All she needed was a stage. On Monday afternoon in London, Katie Taylor got it.
Despite being arguably the greatest sports person this country has ever produced.
The Bray native has been winning European and World Championships for fun — to almost non-existent coverage here at home.
To put her achievements into perspective, ever before her now guaranteed Olympic medal, Katie Taylor is unbeaten at the World Amateur Championships since 2006, the European Amateur Championships since 2005 and the European Union Amateur Championships since 2008 — an unbeaten run stretching to almost 50 fights, making her a four-time world champion and a five-time European champion. She has lost just six times in 138 fights, and many of those losses have been questionable.
She is, quite simply, the greatest female amateur boxer on the planet and has been for some time. In fact, she is the primary reason why female boxing got its place in the Olympics and might just be the reason it’s retained for Rio in 2016.
Before a packed-out audience at the ExCel Arena in London on Monday night, Taylor had her stage. Her performance against Britain’s Natasha Jonas had not only boxing commentators in awe, but had former world champions and current professional contenders singing her praises.
The decibel level during the bout was the highest recorded at any London Olympic event, and what those lucky enough to have been in attendance witnessed was a masterclass.
Former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Lennox Lewis said on Twitter that both women “put on a great fight” and were “a huge credit to women’s boxing”. He was even more to the point in his estimation of Taylor’s prowess.
“When you hit Katie Taylor she hits you back twice,” he said.
Johnny Nelson, a WBO cruiserweight world champion for over six years and now a Sky Sports pundit seemed blown away by the quality of both fighters.
However, he singled out Taylor as being better than many of the current crop of male professional boxers.
“If you’ve ever doubted women’s boxing you need to watch this fight. Taylor v Jonas. Omg,” he tweeted.
When asked on the social media site whether Taylor had what it took to win gold, Nelson was emphatic: “That’s a done deal... She’s better than many male pros.... Cool, seasoned, fluid and a master of her intent.”
Former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan also singled out Taylor’s performance as “class” before stressing that the bronze would be the least she should achieve, given her talent.
Matthew Macklin, coming off the back of losing two cracks at versions of the world middleweight title, including one hotly disputed decision in Germany, described Taylor thus: “One word springs to mind watching Katie Taylor... special. Absolutely gifted. It’s a shame for Jonas cos she prob deserved a medal,” he tweeted.
Former WBA super bantamweight world champion Bernard Dunne was extremely emotional in expressing his praise for her, saying anyone who knocked female boxing needed to watch a DVD of the Taylor versus Jonas fight.
It wasn’t just fighters who were in awe of the young Bray woman, the boxing media and world media also sat up and took note.
Adam Smith, who leads Sky Sports boxing coverage, said it was an “absolute privilege” to have watched the fight.
“Well done Natasha Jonas, but Katie Taylor will be one of the stars of the Games,” he said.
The Washington Post said the fight showed the addition of female boxing to the Games was about the skill of the women rather than just equality of the sexes.
Jake Emen of Yahoo Sports echoed these sentiments, preferring to focus on Taylor’s phenomenal talent rather than her sex.
“When you watch Katie Taylor in the ring, you don’t see a women’s boxer. You see a technically sound, powerful fighter. She’s a woman, but she also happens to be one of the classiest boxers in the entire competition, regardless of her sex,” he said.
Only Australia’s The Age lapsed into stereotyping of the alcoholic Irish in its piece by Peter Hanlon. The article was later amended following a complaint by Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Noel White.
Bill Dwyre of the LA Times pointed out that Taylor has the talent to force the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the sport again.
“Jonas was good, Taylor was better and won a clear decision. The place rocked, the show was magical and the media took note.
“Somewhere in the expensive seats, where the IOC relics sit, the noise presumably awakened at least one, who paid heed and will vote yes on women’s Olympic boxing next time. The Olympic legend of Katie Taylor begins,” he wrote.
In a little under 10 minutes on Monday, Katie Taylor’s name went around the world. It’s not before time.
* 2pm: Katie Taylor takes on Tajikistan’s Mavzuna Chorieva, with the winner guaranteed a silver medal. Taylor has beaten Chorieva earlier this year at the World Championship semi-final. If she wins this fight, she will fight for the gold medal.
* 8.45pm: Paddy Barnes goes into the ring with India’s light flyweight Devendro Singh Laishram. A win would earn Barnes a guaranteed bronze medal and will earn him the distinction of being the first Irish boxer to secure two Olympic medals.
* 2pm: Mullingar’s John Joe Nevin faces the tough task of beating Cuban Lazaro Alvarez Estrada, the current bantamweight world champion, for the silver medal. Nevin is already guaranteed a bronze.