Mil­lion-dol­lar pay days the tar­get for Tay­lor

His­tory awaits the Ir­ish boxer as she seeks to unify all four world ti­tles, re­ports Gareth A Davies

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport -

Katie Tay­lor’s fail­ure at the Rio Olympics to land a sec­ond suc­ces­sive gold medal still stings, but she uses it to spur her on. When Satur­day comes, the Ir­ish boxer knows his­tory is close at Madi­son Square Gar­den, where she can be­come undis­puted women’s light­weight cham­pion.

If she beats World Box­ing Coun­cil cham­pion Delfine Per­soon, she will unify all four of the women’s belts at 9st 9lb. One way or an­other, it will be a mo­men­tous night for women’s box­ing, and The Ring mag­a­zine, the bi­ble of box­ing, has cre­ated a belt for the win­ner.

Tay­lor, 32, fights on the un­der­card of An­thony Joshua’s heavy­weight ti­tle de­fence against Andy Ruiz Jr. Her Bel­gian

op­po­nent is no slouch, record­ing 43 vic­to­ries and just one de­feat, but it is Tay­lor who has done most to ad­vance women’s box­ing since turn­ing pro­fes­sional af­ter her quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat in Rio.

It says ev­ery­thing about one of Ire­land’s most cov­eted sports stars – she played foot­ball for her coun­try – that she has turned down sev­eral spon­sor­ship deals – “they have to fit right for me,” she in­sists.

In­stead, on the arm of her track­suit there is sim­ply em­bossed: “Psalm 18”. The psalm reads: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my de­liv­erer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. In my dis­tress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came be­fore him, into his ears.”

Tay­lor says: “It’s my favourite psalm. I read it be­fore every one of my fights.”

And this is the big­gest of her ca­reer, greater than the Olympic gold-medal fi­nal in Lon­don in 2012, or the five con­sec­u­tive World Cham­pi­onship ti­tles amassed as an am­a­teur phe­nom­e­non. And, while she now earns well, she is clos­ing in on seven-digit purses.

Box­ing’s real-life “Mil­lion Dol­lar Baby” has an ap­peal to fans few others pos­sess, softly spo­ken out of the ring; a fear­some fighter in it, with blur­ring hand speed launch­ing relentless attacks.

I first vis­ited her in Bray, Ire­land, 12 years ago, when women’s box­ing was an­nounced as an Olympic sport, and she has not changed an iota.

Pro­moter Ed­die Hearn says: “Katie is my favourite boxer. She is in­ter­ested in two things: box­ing and re­li­gion. She lives her life as she does her talk­ing in the ring, and is just bril­liant. Katie won’t do any­thing she doesn’t want to do – ever. She’s turned down spon­sor­ship deals and she doesn’t want to do too much me­dia.

“Once her man­ager tells me ‘No, that isn’t go­ing to work’ she scares me that much that I’d never pester her. She’s to­tally focused on what she wants to do. If it’s not part of her plan, it’s not hap­pen­ing. And she’s al­ready by far the high­est paid fighter in women’s box­ing his­tory.”

Tay­lor is rais­ing the stakes for women box­ers. In March, she added Brazil­ian Rose Volante’s World Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion ti­tle to the two belts she al­ready held, but the pay day her op­po­nent re­ceived was life-chang­ing.

Tay­lor ex­plains: “I got a mes­sage from Rose Volante af­ter the fight say­ing she was able to buy her mother a house in Brazil with the money she made from fight­ing me. That’s in­cred­i­ble for me. She’s set her par­ents up for life now through that fight. Amaz­ing.

“To be in the po­si­tion I am now and mak­ing this sort of lifechang­ing money is in­cred­i­ble. When I first turned pro, I didn’t re­ally know how this was go­ing to go. I didn’t know how peo­ple were go­ing to take to women’s box­ing. I def­i­nitely feel lucky and blessed to be in this po­si­tion.” On mil­lion-dol­lar pay days, she said: “I’m not there yet but we’re very close. We ob­vi­ously de­serve these kind of pay days as well. We women train just as hard and we sac­ri­fice just as much.

“Lon­don 2012 helped mas­sively. It was the first time in the his­tory of box­ing where the fe­male box­ers were ac­tu­ally turn­ing over into the fe­male game. The pro game, for the first time, has fe­males with an am­a­teur back­ground be­cause of the Olympic Games. The Olympics have re­ally brought fe­male box­ing into peo­ple’s worlds.”

Her fail­ure in Rio, where she was knocked out as reign­ing Olympic cham­pion in the quar­ter-fi­nals, still burns in­side her.

“What hap­pened in Rio will al­ways hurt. To lose to some­one you should never have lost to will al­ways eat away at you. I guess learn­ing from those losses and win­ning world ti­tles makes it eas­ier. It’s in the back of my mind every now and again but win­ning on Satur­day will be the big­gest night of my ca­reer. I feel like maybe I could fi­nally move on if I win the fourth belt.”

The Ir­ish di­as­pora on the East Coast of the United States hap­pily flock to wit­ness her fights.

“Every time I’ve boxed in New York, it has been a big night. It def­i­nitely suits me more than it suits Delfine. I don’t know if she will be over­awed by the oc­ca­sion

– I don’t re­ally care to be hon­est. But this is the big­gest night of my ca­reer, and the big­gest night of her ca­reer, too.”

‘Lon­don 2012 helped mas­sively. Olympics brought fe­male box­ing into peo­ple’s worlds’

Fight­ing fit: Katie Tay­lor

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