Katie Taylor already has her eyes on a new prize
Taylor hoping to unify women’s lightweight division after winning first world title in Cardiff
Katie Taylor lands a right hand on Anahi Esther Sanchez during their WBA World Female Lightweight Title bout at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Some 17 months on from the loss of her world amateur crown, Katie Taylor hailed her first professional title win as the sweetest moment of her career.
Yet while the Bray woman made history with her WBA world lightweight title success on Saturday night - becoming the first Irish fighter to win world titles as an amateur and pro - it only took a matter of minutes for the 31-year-old to set her focus on a new goal.
Taylor claimed the WBA belt with a comprehensive unanimous 99-90 points victory over Anahi Esther Sanchez of Argentina at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s successful world heavyweight title defence against Carlos Takam.
Having lost her world amateur title in May of 2016 - during a run of three high-profile defeats that culminated in the loss of her Olympic crown in Rio - Taylor was delighted to become a world champion once again.
“I don’t think I ever doubted myself,” said the London 2012 gold medallist, reflecting on her amateur decline and professional redemption. “I always knew that people hadn’t seen the best of me, and I still believe that.
“It is definitely sweet to come out with a great victory. I guess you only appreciate the high points when you experience the low points as well. I had a tough year last year, but I definitely knew I was going to come out on top.”
Having briefly basked in that moment of success, she quickly turned her focus to her new challenge - an aim to unify the four ‘major’ world professional titles at her lightweight division.
However, that plan will be put on hold until 2018 as a cut over her right eye, which required three stitches, is likely to rule the new champion out of action until the New Year.
A dedicated trainer, who prepared for Saturday’s bout with an 11-week camp in the US at the Connecticut base of coach Ross Enamait, Taylor looks likely to have an extended festive break.
“I do definitely like to keep busy, I like to have a fight to focus on,” said the champion following just her seventh paid bout since her debut last November.
“I was hoping to get a fight before Christmas, but I don’t know if that is going to be possible now, with this cut.
“It’s only a small cut, so I’m sure I’ll be fine,” she added in her typically unassuming manner.
It is understood that manager Brian Peters and Matchrrom promoter Eddie Hearn had pencilled in a December 16 title defence in Chicago against Illinois based Jessica McCaskill, but that plan has now been scuppered by the cut.
“We’ve got to see where we’re at with the eye,” said Peters. “But there’s loads of options . . . Eddie has just opened Matchroom USA . . . AJ [Joshua] is due to fight again in February or March.”
Last Saturday’s bout marked the third time that Taylor had featured on a Joshua bill, capping her whirlwind schedule of seven bouts in just 11 months.
While the 31-year-old joked that “I can’t wait for Anthony Joshua to be on my undercard”, she acknowledged that her 2018 fight calendar, which is likely to include a Dublin summer date, may not be so busy.
“If I am going to be in tough 10-round battles like that all the time, I definitely won’t be able to fight as often as I want,” Taylor explained. “But this fight will open up a lot of doors for me. I want to unify the division and there are some great champions out there who I would like to fight.”
Even if her schedule is slightly less hectic next year, it seems certain that there will be plenty more big fight nights to rival this night of glory.
While over 70,000 were present for the main event, a healthy crowd of closer to 50,000 watched the female showdown with Taylor receiving vocal backing from Welsh fight fans and travelling Irish support, which included actor Colin Farrell.
It is understood that the Bray native was ill during the week, although she did not reveal this to media even as she sat in the bowels of the stadium during the post-fight press conference.
Instead, Taylor offered a relatively critical review of her own performance despite dominating all 10 rounds against 26-year-old Sanchez.
The Argentine had surrendered her title on the scales last Friday after twice failing to make the 135lb lightweight limit, meaning only Taylor was eligible to walk away with the WBA belt.
It looked like she would do so with ease as the Bray native dropped Sanchez to the canvas with a body shot in the second round, but the Buenos Aires woman - who carried a 17-2 pro record into the fight - recovered and proved to be a game and gutsy foe.
“It was a tough fight, but I definitely was prepared for a tough 10-round battle,” said Taylor. “I had to dig deep.
“I was surprised she got up after the body shot . . . she is a very tough girl.
“I probably got caught in a bit of a fight when I should be boxing a bit more,” continued the new champion after her first 10-round fight. “That definitely made for an exciting fight, probably a bit too exciting!”