Bucharest next for European champion Katie Taylor
Latest defence of her European crown in Romania this year’s benchmark
Katie Taylor: “There’s pressure in every single fight that I go into. But I think it’s a huge privilege going in as a defending champion”. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
There is an order of insects called ephemeroptera that come out each year, are short- lived and within days and sometimes hours, disappear as quickly as they arrived.
Katie Taylor, like the mayfly, leads a life where she explodes to life at certain times of the year before fading back into relative quiet. With no leagues or seasonal cup competitions, hers is a life of blossoming opportunity.
This month it is the European Championships in Bucharest. She will have one week to shine, as she has done on the last five occasions in Tonsberg, Warsaw, Vejle, Mykolaiv and Rotterdam in 2011.
Her yearly maps are drawn around one or two events and in every European and World Championships since she began winning in 2005, she has been the defending champion every time she has gone back.
Hers is also a rare, relentlessly demanding career of forever being the top dog and never allowing opponents to gain ground.
Looking towards defending her sixth successive European crown in Romania at the end of this month and with the World Championships looming in the autumn at an ever changing location makes 2014 the biggest outside of Olympics year.
There too, in 2016, there is another title to defend.
“I’m not thinking too much about Rio at the moment but this is a big stepping stone towards that, I suppose,” she says.
“I want to be very dominant over the next couple of years. I don’t want to give anyone a glimmer of hope coming into Rio. I want to continue to win competitions.
“Whenever the fights are very close, people come out of the ring and say ‘I nearly had you there’. You want to be dominant in every performance and I think it’s important for my own self-confidence as well to continue to win competitions and defend my titles.
“I want to go into Rio Olympics as European and world champion.”
Her instincts and the demands she makes of herself have not changed since London reconfigured her profile and brought the brand Taylor to a broader audience.
Her pressures are slightly different and she’s aware the public expectation of her is she wins every time she steps into a ring. That has been the case but her strength is in not believing assumptions.
Sofya Ochigava ran her close in the Olympic final and even those who had never watched boxing before and never doubted saw that all brilliance has boundaries.
“Yeah,” she says, fresh-faced, unmarked. “I’ve looked at the fights. I’ve done that from the start. I’m never really satisfied with my performances. There are always things that stick in my head, that I feel I should have done, things that I needed to improve.
“That’s what I’ve done the last few years. I always try to add things to my game and I think I always go to every competition with something different and something new.”
“There’s pressure in every single fight that I go into. But I think it’s a huge privilege going in as a defending champion. It would mean so much to me to come back with that gold medal again. I’ve trained as hard as I could over the last few weeks and I’m going there well prepared. I’d love to come home with a European title . . . yeah this is a huge year.”
There are adjustments in an ever changing sport. The points system of scoring used in the Olympics has been replaced by the professional system, where boxers win rounds not points and is called the “10 point must system”.
Aggression is also a consideration by the judges and referee so cautious, defensive tactics can draw the ire of scorers.
“I’ve changed just a few technical things, been working on different angles,” says Katie, today an ambassador for Toyota.
“Different angles are the main thing. Since the scoring system changed, fights have become more physical, so I’ve become a lot stronger. I had to.
“I don’t mind. I’ve been involved in amateur boxing for 17 years. The scoring system has changed and I’ve never had to change my style. There’s always a few tweaks and adjustments to suit the scores but it doesn’t make a difference. It does make the fights a bit more exciting and a bit more physical.”
For now Europe, later this year the World Championships and Mary Kom’s record of five championships for the Irish four-times world champion.
Just another year, another benchmark.