Friday 15 December 2017

Pete's relief as Katie turns down pro switch

ON THE morning of his daughter's Olympic gold medal fight, Pete Taylor sat in London's Westfield Shopping Centre worrying about the whirlwind she was about to reap.

The full impact of Katie's new celebrity had begun falling their way in increments. If stories from Bray could be the measuring wheel, she would be going home to an unfamiliar world.

Pete's mind darted now between the looming technical challenge of eight minutes in the ring with Sofya Ochigava and unease about precisely where victory might take them.

All those World and European crowns had been won in far-flung halls before largely neutral audiences, generating polite ripples of applause.

Routinely, the Taylors would come through Dublin Airport's arrivals hall to the embrace of friends and the curious smiles of onlookers.

All changed the moment they stepped into the ExCel Arena. Katie's victories over Natasha Jonas and Mavzuna Chorieva decanted a public reaction that, palpably, flew beyond either boxing specifically or sport in general.

The Taylors, naturally, were touched by what they were hearing. It was beautiful. But Katie is a fundamentally private person who has never been entirely comfortable in the maw of public attention or media scrutiny.

Prior to the Olympic Games, it was relatively easy to protect that privacy. Now?

"It worries me because Katie really doesn't like being the centre of attention," Pete said.

His wish, of course, was that the Ochigava fight would be Katie's last and that she might reward herself with a safer, more desultory lifestyle that involved less pain and sacrifice.

And, hearing Pete express his worries, you could imagine Katie's future taking her many places, but not into a professional boxing ring.

They knew the offers were coming, of course, because Katie was obvious gold dust to the speculators forever fishing the amateur ranks for the next big professional star.

It's just that father and daughter have never really looked suited to what Katie herself refers to as "the cut-throat business" of professionalism.

The idea of relocating, perhaps, to an American base, of having your career mapped by strangers motivated essentially by profit, of having the world you know turned inside out had to be unpalatable to the family.

Equally, the gold medal win turned Katie into, perhaps, the most marketable name in Irish sport. She has everything the commercial world covets -- universal popularity, good looks, impeccable manners.

In other words, whatever agreement was reached with the Irish Sports Council will -- over the next four years -- represent merely the starting point of Taylor's earning power.

Securing Pete's future on boxing's high performance programme was, presumably, part of the negotiation too.

For the Council has made known its determination that the HP coaching team of Billy Walsh, Zaur Antia and Taylor is kept out of the clutches of foreign federations.

Not all of Pete Taylor's worries for his daughter have abated, of course. But, after yesterday, the rest of us have one fewer.

Her parents won't have been the only ones delighted to hear Sky Ireland's Digital Switchover ambassador declare: "I'm staying amateur. There is nothing better than boxing for your country and no money in the world can compare to that."

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