The prospect of Katie Taylor fighting professionally on Irish soil had bobbed and weaved on boxing’s choppy waters for years and the 36-year-old admitted yesterday to fears that her homecoming journey would never make dry land.
A rematch with Amanda Serrano at Croke Park seemed long-odds at first, then more likely but it was shelved due to a GAA-Matchroom stalemate over costs. When the Puerto Rican pulled out of a planned 3Arena show any Dublin date faded from the diary.
Now it’s happening, on May 20th.
It won’t be GAA HQ, and it won’t be a repeat of that Madison Square Garden epic last April, but the stand-in is more than that. Like Taylor, who will fight in Ireland for the first time in seven years, Chantelle Cameron is an undisputed champion in her weight.
It is a first pro fight for Taylor in Ireland. A first ever meeting of two undefeated and undisputed world champions in the sport’s history. At what should be a packed 3Arena. Two more months. So close now after seeming so far away for so long.
“Yeah, there was definitely a point where I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen. Obviously the door opened over the last few months and … I am nearly pinching myself that it actually is happening at this stage,” said Taylor yesterday.
The Bray woman smiled and gave a little shrug of the shoulders when asked if she believed the reports last month that Serrano was injured, but any suggestion of frustration on her part was countered by a flurry of words about the job and the opportunity at hand.
Still, the ‘big one’ continues to hover in the background.
Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn has an ear for what the locals want to hear so he was adamant that the idea of Taylor donning her gloves in Croker hasn’t yet been ruled out of the question. Ireland’s 2012 Olympic champion is less slick with the sales patter.
“I’m not sure if that is still a possibility, to be honest. Regardless, I’m just delighted to be fighting at home and the venue controversy is clouding the fact that pro boxing is coming home. It is a huge night and this is another huge milestone for female boxing.
“It was only a few years ago when I was headlining a show where we were worried about whether we were going to sell out (London’s 1,200-capacity) York Hall. Now here we are talking about the 3Arena being too small. That is amazing progress in such a short space of time.”
Talks were already happening behind the scenes to bring Taylor and Cameron together before the former belied her quiet, humble nature, called the Englishwoman out on social media and received a rapid response to the affirmative.
Cameron and her trainer Jamie Moore spoke respectfully about Taylor’s achievements and abilities during fight promotion at the Mansion House on Dawson Street but they were just as consistent in their assertions that victory would be theirs on the night.
The home favourite will have to move up from lightweight to light-welterweight for the fight but she is adamant this won’t be an issue having done it before. Her trainer Ross Enamait gave Cameron her due but sounded equally unconcerned about any height or reach issues.
“A motivated Katie Taylor is a dangerous Katie Taylor and she's motivated for this fight, probably more than she even was for the Serrano fight,” said the American who doesn’t throw too many words about. “She's firing on all cylinders right now.”
This wasn’t a fight either had to accept. Taylor could have bided her time for Serrano in the hope that their second meeting could be arranged for a date later in the year. She could have settled for a routine defence of her titles against a nobody.
Cameron, who is 17-0 as a pro, could say much the same but the 31-year old understands that this offers the chance to create a legacy regardless of anything else she might do in the ring. Champion boxer though she is, she is embracing the underdog tag.
The pair actually fought once before, at an EU amateur championships in Katowice 12 years ago when Taylor won comfortably. One of them hardly remembers that fight at all, the other has much greater recall. Which is which should be obvious.
If Cameron has been following Taylor’s path in much the same way as every female fighter this last decade and more then the opposite holds equally true since the Englishwoman joined her in the professional ranks. The respect is mutual.
“We will have to see how the night goes, but I am definitely going to be prepared for a tough night,” said Taylor. “It could end up being another classic. She has the style to make this an epic fight, so it could be another fight of the year contender.”