Katie Taylor looks to take another step towards dominating women’s professional boxing tonight as she defends her IBF and WBA World Lightweight titles against WBC World super-featherweight champion, Eva Wahlstrom at Madison Square Garden.
In doing so she will also be the first Irish boxer to defend world titles in ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’ against an opponent she has beaten on several occasions but, who, like Taylor, is undefeated in the professional ranks.
“I’m really blessed, truly blessed to box here where so many great fights have taken place,” said Taylor.
“I know Eva from the amateur days, we shared the ring on many occasions. Someone’s ‘0’ has got to go and I can’t wait to fight at this iconic venue.”
The fight marks Taylor’s 12th professional bout, her third in New York but her first at “The Garden” and features on the Canelo Alvarez v Rocky Fielding undercard, part of “Canelo’s” record-breaking five-year, 11-fight deal worth $365 million with video streaming service DAZN.
But Taylor’s place at the top table of boxing is fully justified, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
“Katie’s never boxed on a card where she hasn’t stole the show, every fight she’s been in people have left going, wow, that Katie Taylor is something else,” he said at yesterday’s weigh-in.
While this bout will be Katie’s toughest professional fight to date, Wahlstrom will be no pushover and has embraced her underdog status.
“I think the pressure is on Katie. It’s really good to be a challenger this time, this is the first time that I am the challenger so I can be just relaxed and do my thing,” Wahlstrom said.
Taylor’s last defeat in fact came from another Finnish opponent, Mira Potkonen, at the 2016 Olympics and Wahlstrom has discussed tactics with her native counterpart and coach Maarit Teuronen, but would not reveal how she will approach tonight’s fight.
Going the distance would likely end in victory for Taylor and Wahlstrom’s KO record stands at just three from 23 bouts.
Taylor’s last opponent Cindy Serrano came to the fight with the intentions of putting it up to the Taylor but quickly reverted to defensive tactics.
“Opponents have got to come to fight and I think Eva will, I think she’ll be trying to win,” said Hearn.
“If she tries to win it will be a great fight, if she just boxes then it still will be a good fight but why you would come all this way and not try and win and I believe Eva Wahlstrom will be trying to win.
“I think Katie’s the exact same as she always is, she takes it very seriously, she’s not very big on media, appearances, she’s all about business.
“Wahlstrom looks in unbelievable condition, very impressive and it’s going to be a very tough fight.
“In women’s boxing you don’t see that many knockouts and Wahlstrom is very tough, it all depends on what Wahlstrom does, if she does come to fight then there could be a stoppage, if she looks to survive there probably won’t be one.
“I think Katie will stop her late. I don’t normally predict that for women’s boxing but it’s because I see appetite from Eva Wahlstrom I think she’s going to really try.
“She’s going to take chances and if you take chances against Katie Taylor, it’s very very dangerous, but you’ve got to take chances to beat her, otherwise you can’t beat her.”
Unbeaten 38-year-old Wahlstrom struggled to make weight for the bout tipped the scales at 133.5lbs with Taylor coming in at 134.25lbs. In taking the fight Wahlstrom also puts her unbeaten professional record on the line but it’s something she’s not overly concerned about.
“It’s not to be unbeaten or beaten, I want to pick the hardest fights, I want to fight the hardest fights and it’s not about winning and losing for me it’s about the toughest fights and making memories in boxing.”
For Taylor too she wants to leave her mark on the sport.
“I’ve always said that I wanted to be involved in the biggest fights possible, I want to create history in this sport, I want to leave a great legacy and fight everyone that there is out there.”
That journey starts tonight against Wahlstrom in “the mecca” of boxing.
- The card will be live on Sky Sports Main Event for Irish customers from 11pm.