Katie Taylor expected to take step up in competition in her stride

Former Olympic champion maintains hectic schedule with fourth fight in four months

Katie Taylor believes she is set to face her "toughest fight to date in the pro ranks" against former world-title challenger Milena Koleva at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night.

Taylor’s helter-skelter schedule sees the Bray woman compete for the fourth time in a little over four months when she features on the undercard of the Sky Sports-broadcast world lightweight title bout between Jorge Linares and Anthony Crolla this evening.

The former Olympic champion is due back in action in late April should she come through the fight as expected, while a US ring date is also in the works for the summer.

However, first the 30-year-old Irish woman must deal with 28-year-old Bulgarian Koleva, with Taylor set to compete in a bout scheduled for eight rounds for the first time.


“It’s a good progression and this girl is very good, she’s definitely going to be my toughest fight to date in the pro ranks,” said Taylor, whose previous three professional bouts were set for six two-minute rounds, with only one of those fights going the distance.

“She’s going to be a good challenge for me and the fact that I’m stepping it up to eight rounds as well is a good step,” said the Bray woman.

Koleva’s most recent outing was a ninth-round stoppage defeat in a world-title tilt against home champion Maiva Hamadouche at the 130lb super-featherweight limit in France.

This fight will be held at the 135lb lightweight mark at which Taylor easily dispatched Italian Monica Gentili earlier this month, but 28-year-old Koleva – who carries a 9-7-1 record – is likely to present a stronger challenge as the five-time amateur world champion gradually steps up in class en route to a planned world-title shot.

Points losses

Koleva’s January defeat to Hamadouche was the only time the Bulgarian has been stopped and Taylor noted that most of her opponent’s points losses came on away soil to home fighters.

“Her record doesn’t really give her too much justice, I don’t think,” she said, referencing her opponent’s 9-7-1 slate. “She should be more like a 14-2 because she had a few bad hometown decisions.”

Notably, the Bulgarian has also had some competitive mixed martial arts experience, although Taylor insisted that she has does not expect Koleva to present any type of challenge she has not previously encountered during her stellar amateur career.

“I didn’t realise that [about Koleva’s MMA experience], but I wouldn’t say I’d be worried about anything like that at all,” said Taylor. “I’m sure it is nothing I haven’t faced before in the ring, so that wouldn’t be on my mind, I wouldn’t be concerned about anything like that.”

Dublin flyweight Lynn Harvey recently had the bizarre experience of being kicked by an opponent, Romanian Sara Regina Coca, during their fight at the National Stadium last month.

Coca, who obviously had MMA tendencies as she had earlier motioned to use her knee during the bout, lashed out with a kick at Harvey and was disqualified as a result. A clip of the incident later went viral on social media.

A crossover between MMA and boxing is not particularly unusual in women’s combat sports due to a lack of professional competition, but Taylor has no fears about any risk of a similar freak incident occurring in Manchester.

Training base

“I only heard about that [Harvey] fight, but the fact that it’s been a few years since she [Koleva] has been in an MMA ring or an octagon means she’s more of a boxer than an MMA fighter, so I wouldn’t really be concerned about that,” said Taylor, who joked: “I just have to make sure I don’t get on the ground!”

Taylor flew to Manchester on Wednesday night having travelled to Dublin from her Connecticut training base last Friday alongside trainer Ross Enamait.

The 30-year-old went back into training less than 48 hours after her stoppage win over Gentili three weeks ago, but Enamait has been kept in mind his charge’s hectic schedule during their work-outs.

“The first couple of days we just eased into it, we didn’t go straight back into hard training straight away,” explained Taylor on her preparation. “When there’s a quick turnover like that, you have to be careful with your training as well, but Ross knows exactly what he’s doing and I just kind of went with the flow.

“It wasn’t that hard to get back into it, I was delighted to get back because I knew this was going to be a step up and it’s going to be a busy year so I’m as motivated as ever.”