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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Taylor's quest to continue

History-making Katie in latest bid to unite crowns

COUNTDOWN: Katie Taylor after weighing in ahead of her IBF, WBA and WBO Lightweight World titles unification bout at the Liacouras Centre, Philadelphia. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
COUNTDOWN: Katie Taylor after weighing in ahead of her IBF, WBA and WBO Lightweight World titles unification bout at the Liacouras Centre, Philadelphia. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Whatever's said in the build-up to tonight's women's world lightweight unification fight in Philadelphia, it would be wise for WBO champion Rose Volante not to mention the word Rio to Katie Taylor.

Unbeaten 36-year old Volante (14-0, 8 KOs) is from Sao Paulo, Brazil and she'll know that it was in Barra da Tijuca that Katie experienced her dark night of the soul.

When defending champion Taylor crashed out of the Rio Olympics she was distraught.

"The plans you have in your heart aren't always God's plans," she said through the tears. But Katie couldn't have felt as devastated if she'd skidded off the Road to Damascus and crashed into the Garden of Gethsemane.

Out of that catharsis came the realisation that it was time to turn pro.

Three months later, Katie debuted in the professional ranks at Wembley Arena.

Stopped

The referee stopped the fight in the third round as, working with her new coach Ross Enamait, Katie displayed signs of being reborn as a fighter.

Since then, she's won all her fights, picking up the WBA and IBF belts on the way to tonight's clash in Philly.

As an amateur, Katie attended all the big Bernard Dunne fights promoted by Brian Peters in Dublin. Today the Dunshaughlin man manages Katie's affairs.

"When she decided to go professional it was a leap into the unknown for all of us," says Brian. "But, just like she did as an amateur, she is turning the non-believers into believers one by one.

"For me the most heartening thing on this journey is to see the impact she's been having internationally. There's no doubt in my mind that she is the greatest Irish athlete of all time."

The pro game has presented Katie with a whole new range of challenges.

Questions of stamina and endurance were convincingly answered as Katie went into the later championship rounds with seasoned pros who are accustomed to hurting their opponents.

Prizefighting isn't the same as the amateur code. This is a world of tough win-at-all-costs hardcases.

But as the athlete who put women's boxing on the map while winning five amateur world titles and an Olympic gold medal, Taylor knew all about fighting through the pain barrier.

She'd had her nose broken more times than she cared to remember and, when she won her fifth world amateur title, she boxed with a badly swollen and painful wrist.

With 12 wins in 12 pro fights, five by stoppage, Katie is aiming to complete the third part of her four-belt unification dream tonight.

She knows she's going to have to fight for it. "Everyone raises their game when they fight me," insists Katie, who's determined to have "a monumental year."

"Queen" Rose Volante's record shows she has the power to stop fights early but tonight's fight will be just the second time Volante has fought outside Brazil and she'll be greeted by a tri-colour waving crowd in Philadelphia on St Patrick's weekend.

In Taylor, Volante faces an opponent with blistering hand speed, who throws punches in bunches and, thanks to her formative years in the IABA's High Performances gym, has the ability to measure distance and unload the big bombs in the blink of an eye.

A win tonight will enable Taylor to set up some of the biggest fights in women's boxing.

"The challenges ahead are only going to get tougher from here on in," says Brian Peters. "So there is absolutely a continuous need to improve every time she steps in the ring."

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