Building a Champ: Katie Taylor’s 2017 Title Goal

The London 2012 gold medallist spoke to Peter Carroll

BY Peter Carroll 07:20 Tuesday 28 February 2017, 7:20 28 Feb 2017

Photo by: Peter Carroll

Beyond the hand painted characters that welcome you to Ratoath Boxing Club, Ireland’s golden girl Katie Taylor prepares for her third professional bout on Saturday night at London’s O2 Arena.

Her new coach, Ross Enamait, has been tasked with preparing Taylor for the pro ranks, and the chemistry between the two is evident as they go through the motions on the pads.

The Vernon, Connecticut native’s books used to be dotted around the Taylor family home as she made her ascent through the amateur ranks, and the Olympic gold medallist knew she had found the man for the job as soon as they met.

Fresh off a seven-week camp on Enamait’s stomping ground, Taylor found herself immersed in the sport, with little or nothing else to do in her new home away from home.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere… it’s great fun,” she says, cracking a wry smile.

Regardless of her amateur achievements, there are still plenty of tricks that Enamait needs to prepare Taylor for, given her new professional status.

Citing Ukrainian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko’s loss to Orlando Salido, he underlines that skill doesn’t always beat experience, but instead, professional boxing is about finding the right balance between both.

“I’m enjoying the challenge and I’m definitely enjoying being a professional boxer,” states Taylor.

“I’ve learned a lot from being around seasoned pros for the last few months. Just from sparring with them I’ve learned so much. It’s been a great few months for me.”

Taylor insists that she’s boxing better than she has been for a long time, and booked for her next two bouts at the heavier class of 135 lbs, she feels she will be stronger than ever.

Still, there are a lot more boxes to tick before she has truly made the transition from amateur to pro.

“There are little differences like getting inside—that’s something you don’t see a lot in amateur boxing. There are a few little tricks like using your head...am I allowed say that?” she laughs as she poses to question to Enamait.

“Getting inside and the body work is not something you see a lot in the amateurs,” Enamait continues.

“With women, you don’t see a lot of one punch knockouts. If you’re going to stop someone it’s going to be from breaking them down with shots to the body. It’s very rare that you see a female hit someone once and put them out, but over ten rounds you can break them down to the body.”

While there are still some adaptations to be made to Taylor’s arsenal, she still sees a world title as her ultimate objective for the year.

“The ultimate goal would be to fight for a world title by the end of this year if all goes well. Obviously, I have to have a couple of ten-round fights before then. You can’t just walk straight into a world title fight.

“It’s definitely going to be a busy year for me, a busy few months, but I think I will be boxing for a world title sooner rather than later.”

You only have to look as far as Saturday night’s headliner between David Haye and Tony Bellew to recognise the stress that pro boxing puts on marketing and selling.

Each time the two Englishmen have been brought together, the insults have come thick and fast. They’ve even had to be separated on a few occasions, which has left the boxing masses simmering, and more importantly, willing to part ways with their hard-earned cash.

While Taylor agrees that “selling” is a part of the game, she promises that we won’t see any aggressive antics from her in an effort to gain exposure.

“It is about selling, but that wouldn’t be my style at all. When I hear about things like this (media day) today I’m asking, ‘is there really another media workout?’

“It’s all part of the parcel. I guess I just have to get on with it.

“Manny Pacquiao is the best-loved boxer in the world and I’ve never heard him trash talk. He always has a smile on his face. I definitely won’t compromise who I am (to sell a fight).”

The vultures were circling Taylor following her early exit from the Olympics last year, but her two memorable showings as a professional have silenced her doubters and restored her stock.

Top Rank recently blocked the Irish starlet from competing in New York on St Patrick’s weekend as they felt it would take away from Michael Conlan’s pro-debut on the same week.

Her manager, Brian Peters, who was behind Bernard Dunne’s big Irish shows during his heyday, sees Taylor as more of an international player than the former super bantamweight champion.

While visiting Vegas for the James De Gale vs Badou Jack bout last month, Taylor and her team met with both Showtime and HBO, the two biggest players in the pay-per-view market, which backs up her manager’s forecast.

According to Peters, after seeing the impact Conor McGregor has had in the US, it is in Taylor’s interest to fight across the water.

“With Katie, we’re doing it differently,” says Peters.

“There was an offer to fight in Germany on March 11. With the Madison Square Garden fight not being confirmed, Katie will get two fights in March, which is better again.

“With America, it’s hard to beat, isn’t it? You see Mr. McGregor and what he’s done. There’s been interest from Norway and in China as well.”

Perhaps Taylor was selling herself short when it came to her marketing vision because she has the perfect response when asked if she thought the all-conquering clickbait marquee, Mayweather versus McGregor, would come to fruition.

“Ehhh…if I’m on the undercard, yeah, I wouldn’t mind actually!” she laughs.

“Money talks I suppose, but they should really fight with the MMA gloves on, shouldn’t they? That would make it a bit more interesting.”

Although boxing and MMA were at loggerheads for a number of years, it appears as though the disciplines are starting to co-exist.

To add to the Mayweather and McGregor nattering, Michael Conlan will be escorted to the ring by the Irish UFC superstar when he makes his first pro walk in New York next month. Even Taylor herself has declared that she wanted to be “the Ronda Rousey of boxing” ahead of her professional debut.

Some argue that because of her controversial exit at the Rio Games, Taylor should have gone pro back in 2012. However, it was during the four years between 2012 and 2016 that Rousey became a regular headliner at the top of the biggest of UFC bills.

Taylor aspires to be the person who brings the masses in for a female boxing headline bout, and she’s certain that she made the right choice by waiting the extra four years before making the leap to pro.

“I have no regrets at all. I stayed at amateur because I had a passion for amateur boxing. Competing in the Olympics, for me, that was absolutely huge, so I definitely don’t have any regrets.

“Women’s boxing is on such a high at the moment in the pro game, so it was definitely the right time for me to turn pro.

“I don’t think I would’ve had these opportunities if I had turned pro earlier. This is the first time we’re really seeing a lot of women coming over from amateur and going into the pro game.

“That’s what pro boxing needs really, big names crossing over.”

It won’t be a big name that faces off against Taylor on Saturday night.

Instead of the former title contender they had lined up for the London card, Taylor will now face durable Italian, Monica Gentili.

Grateful for the experience she gained from going the distance with Viviane Obenauf in her last bout, it sounds as though the Italian could provide Taylor with similar “valuable experience” for her professional learning curve.

“I’ve seen a few videos of her. She’s an experienced girl. She’s got six wins and six losses, but she’s definitely going to come and fight.

“It was the best opponent we could get really on such short notice.”

Despite her trouble with opponents this time around, Taylor doesn’t anticipate having problems finding dance partners for the remainder of her career.

“I’m not really (worried). I think they’re all out to get me to be quite honest,” she says with an air of confidence.

“They’re all queuing up for me, I think.”

Like Lomachenko, Taylor has set her sights on an explosive introduction to the title picture in her first year as a professional. In 2017 alone, she outlined her plans to fight six or seven times and to compete for a world title.

With Enamait and Peters making all the right noises in terms of leading her to her goal, Katie Taylor’s stock may rise to the highs of 2012, or maybe even beyond, once again.

@PetesyCarroll

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