herald

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Katie leading the charge

Irish fans hoping for a fairytale of New York as Taylor climbs the ranks but her team insists MSG bout against Wahlstrom will be toughest yet

Katie Taylor following her WBA & IBF World Lightweight Championship bout with Kimberly Connor at The O2 Arena in London in July Pic: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor following her WBA & IBF World Lightweight Championship bout with Kimberly Connor at The O2 Arena in London in July Pic: Sportsfile

"When Katie retires will women's boxing retire also?" asks promoter Brian Peters.

Katie Taylor's Dunshaughlin-based manager believes Ireland's superstar is spearheading the expansion of women's professional boxing worldwide but acknowledges that, at this stage in her career, the Bray woman must be seen to be fighting the best opposition available.

There can be no easy fights for Taylor, who has the unification of all the women's lightweight division titles in her sights.

Katie is currently the WBA and IBF world lightweight champion, titles she defends tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.

For the latest defence, Katie's opponent will be Eva Wahlstrom (22-0-1, 3 KOs).

A 38-year-old from Finland, Wahlstrom knows Katie.

"I lost to Katie few times in amateur days," she said. "But I'm sure I won her respect. Now in a 10-round pro fight, it will be totally different game."

In fact, as Taylor points out, the pair fought in Katie's first ever international tournament in 2004.

"It seemed like every time I turned up to a major competition after that she was in the draw," she said.

Wahlstrom turned pro and was fighting six-round fights in 2010, two years before Taylor's gold medal triumph at the London Olympics.

Tomorrow's fight will be Wahlstrom's 24th in the pro ranks. She's had twice as many pro fights as Taylor and has had four successful defences of the WBC world super featherweight belt she won in 2015.

"This will be Katie's toughest fight to date," insisted Eddie Hearn, the Matchroom promoter who's guiding Taylor's professional career.

Since approached by Katie and her manager Brian Peters, Hearn has been determined to turn Katie into the most recognisable, most well-paid female boxer on the planet.

Hearn has been messianic in his quest to convince hard-bitten boxing fans that Katie Taylor is a world-class fighter and that her fights are as thrilling as those of her male counterparts.

He knows that a one-sided fight is not what customers pay to see.

Overwhelmed

Disappointed with the performance of Cindy Serrano (left), who was overwhelmed by Taylor in every round when they fought in Boston in October, Hearn has pushed a fight with sister Amanda further down the list of potential challenges for Ireland's champion.

"We are negotiating with WBO champion Rose Volante (Brazil) to fight Katie in the US in March," revealed Hearn. "Then hopefully Katie will fight Delfine Persoon for the WBC and undisputed title."

Both 36-year old Volante (14-0, 8 KOs) and Belgium's Persoon (42-1, 17 KOs) appear reluctant to fight outside the comfort of their locality and have rejected offers so far.

As Hearn piles on the pressure, Katie's manager Brian Peters remains cautious.

He knows Katie needs pressure fights but admitted: "They all know it's a big undertaking to fight Katie. They know she's tough."

But this is prizefighting and the one thing that could tempt her reluctant opponents is hard cash.

"This is, by far, their biggest purse," said Peters. "When Persoon fights Katie, she'll get between four and six times the money she would normally receive."

Having fought on the biggest recent fight cards in Britain, including Tony Bellew vs David Haye, Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko, Anthony Joshua vs Carlos Take and Dillian Whyte vs Joseph Parker, Katie is now featuring on Eddie Hearn's American boxing channel DAZN which is screening tomorrow's bill, headlined by the Saul Alvarez-Rocky Fielding WBA world super middleweight title fight.

The added incentive for Katie to get a decisive win against Walhstrom tomorrow is the knowledge that her promoters are actively working on a route to domination of the lightweight division before meeting some of the most decorated women fighters around, including Amanda Serrano, the Puerto Rican six-weight champion, and Norway's formidable undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs).

"It's two years since Rio and there have been testing times for Katie," said Brian Peters. "Look at how Katie has reacted to adversity. It's all down to how you overcome your trials, how you react and how you come back. People don't realise how hard Katie works."

As he considers her commitment and achievements, Peters attempts to sum up Katie Taylor.

"Katie is the most extraordinary ordinary person I've ever come across," he concluded.

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