Katie Taylor says she will have to beat ‘the best fighter in the division’ as she bids to become a two-weight world champion in Manchester this weekend.
Christina Linardatou provides the opposition for Taylor's super-lightweight debut, the Dominican-born 31-year-old seeking to retain the WBO title she won in March.
Tomorrow night's bout (expected to start at 9pm) represents Taylor’s third of what has been a gold-laden year, the Bray native returning to the ring for the first time since becoming Ireland’s maiden undisputed champion.
A win would bring with it yet more history in that regard, Steve Collins and Carl Frampton the only other boxers from this island to win world titles in multiple classes.
The Manchester Arena bill is also Britain’s only ever mainstream boxing card headlined by a female fighter. “I’m excited to fight back in the UK, I love it”, says Taylor of the occasion.
“The support I’ve gotten has been outstanding, I’m so grateful for that. It’s my first time in the ring since I became undisputed so it’s going to be a special night.
“This is a huge opportunity for me to be a two-division champion and I’m ready to create more history for myself and my country.
“I’m very aware of the challenge that Christina brings.
"She is aggressive, with a big right hand, and I do believe that she’s the best 140-pounder in the division.
“It’s a new challenge moving up in weight, I’ve worked very hard in the gym to build up. This is the longest camp I’ve ever had as a professional. I’m the challenger again, and you’ll see the very best of me. I’ll need to be on my game because Christina has had some great wins in her career.”
Indeed, the champion’s 13 fight-ledger sports just one defeat, that coming in 2016 against recent Taylor foe Delfine Persoon.
The latter will likely be watching Saturday’s fare with a keen eye, the prospect of a Taylor- Persoon sequel already heavily touted.
Linardatou, for her part, is giving short shrift to any best laid plans.
"I was inexperienced [when I fought Persoon] myself, but I’ve learned a lot since. This is going to be a great match. I’ve been expecting [Taylor] for a long time.
"This is what I love, I love challenges. I’m always ready. This fight will be like the mouse and the cat, I can do whatever it takes in the ring.
“I’m so happy that these fights are happening. People need good fights to make women’s boxing grow. I believe I’m the best fighter at 140 pounds. "I’m not afraid of losing my belt. I’m getting in the ring to give my best like I always do. I always have boxed away from home and if Katie wants my title, she has to get it off me.”
Taylor is not one for overlooking the task at hand, the significance of Saturday’s match-up further framed by the fact that it will be the first female contest subject to full random drug testing under the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency.
“Drug testing was always there during my time in the amateurs so it’s important to make sure it’s the same in the pros, that every fight is clean”, says the 33-year-old. “Boxing has had a tough 2019, so testing can only help to make things safer.
“I expect this to be a huge 12 months for me, but I have to get past Christina first. I only take one fight at a time and my focus is completely on this one. She brings a lot to the table and I’m very aware of the challenge. She is an excellent champion and it’s going to be a big test for me but one that I’m confident of overcoming.
“There are still so many huge fights out there, like Amanda Serrano, a rematch with Persoon and a fight with Cecilia Brækhus, but the first goal is November 2nd and winning another world title.
“It is about legacy. I want to be known as the best ever and I’m willing to prove myself every time I step into the ring.”