Fans turn out as Taylor enters book arena with launch of 'My Olympic Dream'
The houselights went up and the crowd exploded in a frenzy of expectation.
Katie Taylor calmly entered the hometown arena, flanked by her father and trainer Pete, sucking in the atmosphere.
Her game face was on; this would be easy. She wouldn’t break a sweat.
Sell out, not knock out, guaranteed.
For the launch of her London 2012 memoir, My Olympic Dream, on Saturday, there was only ever going to be one location: Bray, Co Wicklow. And in anticipation of her seemingly inexhaustible public appeal, fans began queuing from 7am.
Tirelessly signing copies into the afternoon, Taylor praised her ghostwriter – Irish Times journalist Johnny Watterson – saying he “made me feel very comfortable. It was tough for him; he said it was like getting blood out of a stone.
“Sometimes I find it hard to put my emotions into words, especially [with] what happened over the last few months.”
More than 800 people arrived at the signing, according to staff of her local bookshop, Dubray Books, and the Royal Hotel where she has held a number of warm-up fights to sell-out crowds.
Her hectic schedule continued yesterday when she appeared at Eason’s bookshop on O’Connell Street in Dublin, and she will visit branches in Cork, Belfast and Blanchardstown later this month.
“I really want to start boxing but my mum thinks that I will get a broken nose,” said 11-year-old Sharon Healy from Shankill, who was at the Bray signing.
“She has the three fights at home – she watches them every day,” explained her mother. “Every day we hear Katie Taylor.”
Nine-year-old Polly Moston and her mother Mary skipped breakfast to make the trip from Kildare. “Because she is a role model to all the girls in the world and she shows that girls can do stuff as well,” said Polly.
With her recent decision to remain amateur, Taylor looks set to put her gloves on again at the end of January, most likely against the American fighter Queen Underwood.
Pete Taylor may have preferred his daughter to step out of the ring permanently, but at the same time he is looking forward to returning to some regularity.
“To get a gold medal is difficult but to do it again is even more difficult. That is what she is aiming for now,” he said.
“I am looking forward to it, to get back in the ring. The training and the ring is normality for us. This is not.”
Amateur boxing: Coach honoured
Irish boxing coach Billy Walsh fought back tears of joy yesterday as he received his hometown’s greatest honour – being named an honorary freeman of Wexford – for his success in and around the boxing ring.
Hundreds of people descended on Wexford Opera House to witness the event following a reception in nearby Wexford Arts Centre.
Mr Walsh, head coach with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s elite high-performance unit, helped Ireland to seven medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in which the country won seven medals in total.
RTÉ presenter Jimmy Magee said, “Billy is the first sportsperson ever in the long history of this ancient town to be accorded this fantastic honour.”
Mr Walsh’s name now joins ranks with John F Kennedy and Charles Stewart Parnell.
Mayor Fine Gael Cllr Jim Allen said: “The conferring of the title of honorary freeman is the highest honour that Wexford Borough Council can bestow and in my view should not be given too often.
“Wexford today is awarding Billy Walsh its own gold medal.”
Mr Walsh said he was honoured to be named freeman of Wexford.
“I am overawed and overjoyed . . . I am humbled to be in such exalted company. I am an ordinary Wexford man who has been very fortunate in life.”
Overcome with emotion, he paid tribute to his old coach Eddie Byrne and thanked his family for its support even though his job has meant he has missed many important family occasions.