Monday 19 August 2019

'She had such an impact on my life' - Katie Taylor pays tribute to late friend Emma Hannigan

Katir Taylor in New York and (inset) the late Emma Hannigan
Katir Taylor in New York and (inset) the late Emma Hannigan

Sean McGoldrick in New York

KATIE Taylor will be inspired by the memory of the late author Emma Hannigan when she steps into the ring in Madison Square Garden for her world championship fight against Delfine Persoon on Saturday night.

Emma died in March after a courageous 11-year battle with cancer. "We were friends for years," revealed Taylor.

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"We both got invited to something in Bray years ago and we kept in touch afterwards. She lived down the road from me in Bray and we met up for a coffee from time to time. She became a great supporter and came to see some of my fights in the National Stadium.

"The only time I got her into the gym was for a cancer awareness photo shoot. I knew she was an incredible person before we met because I had seen her on the Late Late Show. She just blew me away with her mind set and positively. She had such an impact on my life."

Emma's death at the age of 45 brought everything into perspective for Katie. "Sometimes you take things for granted when you are healthy and able to enjoy life. To see what that girl had to go through. She had such a strong mind-set."

Meanwhile, unlike the majority of professional fighters, Taylor doesn't have to cut much weight on fight week. "My walking around weight is 141-142 pounds. My weight is down at around 137 pound at the moment so I never really struggle to make the 135 pound limit. This is great because it is important to keep my strength, particularly for this fight. The official weigh-in for the contest takes place tomorrow (Friday) afternoon in Madison Square Garden.

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Taylor is always cautious prior to fights but in this case her approach is justified as there are no guarantees about the outcome of her showdown against Belgian police inspector Delfine Persoon.

There is an enormous gulf in experience between the two lightweights, illustrated by the fact that Persoon has fought 286 rounds in her 44 professional fights compared to 94 for the Bray pugilist in her 13 contests.

Six weeks after Taylor won the gold medal at the London Olympics, Persoon won her first international professional belt and she has been the WBC world champion since 2014.

"She is very experienced and that will stand to her because you can't really buy experience. But I think over the last few years I have definitely become a more complete fighter. I think I showed that in my last fight. I feel I am getting better and better," said Taylor.

But just as a precaution the Taylor camp has inserted a clause in fight contract which stipulates that in the event of Persoon winning she had to offer Bray fighter an immediate rematch. "But there is no rematch for me if I lose," acknowledged Persoon.

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