Taylor's road to Rio begins on the stage
BOXING:To some this is the beginning of the road to Rio. To others it’s a sort of homecoming. Whatever way people see Katie Taylor’s return to the ring on February 24th in Dublin it is both a boxing arrival to where she comes from and a departure to where she is going.
Her first bout in Ireland in the 2,000-seater Bord Gáis Energy Theatre as an Olympic champion brings the 26-year-old back to an audience that have rarely seen her fight, the declaration to defend her lightweight title at Rio 2016 making this the start of the road ahead.
With the European Championships scheduled for this year, the venue not yet selected, and the World Championships next year in Canada, Dublin is both a celebration with people who may only know her from the Olympics and a signal that the life that had been pleasantly turned upside down since she beat Sofya Ochigava has returned to some sort of equilibrium.
“I can’t wait to go back into the ring,” she said. “We have a date now to focus on. It has been so long since I have been in the ring and I’m looking forward to starting the preparations for the European Championships next year.”
“It has been hard to get any consistency the last while because of everything that has been going on but we are going to get stuck in after Christmas and focus on this fight. This is where all the hardship begins.”
Promoted by Brian Peters, the man behind the all too short Bernard Dunne years, an opponent has not yet been selected. The difficulty, as always, is the breadth of the Taylor reputation and because the women’s Europeans are this year, her closest rivals are loath to travel to Ireland to meet the agreed best boxer in the world.
American Queen Underwood was a mooted opponent but the US National Championships has prevented that from happening, while Natasha Jonas, the British boxer, who opened Katie’s Olympic run, has also passed on the offer.
The possibility is that her opponent may come from a weight division higher than lightweight and while the bout is a serious affair, the intention is to make the day a family affair with the cheapest tickets €30 and seven or eight amateur fights on the bill. They also hope to have an artistic element to the night. Katie previously appeared on a Brian Peters promotion in the O2 in 2009 on the under card of Dunne’s world title win over Ricardo Cordoba.
“If we don’t get somebody in the top 10 at 60 kg we will get somebody in the top 10 at 64 kg, the weight above Katie,” said her father and coach Pete.
Approached a few
“That is no problem. We approached a few of the European girls, the likes of Natasha Jonas, and they don’t want to box Katie before the Europeans so we will probably go up a weight and box somebody else.”
She is back in the gym now having taken four weeks off after London. There was the Mansion House, the Bray party, the book and the trip to Armenia to pick up her third successive world boxer of the year award.
That one was a show stopper; in to Armenia on a morning flight, accepted the award and hopped on a plane home. Last weekend it was London and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year with her seat also booked for just about every end of year award in Ireland.
“There are not many amateurs around the world who have the opportunity to box in such a great show like this one. It is a great opportunity for me and for everyone else on the undercard,” said Katie. “For me, I stayed amateur because there is nothing better than boxing for your country, the money wasn’t really an issue for me.”