Fans pack in to see what Katie does best
Katie Taylor (red) and Maike Kluners in their bout last night. photograph: aidan crawley
It’s shaping up to be the longest send-off in Irish sporting history – and it began in Dublin last night.
Fight number one on Katie Taylor’s long “Road to Rio” saw 2,000 fans packing the Bord Gaís Energy Theatre to cheer on their boxing heroine.
There may have been 10 fights on the card but the adoring crowd only had eyes for the young womon topping the bill.
When their champ strode nonchalantly through billowing clouds of smoke into the pulsating limelight, they jumped to their feet, Tricolours and camera phones in the air, ready to renew that love affair with the self-effacing boxer from Bray.
For some it was a chance to relive those unforgettable times in London’s ExCel centre last year when Taylor punched her way to Olympic gold. For most it was an opportunity to recapture the memories of that golden summer when the exploits of a young woman with lightening-fast hands gave downcast Ireland a reason to cheer.
This was not your usual crowd of fight fans – for many it was the first time they had attended a boxing contest. The large number of women and children in the audience demonstrated this was not your normal pugilistic fare.
Kai Purchase (9) from Walkinstown said he was “mad excited and jumping up around the place” when his mam Susan surprised him with tickets to see Katie. “I love boxing. I watched Katie on the Olympics and it was brilliant when she won the gold medal.”
Pat and Breege Sherlock from Gweedore, Co Donegal, were enjoying their first live boxing card. They were given tickets at Christmas from their daughter Isla. “We’ve been following her for years but never seen her live,” said Pat.
“I haven’t been too well recently, but, believe you me, it’s worth it to come here for Katie Taylor,” added Breege. “Sure if you couldn’t come out for Katie, you couldn’t come out for anyone else. When the entire country was down in the dumps she did something right for us.”
Video clips telling Taylor’s story so far were threaded through last night’s varied offering of fights. At one end of the scale – three Olympians, Paddy Barnes, Adam Nolan and Katie; and at the other – a hard-fought contest between two 10-year-old girls. That seemed a rather unsettling prospect: a tiny pair of little things in baggy shorts and singlets and enormous gloves that looked too heavy for them to lift, let along swing around a boxing ring.
Kaci Rock (Bray) and Leah Farley (Crumlin) took their task very seriously, but not half as much as their daddies shouting encouragement outside the ropes.
“Sugar Ray straight away, luv!”
“Bob and weave in front of her with a few body shots!”
“Double your backhand!”
Honour was satisfied on all sides when the judges awarded a draw.
“We’re trying to tell the Katie Taylor story,” said promoter Brian Peters, who has already lined up a second night next month in Grand Canal theatre with the marketable star.
The main bout of the night saw Taylor comprehensively defeat her game German opponent Maike Kluners. The crowd expected nothing less. Katie hardly broke a sweat.
After the four-round fight, the World and Olympic champion stayed behind to sign autographs.
She had two burly minders on either side – not that one imagined she might ever need to call on their muscle.
Coincidentally, a new show opens tomorrow night at the theatre. It’s called The Ladykillers. Last night was the preview, courtesy of our modest and fleet-footed ladykiller Katie Taylor.