To say a fighter is ‘hungry’ may be an old boxing cliché, but in Katie Taylor’s case it seems like – purely in a literal sense – she no longer has the appetite she used to.
That is not to question the motivation of the former Olympic champion ahead of her pro debut in London’s Wembley Arena tomorrow. More so, it is a paradoxical attempt to point out that the 30-year-old is actually reinvigorated in more ways than one.
While so much attention has been paid to how Taylor’s joy for boxing has been given a boost thanks to her taking on a new challenge in the paid game – following the lows of Rio, and 2016 in general – few have noted that the change should also provide significant physical advantages.
No longer tied to the amateur obligation of making her 60kg weight on every day of competition throughout a tournament, when Taylor takes to the ring tomorrow night she will have had more than 24 hours to recover from making today’s 132lb weight demand for the bout.
So it seems that Polish journeywoman Karina Kopinska will meet a more imposing and energised Taylor than the one that collected Olympic gold, five world amateur titles and six European crowns – and maybe the bookies’ odds of 1/100 on the Bray woman cruising through the six-rounder are a bit generous in a slightly preposterous way.
“It’s going to be huge for me,” said Taylor on her weigh-in change following yesterday’s pre-fight press conference at the Landmark Hotel in London’s Marylebone. “I’ve had such a big battle over the last couple of years, I suppose, with making the weight and trying to maintain that for the whole week in amateur boxing as well.
“I was going to bed the night before fights hungry and starving with very little sleep, so I think it’s going to be of huge benefit to me.
“It was very, very tough, especially over the last couple of years. I’ve been 60kg ever since I became a senior boxer at 17. Every year it was getting tougher.
“I still didn’t struggle as much as the like of Paddy [Barnes] or some of the guys,” added Taylor with a laugh when her old amateur colleague’s weight struggles were cited. “But it was a big battle for me to get down to 60kg and maintain it for the whole week.”
The 132lb limit set for the bout is in keeping with Taylor’s amateur weight class of 60kg, but slightly below the pro lightweight limit of 135lbs in which she will chase titles.
That move is consistent with the toe-dipping approach promoter Eddie Hearn and manager Brian Peters have designed as Taylor kicks off her prize-fighting career against Kopinska just three months after the disappointing loss of her Olympic crown in Rio.
The 27-year-old Pole’s record of seven wins, 14 losses and three draws may have led the bookies to price Saturday’s Sky Sports headliner as having an inevitable conclusion, but Kopinska has only been stopped once in her 24-fight career, which included a points defeat to Monaghan’s Christina McMahon in 2013.
“I didn’t even realised she boxed Christina only I saw it on Twitter and stuff this week,” said Taylor. “I have seen a few of her fights but that fight never came up.
“Obviously it’s a fight I’m expected to win, but no fight is going to be easy and you have to be sharp,” added the Bray native, talking up the contest as she would be expected to do in what was her third big media gig in the space of five days.
In fact, Kopinska actually dwarfed Taylor when posing for a face-off photo opportunity, but the Pole’s high-heeled boots warped what is actually a two-inch height advantage.
“It’s a bit awkward, stare-offs, I don’t really know what to be doing! I should’ve wore my high heels,” laughed Taylor, who admitted that she has found the regular media obligations of pro boxing to be testing.
But her new trainer - Connecticut native Ross Enamait, who will be in Taylor’s corner for her pro career - is unconcerned by weigh-ins, media events and the supposed pressure of unbackable favouritism.
“At the end of the day when the bell rings, she comes out and she’s a fighter, so she’s going to fall back on her skill-set,” said Enamait. “I think it [the hype] has more to do with the build-up and once the bell rings all that’s over with.
“She just gets back to who she is – it might make a side-story, but when the fight starts she’s going to be Katie Taylor.”
That is a reality even Kopinska appeared to acknowledge.
Three defeats in the space of five months may have slightly tainted the end of Taylor’s amateur career, but there is no getting away from her talent.
When asked if her battle with McMahon informed her of the challenge of facing the ‘fighting Irish’, even the Polish native’s broken English did not disguise the reality of what awaits her come fight night. “I know Irish women boxers are very good and hard, so I think it will be a very hard fight,” said Kopinska. “I know Katie Taylor is a very good boxer, better than Christina McMahon, so it will be… tough!”
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