The pain of Rio and the disappointment of Astana now seem like a distant memory for Katie Taylor after the Bray woman claimed her first world professional title in Cardiff last Saturday night.
A comprehensive points victory over Argentina’s Anahi Esther Sanchez at the Principality Stadium means that the 31-year-old is the first Irish fighter to win world titles as an amateur and pro at elite level.
Taylor returned home yesterday morning, landing in Dublin Airport just after 10am, with her beaming smile contrasting with the bruises and cuts she picked up despite the convincing manner of her win.
While those battle scars will rule her out of action until the new year, they are a minor inconvenience when considering the fact that Saturday’s success marked the climax of a redemption mission of sorts.
Having lost her world amateur title in Astana in May of last year – during a run of three defeats that culminated in the loss of her Olympic crown in Rio three months later – Taylor was just delighted to become a world champion once again.
“I don’t think I ever doubted myself,” said the London 2012 gold medallist, reflecting on her amateur decline and professional revival. “I always knew that people hadn’t seen the best of me, and I still believe that.
“It is definitely sweet to come out with a great victory. I guess you only appreciate the high points when you experience the low points as well.
“I had a tough year last year, but I definitely knew I was going to come out on top,” added a modest but confident champion.
It is understood that the Bray native was ill during the fight-week build-up, but she did not reveal this to media even as she gave her thoughts during the post-fight press conference.
Instead, she offered a relatively critical review of her own performance despite having dominated all 10 rounds against 26-year-old Sanchez on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s successful world heavyweight title defence against Carlos Takam.
The Argentine had surrendered her title on the scales last Friday after twice failing to make the 135lb lightweight limit, meaning only Taylor was eligible to walk away with the WBA belt on Saturday night.
It looked like she would do so with ease as the Bray native dropped Sanchez to the canvas with a body shot in the second round, but the Buenos Aires woman – 17-2 as a pro heading into the fight - proved to be a game and gutsy foe.
Not only did Sanchez recover to last the distance, but she managed to produce a competitive performance while never really looking likely to defy her 12/1 underdog odds.
“It was a tough fight, but I definitely was prepared for a tough 10-round battle,” said Taylor afterwards. “I had to dig deep. It was a great learning experience for me because she was a seasoned pro and I definitely learned a lot.
“I was surprised she got up after the body shot,” continued Taylor. “She is a very tough girl.
“I probably got caught in a bit of a fight when I should be boxing a bit more,” added the new champion after her first 10-round fight. “That definitely made for an exciting fight, probably a bit too exciting!”
A healthy crowd of closer to 50,000 watched the female showdown. Colin Farrell was among Taylor’s cheering section and while he paid a pre-fight visit to the fighter’s dressing-room to wish her good luck, the Bray woman opted against the option of having the actor walk her to the ring.
There will be plenty more opportunities for Hollywood-style moments as manager Brian Peters and promoter Eddie Hearn look likely to book a number of US bouts in 2018.
A homecoming fight may take place in Dublin early next summer, but Taylor’s immediate schedule is now uncertain due to the cut she picked up above her right eye.
For now, the 31-year-old can bask in the glory of being a champion once again.
“It is an absolute dream for me,” said Taylor. “It is definitely on par with the Olympics and there are only going to be bigger nights ahead.”
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