The slight figure of Katie Taylor, running up and down the snow-covered streets, has become a fixture in the obscure Connecticut town of Vernon. But while the endless hours of groundwork allows the unified lightweight champion to consider her next opponent, future plans, hopes, and dreams, Taylor’s mind can sometimes wander to the subject which still “eats away” at her.
Nearly three years have passed since she returned from the Rio Olympics empty-handed, her plan to retain the gold medal clinched in London left in tatters by Finland’s Mira Potkonen, who had failed to even qualify in the previous cycle, in her first bout of the tournament.
Bray’s superstar swiftly turned her back on the amateur code as arguably the greatest female boxer to ever grace the unpaid ranks and set her sights on making similar waves in the professional game. She has done just that.
Even still, the tiny gap left by an absent medal feels more like a gaping void for perfectionist Taylor. In the brilliant documentary KATIE released earlier this year, the 32-year-old is seen standing in front of a scarcely believable trophy haul containing medals she can’t even remember winning. But her main emotion, she says, is one of Rio regret.
She is now also the proud incumbent of the WBA, WBO, and IBF lightweight world titles and is vying to add the fourth and final strap by beating WBC champion Delfine Persoon at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Should she succeed against the vastly experienced Belgian, Taylor believes she might just be able to move on from that Brazilian heartbreak.
“I think what happened in Rio will always hurt,” Taylor says, leaning on a marble table 15 floors up in her Manhattan hotel.
To lose to someone you should never have lost to will always eat away at you, I think. But you just have to get on with things.
"I guess that winning world titles, improving from that night and learning from those losses definitely makes it easier.
“I don’t think about Rio too often, it’s just the odd time. It’s on the back of my mind every now and again but winning on Saturday night will be the biggest night of my career and I feel like maybe I could finally move on if I win the fourth belt.”
Defeat to Potkonen, who was eventually beaten in the semi-final herself, was the prelude to a total life change for Taylor, who decided to leave Ireland and become one of Vernon’s 30,000 inhabitants.
There, she is trained by Ross Enamait and has steadily become a genuine attraction on the east coast of America. Saturday will be her fourth consecutive fight in America, her fifth in the past year and second at the iconic MSG already. Victory will further cement her status as possibly the finest female fighter on the planet.
But when she’s back in Connecticut, living the quiet life that she has carefully constructed, you would never know.
“I’ve been there a while now but I’m pretty anonymous actually,” Taylor adds. “Nobody knows me at all, which is fantastic. I’m involved in the church community. They’re my great friends. I’m not getting stopped in the shop or anything like that.
“Rio was a big disappointment but then again I definitely wouldn’t be here now, I wouldn’t be living and training in Vernon if everything had gone well at the Olympic. I know that good things come from big disappointments as well.
“This has been my lifestyle for years and years and I don’t see any other life at this stage. I love what I do. Saturday is definitely the biggest night of my career, without a doubt. This will surpass anything I’ve done in my career so far so I realise how big this one is.
“I realise how great a champion Delphine is, this is a tough, tough fight. That’s why I locked myself away for weeks and weeks in Connecticut and go to those trenches every single day in training camp. It’s for these kind of nights. It’s a dream night for me.”