Katie Taylor sets out to conquer the world again

Officially, Katie Taylor was in Dublin yesterday to formally launch her professional debut, which takes place in London on Saturday night. It did not take long, however, for talk to turn to bigger ambitions and more lucrative fight nights.
Katie Taylor sets out to conquer the world again

The former Olympic champion takes on Polish journeywoman Karina Kopinska in what will be Taylor’s first paid fight this weekend at the SSE Arena, Wembley, which will be carried live on Sky Sports.

The backing of that broadcaster is key to the promotional plans of Matchroom Sports boss Eddie Hearn, who already has a series of big fight dates lined up for the 30-year-old. A second pro bout is booked for just two weeks after her bow, when Taylor will feature on the undercard of world heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua.

Already, though, Hearn has moved to trump that date by yesterday indicating that the Bray woman is likely to fight at New York’s Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Weekend in a support bout to world middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin, who is finalising terms for a March 18 headline appearance at the hallowed venue, where Conor McGregor recently claimed his second UFC title.

In marketing and promotional terms, McGregor’s name was mentioned regularly and often by both the media and Taylor’s team yesterday as regards the potential interest in an Irish fighter.

However, all these grand plans depend on a victorious debut. So, what should really be a handy opener to her pro career this weekend now carries a certain amount of pressure for the five-time amateur world champion.

Win, and the world is her oyster, but winning in style may be key to attracting a broader fan base for women’s professional boxing, which has traditionally struggled in terms of profile, paydays, and support.

“I don’t feel under any more pressure than I have done throughout my whole amateur career really,” said Taylor. “I think in every big competition there’s always been a lot of pressure for me to go in and perform and come back with medals, so it’s no different really.

“My focus is the same, as well. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, I think,” continued Taylor, who was also quizzed on the significance of this weekend’s bout taking place some 25 miles from where she memorably won Olympic gold at the ExCel Arena four years ago.

“It’s not something I really think of too often, to be honest,” said Taylor. “It is my pro debut, it is a huge fight for me and I just want to go in and showcase everything now this Saturday night.

“It is a great place to be, London, I’ve got great memories there, but this is a new journey, a new goal, and I just can’t wait to go in and put in a good performance.”

This new journey was, in reality, kicked off by the disappointment of Rio and her contentious loss to Finland’s Mira Potkonen. Having decided to investigate a move into the pro ranks, Taylor travelled to Connecticut where she hooked up with trainer Ross Enamait, who will be in her corner for the pro adventure, along with manager Brian Peters.

Hearn yesterday revealed that March 18 in Madison Square Garden looks likely to feature in that grand itinerary on what should be a huge weekend for Irish boxing, as world male amateur champion Michael Conlan is set to make his pro debut by headlining at MSG’s Theatre on St Patrick’s Day.

Hearn — son of pioneering snooker and boxing promoter Barry Hearn — detailed the logic behind what is looking likely to be a world tour of fight dates for the Bray woman.

“There’s an appetite in America, as well, for women’s boxing at the moment and it was good, so it’s all about momentum,” said Hearn, who explained that markets where women’s boxing has already generated interest — such as Scandinavia — will be areas his team will target.

“This game is all about momentum and hype… so getting those key outings and exposure, America’s important, Scandinavia’s important and of course you want to come back and box in Ireland, as well, so it’s all part of ticking all the boxes, but, for her, it’s all about performing,” continued the promoter.

“Anywhere that’s active [we want to box] and we want to break down barriers in new markets… but this first year is about raising the profile, getting the experience, but also turning her into a global star.

“I believe she can win the world title now, or in two or three fights, but there’s no point winning a world title and not being able to capitalise on it. So we’ve got to grow [and] make her a huge star,” added the promoter, who hopes to book a world-title date for Ireland, possibly by next summer.

But Hearn added a caveat.

“There’s a lot of pressure on her,” noted the promoter.

“It’s not just about winning the fight, it’s about showcasing her skills, making it entertaining. If she does that on Saturday, you’re going to see a massive snowball effect of people wanting to watch her box.”

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