Rest year leaves Katie Taylor spoiling for a fight
Olympic and world champion glad of the chance to ease off, but is looking forward to an intense 2014
Katie Taylor applauds the crowd at the end of the fight against Mira Potkonen. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Rarely have big ideas like ‘The Road to Rio’ encompassed domestic courtesies such as Saturday. Katie Taylor walked from her house in Bray up to the Ballywaltrim venue to show once more that, for all of her empire building over the last seven years and her global appeal, the girl is local.
Katie’s vast ambitions have always been rooted in a corner of Bray, which is why the four two-minute rounds were as much a coronation as another bout to add to an unbeaten streak that now runs into years.
The community centre had a dance hall feel: the rows of plastic chairs and the basketball hoops on the walls, some green cowboy hats that may have seen time in London’s ExCel Arena, a conveyor belt of kids boxing on the undercard, their claim to fame sharing the same ring as an Olympic champion.
Then there was Katie’s mother Bridget presenting medals. All of it homespun magic, corporate-free and old school to the core, from makeshift stage to the poor acoustics.
Finnish opponent Mira Potkonen was energetic and game but Taylor won all four rounds unanimously, sometimes dropping her hands waist high and subtly guiding her head and body to just millimetres out of range from the Fin.
A few hard backhand lefts kept her opponent alive to the threat of the champion, who remained the dominant, controlling force throughout, with the strong feeling among the crowd of over 500 that there was another gear available if required.
Katie and her father Pete now look into the year ahead and at a European and a World Championships, refreshed after the hectic demands of London 2012 and the aftermath.
From one minor tournament this year to two majors in 2014 seems like an imbalance but the 27-year-old’s long-term view calls for a certain amount of maintenance for her body.
Her ambitions haven’t dimmed. Retain the European title. Retain the world title. Defend her lightweight gold medal in Rio. She is not complicated.
“I don’t mind it being such a quiet year this year. I’m just annoyed that they don’t have WSB [professional World Series of Boxing] for the women,” she said nursing a cheek bone accidentally clattered by Potkonen’s elbow.
“In terms of the competition though, I wasn’t too bothered because of how tough the last couple of years have been. It’s no harm if I’ve have a quiet year. I don’t want to have a short career in the sport. I want to go on for a very long time. I’m in great shape and I’m very disciplined. I see no reason why I can’t go on for a long time
“Next year is going to be full on as well. A European gold and a world gold . . . it’s important for me to win those with the Olympic qualifiers the year after. I don’t want to give anyone a glimmer of hope against me and that means it’s going to be busy.”
Change of gear
The two fights were her first competitive bouts in five months since she won the European Union Championships. There are more planned for next year, as well as a proposed competition in Dubai.
The World Championships have been set for October in Canada, while the Europeans are yet to be decided.
“You can do all the training and all the sparring you like but it’s not the same as getting in there and boxing,” she explains. “I was kind of getting sick of training all the time so it was good to get into fight mode as well, dealing with the nerves and the pressure. I was kind of emulating what competition is like as well, boxing one after the other [Friday and Saturday], so it’s good to see where I’m at to practise a few things.”
There will be a week of rest but not much more, as her year is already charted out. The Irish championships in a couple of months are the first. In past years she has been given a walkover and may well get one next year. But her thinking is to be competition prepared.
“I’ll be training through the Christmas and stay fit for the All-Irelands as well as the European and Worlds,” she says. “Then they’re also talking about a couple of fights in Dubai, so we’ll see how that works out.”
The Middle East is just part of her life now. But the strong impression she gives is that Bray continues to be just fine.