

"She (Katie) absolutely loves my mother," Bridget smiles. "She lives such a simplistic life and I think she was an inspiration to Katie because she had a very tough life but she has a great attitude and sense of humour."

Maybe the best Mother's Day gift that her granny and mother will get this weekend is having Katie home in Bray after tonight's fight for a short stay before returning to her life in Vernon.

It's hard to think of any other Irish sports star whose family has come as part of the public package as much as Katie's. While there has been a lot of focus on her dad and former coach Pete, it is her relationship with her mother which has also seen her through recent challenging and changing times.

It was her mother who comforted her as she stood talking to the media after her defeat at the Rio Olympics. It was her mother who was with her when she met with her new coach in America and decided to take the leap into pro boxing. It was her mother who backed her move to the States to experience a new kind of independence. It is also rare that it is an athlete's mother you can call to find out how their daughter is doing but Katie and Bridget (left)aren't like most other people.

Our mothers can be all things to us: our conscience, counsellor, cheerleader, truth-sayer, therapist, trail-blazer, you name it. For Katie, her mother was her original trail-blazer.

"It may surprise you to learn that she was the first in our family to challenge the view that women and boxing don't mix for in the late 1980s she became the first female judge to be appointed in Ireland," Katie said about her mam in 'My Olympic Dream'.

"Needless to say, she faced a lot of opposition at that time from within the boxing community but now its commonplace to see female judges and referees. I like to think that I have carried on her pioneering spirit".

Katie has, and always will have, her mam's pioneering spirit. Some things never change.

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