Sunday 24 February 2019

World is not enough for Katie

IBF title next up as Taylor bids to make it clean sweep

Champion: Katie Taylor
Champion: Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a world champion. By the end of the year she hopes to have multiplied her world champion status by the power of three.

Taylor goes into her fight in Brooklyn tonight as WBA world lightweight champion.

Victory against Victoria Noelia Bustos (18-4, 0 KOS), IBF lightweight champion, would leave the Irish fighter requiring two further unification wins to complete a set of WBA, IBF, WBC and WBO titles.

This is just Katie's third year as a professional fighter.

In 2016, she had two pro fights. Last year she fought six times.

Eddie Hearn
Eddie Hearn

In October she won the WBA title in Cardiff and in December she successfully defended it against American Jessica McCaskill in London. Both were tough, ten-round fights.

Taylor's opponent tonight is a rugged 29-year-old from Argentina who's been a pro fighter since 2011.

That Bustos didn't stop any of her 22 opponents suggests she doesn't have the power to hurt Taylor. But manager Brian Peters has been around boxing long enough to take nothing for granted.

"You would think that Katie's speed, skill and all-round athleticism would be too much for Bustos," he concedes.

"But it's going to be tough. You'd expect Bustos to to try to rough her up, to blindside her and use all the dirty tricks of the pro game. She's strong, durable and heavier than Katie so it's going to be interesting."

In many respects, Taylor (8-0, 4 KOs) is still on a learning curve. She was cut for the first time ever in her title-winning fight against Anahi Sanchez, a reminder of the unpredictability of the pro game.

"If you were in Bustos' corner, you'd be thinking, 'We have to cut her up. Maybe catch her with your shoulder or elbow when the referee isn't looking and show this little golden girl what the pro game is all about'," says Peters.

Irish fans are disappointed that Katie isn't fighting on home soil.

While fighting in Ireland is still Taylor's dream, harsh market reality means Irish fans will have to wait to see Katie in action here.

"America is the market that we're focussing on at present," says manager Peters. "The American market is very important."

Both Peters and Taylor's Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn have been working on turning Katie into the world's top female boxer. Tonight's fight is a crucial piece of their promotional and marketing jigsaw.

Big stage

"This is a big fight, a big stage," stresses Peters. "You'll have all the world press there. HBO. The fight will be shown on Sky. All the media, all the boxing writers, are going to see a good exciting fight tonight and they're going to gauge the crowd reaction.

"This is a great opportunity for Katie to show them all what she's capable of. It will be exciting and entertaining. If you win over the New York fans, you gain a lot of credibility and you keep marching on."

For his part, Eddie Hearn is thrilled to be working with a client as formidable as Katie Taylor

"She's never happy unless she's challenging herself," he says. "Not just to break boundaries for women's boxing but to break boundaries for herself."

Acknowledging the difficulty of convincing some old-school die-hards that women's boxing can be as exciting as men's, he says: "Katie needs to be in proper fights. The minute she's in a bad fight, everyone will start moaning. Even more than they do already about men's boxing."

Lining up the remaining unification fights may not be as straightforward it it might seem.

Both Peters and Hearn know they're working with a global superstar. Their job is to make sure everyone gets to know about Katie and her talent while maximising their client's earning power in every fight.

"Katie will fight anyone," says Brian Peters.

"We want big fights. A problem we have is that the WBC champion Delphine Persoon (Belgium) (40-1, 16 KOs), while she's a good fighter, unfortunately doesn't bring any TV, doesn't bring a live gate and isn't that well known.

"She doesn't mean diddley squat in America. It's people like Amanda Serrano (WBO world super bantamweight champion) from Brooklyn who's a big name in America. We'd fight her in a heartbeat."

Ahead of her title unification fight tonight on the undercard of middleweight clash between "Miracle man" Daniel Jacobs and Maciej Sulecki, Taylor says: "I've had a fantastic training camp so I'm well prepared for what I expect will be a very tough contest.

"It's been a great year as a professional but the best is yet to come. I would love to be headlining shows out here."

"There's only ever going to be one Katie Taylor," says Peters proudly, firing a warning shot across the bows of future Taylor opponents and their agents.

"There's never going to be anyone else like her. All these other fighters have an opportunity to get a purse six or seven times bigger than anything they've ever received by stepping into the ring with Katie Taylor. They're going to be on high profile fight cards and it would be massively stupid of them to be greedy."

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