Champion urged to leave ring — for soccer pitch

After winning the respect of Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and a host of other boxing greats, Katie Taylor has been urged to rejoin another women’s sporting revolution — in soccer.

The gold medal hero, four-time World Champ-ion, and five-time European winner is rumoured to be at a crossroads as her fame reaches global proportions.

Continuing in amateur women’s boxing, turning pro, becoming a motivational speaker, or hanging up the gloves are all potential avenues for Taylor.

However, while the Leeds United fan appears insistent on staying in the ring, one admiring former coach of Taylor says she should consider returning to the soccer field.

“I’m on record as saying that Katie would be welcomed back with open arms,” said Noel King, Ireland U21 head coach and Ireland women’s international manager between 2000 and 2010.

He told the Irish Examiner: “She’s been absent from the game for two or three years, and it’s her choice, but there are huge possibilities for her in football. She’s good enough to play at the very highest level.”

Until early 2010, Katie had balanced boxing with those playing for Dublin club and recent women’s Champions League competitors Peamount United.

In the process, she won 15 caps for the Irish women’s international side.

Noel King — Taylor’s former international coach and ex-boss of Derry City and Shamrock Rovers, among others — believes any return to soccer would bring yet more sporting success and help encourage more girls to take up sport.

“If she does come back it would be up to Sue Ronan [current Ireland women’s soccer coach] to pick her, and I wouldn’t want to tell Sue what to do. But when Katie was playing for us she was really excellent, a very competitive attacking midfielder.

“I’d always hold her fitness levels up as an example to the other girls, and that was a team with four players from the Arsenal Ladies team [regarded as one of the best in Europe], so it’s really saying something,” he said.

While women’s football is now producing top-class players, it was not properly structured until 1973 and was effectively shunned by the FAI until as recently as 1990, when it finally came under the association’s wings.

Although King has stressed the decision is ultimately up to Taylor, he is convinced her aura would bring the sport closer to mainstream coverage.

In particular, he said, the quality of one of her final matches in a green jersey against Italy — when she scored a “cracking” goal to take the lead before being “unfairly” sent off for two yellow cards as Ireland lost 4-1 — is a sign of the skill on offer.

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