Katie Taylor and the ‘Road to...

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Katie Taylor and the ‘Road to Undisputed’

Ronan Mullen
Ronan Mullen

02:48 1 Jun 2019


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That amateur boxing’s latest malaise represents a warped kind of progress speaks for the depths which went before.

Last week saw the Olympic Council call time on the AIBA’s noxious reign of governance, rafts of rogue officiating and altogether more nefarious impropriety having beset much of their 73-year term.

The association’s endorsement of Gafur Rakhimov ultimately proved a point of no return, his alleged link to transnational criminal organisations proving one red flag too many.

In truth, winds of change had started to swirl long before the Olympic torch left Brazil, deep-rooted concerns around the sport’s future finally crystallised in Rio.

36 officials from those games were suspended, and swords soon drawn. By 2017, president C.K. Wu had fallen on his.

It was Wu’s own leaked letter in Le Monde which highlighted undue boardroom sway at the 31st Olympiad, with fights featuring French and Uzbek athletes most markedly under the microscope.

From 15 weight classes, six medals went to France.

Included among them was a gold for Estelle Mossely, who duly assumed the 60-kilo throne last held by Katie Taylor.

Suffice to say the line of succession wasn’t exactly seamless.

“This guy (AIBA official) is standing on my shoulder now to make sure I don’t say anything”, fumed coach Eddie Bolger after Taylor’s premature exit.

“The French are flavour of the month now and, if you go through the hierarchy, you’ll know why that is. That bout [vs Mira Potkonen] wasn’t even close. You can add it up and it wasn’t close. It was a shocking decision.”

The quarter-final ‘defeat’ spelled the end of Katie’s totemic amateur turn, her laundry list of medals measured by the dozen, her impact on the sport a metric all of its own.

From the darkness of that July day came a wholly different dawn, Taylor’s choice to pursue the path of professionalism confirmed followed a torrid summer both between and beyond the ropes.

For many talking heads the switch in codes felt like frying pan to fire, the copybook of pro boxing hardly blot-free.

They need not have worried.

Some 30 months in the paid ranks have garnered titles and plaudits aplenty, the 32-year-old pedestaled no longer as solely a pioneer on the female frontier but a staple of the sport at large.

“She will always be my favourite fighter”, gushes promoter Eddie Hearn.

“We’ve got amazing talents on both sides of the pond, but you can’t help but admire someone with that much dedication and passion for what they do. It’s absolutely everything to her. Everything. She’s a remarkable individual.”

That Hearn’s stable numbers well-nigh 80 boxers highlights the height of his praise. That heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua reigns among them makes it loftier still.

Of course, K.T. and A.J. have long been a one-two combination of note, faces of London 2012 who’ve featured front of house ever since.

This weekend will strike that self-same tone, Taylor pegged as chief support to her stablemate’s maiden American bow.

The feted surrounds of Madison Square Garden offer fitting billing to what is a marquee moment in Joshua’s journey, the Briton having never-before forgone home soil as a pro.

The precarious climate cloaked around Ireland’s domestic boxing scene means Taylor is no stranger to the role of road warrior.

Nor is this her first rodeo at MSG, the Bray native having defended her belts under those lights last December.

A Spring win in Philadelphia brought with it world title number three, Saturday now the final step in pursuit of a quartet set.

“The minute I sat down in Eddie’s office and told him I wanted to be undisputed champion of the world, that I’d love to raise the bar in women’s boxing and change the sport.

“I was only home for a week after my last fight when I felt I had to start training for this, especially knowing what was on the line. It’s the biggest of my career.

“It’s always great going into camp when you’re active already, not starting from scratch. That allowed me to get more rounds of sparring under my belt, so I definitely feel in great shape.

“No stones are unturned, I’m well aware this is my toughest challenge. I can’t make any mistakes on June 1st.”

The near-perfect resume of opponent Delfine Persoon confirms as much, the Belgian undefeated in nine years, her stint as WBC champion dating back to 2014.

Such is the rugged nature of Persoon’s style that subtlety seems a lowly priority, her headlong approach one for which Taylor is primed.

“It’s going to be a very, very physical fight, Persoon punches non-stop for the 10 rounds.

“She’s awkward as well, hard to look good against. It’s definitely a fight where I’ll have to show a lot of heart, but I’m down for that. People feel like they can bull me in the ring, I know that’s what Delfine Persoon thinks. I’ve heard her talking about it.

“It’ll be in the trenches, but I go through the trenches every single day in training. I won’t be denied.

To fight for the undisputed title, in Madison Square Garden, the mecca of boxing, this really is the stuff of dreams. I’m ready.”

 

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