Katie starts 'Road to Rio' in Dublin

Katie starts 'Road to Rio' in Dublin

Olympic Champion Katie Taylor will return to ring on Sunday, February 24, at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin.

The bout will see Taylor start on "The Road to Rio", a journey she is hoping will end with a second Olympic Gold at the 2016 games in Brazil.

The 26-year-old from Bray said: "It's great to have a date to focus on now and it will be great to box at home as Olympic Champion.

"I was humbled by all the people who came over to support me in London, it felt like the Irish fans took over the arena for my fights so it's great now that people will have a chance to see me on home soil taking on world class opposition.

"I boxed at the O2 in 2009 and it was a brilliant experience and the crowd's reaction that night was amazing and really lifted me and it would be great to repeat that in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in February."

Taylor's brilliant performances en route to winning Gold at the London Olympics cemented her place as one of Ireland's greatest ever athletes and saw her receive international acclaim with USA Today naming her as one of the most inspirational athletes of the games alongside track stars Usain Bolt, Mo Farrah and David Rudisha.

She topped the 2012 charts as the most "Googled" person in Ireland as well as the top trending Irish person.

The months since the games have been a hive of activity for Taylor who released her book "My Olympic Dream" and more recently travelled to Armenia to pick up her award from amateur boxing's international governing body AIBA as their Women's Boxer of the Year.

She was back in London this past weekend to attend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year where she was recognised for being one of the stars of the 2012 games.

"It's all been a bit of a whirlwind really and it's been such a busy time but I'm really looking forward to getting back in the ring and boxing again," said Taylor.

"I've tried to keep life as normal as possible and the support from people wishing me well has been brilliant. It seems everyone knows who I am now but I've never been interested in being a 'celebrity' so that has taken some adjusting to. I took a few weeks off from training after the Olympics but I've been back in the gym for quite a while now so its good to be back in a routine and training hard again with a fight date to focus on."

Taylor claims that her hunger for precious metal remains undiminished.

She said: "The Olympics really opened people's eyes to the sport and the standard at the games was so high and it's only going to get harder to defend my titles. The major boxing nations are investing hugely in the sport and some of my rivals like Sofya Ochigava in Russia, the Chinese girl Cheng Dong and Natasha Jonas from the UK now face serious competition in their own countries so the standards keep rising as the sport's profile is increasing.

"I'm still only 26 and I feel I have things to prove and things to achieve in the sport. I'm constantly learning in the gym and looking to improve. I've always set myself goals and I want to retain that Olympic title in Rio in 2016 and retain my European and World titles as well so I'm hungrier than ever to keep improving."

The Olympic champion admitted it was a very long road to get to the top step of that podium in London.

She said: "When I started boxing as a child I always dreamed of winning a gold medal for my country at the Olympics but obviously for so long it didn't look like that would ever be possible. I think I'm proof that if you work at your dreams hard enough and persevere they can come through.

"It's brilliant to see the effect winning the gold medal has had on kids when I meet them and it’s amazing to think that they are taking inspiration from what I have done and see that nothing is impossible.”

Her father and trainer Pete says preparations are already well advanced for Katie's return to the ring.

He said: "Katie's incredibly driven and she's not happy to settle for everything she's won to date. She wants to keep on improving and to keep winning. Hopefully everything we are doing here will lead to the next Olympics in Rio and that's the long term goal but in the medium term it's about defending her European title next October and obviously the short term goal is this fight on February 24th.

"I know a lot of her European rivals won't want to box her until the European Championships so to prepare for those I want Katie to box world class opposition and that will mean bringing over some of the best girls in the world to box her.

"We're looking at a number of possibilities right now and will confirm her opponent in the next few weeks.

“We worked with Brian Peters before when Katie fought at the O2 in 2009 on the night Bernard Dunne won the World title. She relished the opportunity to showcase her skills to the Irish public and the crowd was incredible that night. The atmosphere really helped to prepare Katie for boxing in front of big crowds and it stood to her in London.”

Tickets for "The Road to Rio", priced from €40 with a discount available for under 14's, go on sale at 9am tomorrow morning from Ticketmaster.ie (0818 719 377).

Doors open on Sunday, February 24, at 5pm.

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