Katie preparing as well as ever for the big fight
Even though Katie Taylor can create history tomorrow night by becoming the first Irish fighter to simultaneously hold three World Championship belts, in a previous sporting life she performed before a bigger crowd in Philadelphia.
Taylor was bitterly disappointed when the International Olympic Committee declined to include women’s boxing in the programme for the Beijing Games.
Back then Taylor was double jobbing in a sporting sense, regularly turning out with the Republic of Ireland women’s soccer team.
In September 2008, the US women’s soccer team played their first match on US soil after winning the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Ireland provided the opposition in the city’s Lincoln Financial Field and Katie was a 90th minute substitute in a contest the hosts won 2-0 before an attendance of 13,176.
“Unfortunately the results on the tour weren’t great but it was a great trip,” recalled Taylor. “I had watched all the Rocky movies, so it was great t walk up the Rocky steps and I still have photographs I took off the Rocky statue.”
Though the attendance will be smaller tomorrow night in the city’s Liacouras Centre (capacity 10,200) , the stakes are much higher this time around.
The 32-year-old Bray pugilist puts her WBA and IBF World lightweight title on the line against unbeaten Brazilian Rose Volante, who currently holds the WBO belt.
Unbeaten in her 12 pro fights, Taylor is the overwhelming favourite to secure the ‘pink’ belt which will see her stay on target to unify the division in Madison Square Garden in June.
Even though Philadelphia is forever associated with Rocky Bilbao, the most famous fictional boxer in history, the city has a rich tradition in the pugilist game.
After moving from his birth place in Beauford, South Caroline, future World heavyweight champion Joe Frazier settled in Philadelphia at the age of 15 and spent most of his adult life in the city before his death at the age of 67 in 2011.
A life-size statue of Frazier now stands at the entrance to Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the 2018 Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Taylor’s success owes much to the fact that she is relentless in terms of her preparations and treats every contest as if it not just her most important, but her most difficult as well.
At her training base in Vernon, Connecticut the temperature has been below freezing for much of the last month, with frequent snow storms, but Taylor has still been able to get her road work done.
“They clear the snow here fairly quickly. The core training for every fight is basically the same but I work on different tactics depending on who I am fighting,” she says.
“I have seen a few clips of Volante in action, but I don’t like too much footage of opponents. She is what I expected her to be: typical South American fighter, strong and aggressive with a big right hand. She is coming into this fight undefeated and is a very dangerous fighter.
“I will have to box very clever. I suppose every single fighter has a few weaknesses and hopefully I can exploit them on Friday night but I believe this will my toughest fight so far.”
As always though, the core element of her preparations are the spars against male opponents.
“I was looking for aggressive fighters with big right hands and there was no scarcity of them. I was in the trenches in some of those spars but that’s where my confidence comes from. I know I have left no stone unturned.”
In Taylor’s spars, the rounds last three minutes with a 30-second break. “Doing two-minute rounds with a 60 seconds breaks (in the fights) is a piece of cake for me,” she says with a chuckle.
On the day her fight was announced, she sparred local favourite Tevin Farmer, who defends his IBF World super featherweight title against Dubliner Jono Carroll in the top of the bill bout.
Known as ‘Queen Rose’, Volante is arguably the weakest of the belt-holders in the division, even though she is ranked fifth in the world. While she won eight of her 14 fights inside the distance, the quality of the majority of her opponents was woefully weak.
This will be the biggest pay night of Volante’s career. But on all known form it ought to be a routine night at the office for Katie Taylor.