Sunday 25 August 2019

Plans to erect Katie Taylor statue as world champion set for rapturous homecoming

Katie Taylor is announced victorious. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Katie Taylor is announced victorious. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

Ireland's boxing hero Katie Taylor will be given a massive welcome home when she returns from the US as the undisputed champion of the world.

And in the 32-year-old champion's home town of Bray, plans are afoot to erect a statue in her honour.

Boxing fans around the country stayed up until the small hours of yesterday to watch Taylor narrowly defeat her opponent, Belgian policewoman Delfine Persoon.

Their bruising encounter at New York's Madison Square Garden ended with the Irishwoman being crowned the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.

Speaking to RTÉ after her win, Taylor said: "This is what I've always dreamed of since I turned pro. This was the ultimate goal.

Sacrifice

Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon in action during the bout. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon in action during the bout. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

"So to have all of those five belts and to make history in my sport, this is what it's all about really. This is why I sacrifice so much.

"This is why I train so hard and to have it all here now, it's absolutely incredible."

Messages of congratulations have flooded in for the 2012 Olympic gold medallist.

President Michael D Higgins was among the first, saying she had reached "the pinnacle of achievement in her sport".

Mother of all fights: A proud Bridget Taylor, left, salutes her daughter’s triumph. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Mother of all fights: A proud Bridget Taylor, left, salutes her daughter’s triumph. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sports Minister Shane Ross said his officials, with Sport Ireland and the IABA, have been in touch with the fighter's management team to find out her wishes for "an appropriate reception on her return to Ireland".

"I will also arrange a civic reception for Katie, should she be happy to have one," Mr Ross added.

Meanwhile in Bray, Councillor Joe Behan said that he would be proposing to erect a statue in Katie's honour at the next meeting of Wicklow County Council.

"I'd like Katie to be consulted before that because she is a very quiet and modest person. But I think it's a great idea," he added.

Mr Behan was a teacher at St Fergal's National School when Taylor was a pupil there.

He said the people of Bray had been following her spectacular rise over the years and she was a "great ambassador for Bray, Wicklow and Ireland".

Local Sinn Féin TD John Brady, who has known Taylor since she was a young fighter starting out, said households around Wicklow had stayed up until the small hours to watch her make history.

"It was edge-of-your-seat stuff but Katie came through.She's a phenomenal talent. She deserves every bit of success," he added.

Mr Brady said he was also in favour of honouring the champion with a statue.

"She's at the height of her career now, there's no point in looking back in 20 years and saying we should have done something," he said.

Since turning professional, Taylor has been based in the US. But when she visits Bray she is inundated with young fans looking for autographs and selfies.

"She had to move away from everything she'd known and loved. But that's Katie, she's so disciplined. She made the right decision and all the sacrifices, lonely hours training, it's paid off," said Mr Brady.

Irish sports stars who joined in the praise included Conor McGregor. He tweeted: "Congratulations Ireland's Katie Taylor! What a battle that was from two warrior women. It has rematch written all over it. Rematch in Ireland!"

Former world champion Bernard Dunne tweeted: "Tonight the legend creates a legacy like no other that has gone before them."

Irish Independent

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