Only way is up as Taylor aims to conquer new division

Only way is up as Taylor aims to conquer new division

Halloween week has always been central to the Katie Taylor story. It was on October 31 that her journey truly began back in 2001, a then 15-year-old Taylor edging out Alanna Murphy on Ireland’s first-ever slate of sanctioned female boxing.

Suffice to say, those boundary-breaking tendencies have since assumed an altogether more international hue. Taylor’s landmarks in that regard are well-chronicled, her bio now boasting a laundry list of credentials both amateur and pro. Saturday sees her bid to lengthen that list further still.

A victory versus Christina Linardatou would extend Taylor’s world reign across two divisions, the Bray native primed to pursue honours in the 10 stone class having overcome all comers at 135lbs. With June’s nip-and-tuck points win against WBC titlist Delfine Persoon came the final piece of the lightweight puzzle, the much-sought ‘undisputed’ moniker conceptually secured.

In reality, though, she moves forward at a point when many remain keen for her to go back, the merits of her latest triumph tempered in some quarters by the means. A Persoon sequel seems certain to follow in 2020, Taylor typically all too happy to oblige.

“It was a great, exciting, hard-fought fight,” says the 33-year-old of that night in New York, “probably a bit too exciting for me and my team, actually! I’m not one for ducking [the rematch], or any challenge, I think I’ve shown that throughout my time in boxing. I’m looking forward to beating [Persoon] more convincingly next time.

I always want to keep challenging myself though, and Christina’s a top fighter. Of course, it’s great to return to the ring for the first time as an undisputed champion, but I’m stepping into a different environment and I know I have to prove myself again. I’m the challenger this time, she is the champion.

The siege mentality sported by Linardatou appears to take that demarcation with a pinch of salt, her team having long voiced dissatisfaction at a perceived contractual imbalance in the terms allotted to each woman. Indeed, while it is the Dominican-born 31-year-old who brings the belt to Manchester, hers endures as very much a supporting role.

“I’ve been expecting this match for a long time, maybe under different conditions,” remarked the super-lightweight queen.

“But at any rate, I’m glad this fight can happen. People need good fights to make women’s boxing grow. I believe I’m the best fighter at 140lbs. I’m not afraid of losing my belt. I’m getting in the ring to give my best like I always do.” It’s an abrasive approach which sees her boast just one blot on her pro copybook, that coming against the aforementioned Persoon in 2016.

A change in division brought with it a change of fortune for the Greek-based WBO titlist. Tonight represents defence number two, a stirring sixth-round stoppage of Kandi Wyatt enough to snare the belt back in March of this year.

“It was my dream to win that title and I plan on leaving England with it,” she vowed. “If I need to knock Katie Taylor out to keep it, that’s what I’ll do.

“This fight will be like the mouse and the cat. But I think even if it’s not like that, I can handle everything. I’ll do whatever you want in the ring to get what I want and to win. I’ve beaten everyone. I’m always ready, because this is what I love to do.”

That Carl Frampton and Steve Collins remain Ireland’s only boxers with dual-weight world championships should ensure the gravity of the task is not lost on Taylor. Sky Sports tonight broadcast her attempt to repeat that particular trick, their show representing the first mainstream UK boxing bill headed up by a female combatant (Taylor’s fight due at around 10pm).

“It’s a great honour to top the card, and very exciting that I have a chance to be a two-weight world champion. I’m well prepared for this challenge. I’ve had a long training camp for this fight, the longest camp I’ve had as a professional. I’m feeling strong and these are the kind of challenges that I absolutely relish.

“I’m in against a bigger and stronger girl, but I’ve put in hundreds and hundreds of rounds of sparring over these last few years and I’m ready.”

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