Katie Taylor expects tough battle against Jennifer Han

‘If you start to get complacent, that’s when you start losing,’ says champion

 Katie Taylor and Jennifer Yan at the weigh-in ahead of their fight in Leeds. Photograph: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Katie Taylor and Jennifer Yan at the weigh-in ahead of their fight in Leeds. Photograph: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

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The big reveal this week from Katie Taylor’s promoter Eddie Hearn is that the undisputed lightweight world champion bought a speed boat. For the boxer who lives a simple, camera-shy life in Connecticut, few would begrudge her that first expression of success after almost five years as an unbeaten professional.

Otherwise, Taylor’s forwardly driven career remains as it ever was with Jennifer Han tonight’s eager American act stepping into the ring in the Headingly Stadium in Leeds. From Texas, Han is hoping to make another outrageous claim for the Lone Star State and put a stop to Taylor going from 18 to 19 professional wins in succession and with it carry her WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF world titles back to El Paso.

That’s a long shot for the 38-year-old, who has had just one professional fight since February 2018. In all, Han has lost three fights in her 26-bout professional career, the last win coming in the El Paso County Coliseum in February of last year against Jeri Sitzes. A boxing artisan, Sitzes has had 27 fights and lost 11.

Han’s profile is so low that Boxing Rec has her listed as inactive, although that clerical oversight may be due to the two years that she didn’t fight between 2018 and 2020.

In 2017, she had just one outing against Olivia Gerula. In all, since February 2017 Han, who gave birth six months ago, has fought just twice and won both times. From that perspective, it is not difficult to see why some bookmakers have placed Han as a 40-1 outsider.

Mandatory challenger

“I was IBF champion for five years, but I was only fighting once a year because I couldn’t get the big fights,” said Han this week. “I can’t pause my life. I don’t have that luxury, so I had my baby. I’m very lucky and happy. I am in great shape, and I want to fight the best of the best, and that’s what I am doing on Saturday.”

The mother of two is the mandatory challenger and part of Taylor’s path towards bigger bouts, most notably Amanda Serrano which has become an on, off, on, off saga.

But Taylor is not one for losing sight of what is in front of her and remembering her last fight as an amateur was a split-decision loss in the Rio Olympics against an opponent, Mira Potkonen, she had beaten several times before. Fighting in front of 20,000 fans in the city where her father Pete grew up is also a first for the Irish champion.

Yesterday in a tweet, Taylor thanked Leeds United Football Club for sending her a team jersey.

“I don’t overlook anyone,” said Taylor. “I can’t afford to get complacent, in any of my fights. If you start to get complacent, that’s when you start losing. I have prepared for this like I would any other, I’m expecting a tough challenge Saturday and I’m prepared for that.

“For all my fights, I always expect my opponents to bring their very best. Better than they’ve ever performed before. I think she’s a very good fighter, very technical with a good amateur background. So I’m ready.

“Some of my best memories as a kid involve visiting this city, going to Leeds United games in Elland Road as a fan. The city obviously has a special place in my heart.”

For Han, who has never had a professional bout outside of the United States, a win would be a life-transforming event and instantly catapult her into a different financial orbit, although, if Brian Peters and Hearn are as clever as people believe they are, the contract is likely to have a rematch condition.

Rare talent

Putting four belts on the line without a plan B, even for a talent as rare as the Irish lightweight is not a prudent way to build and sustain a career.

For the contest, an analogy would be Ireland beating Portugal in football and look how close that came to happening in Faro earlier this week. Boxing is less predictable with Taylor, technically the best female boxer in the world and faster than Han, right to be cautious.

“I feel great,” said Taylor this week in response to a question about retirement. “While I know I can’t do this forever, I still feel very fresh and I know I have plenty more years left in me.”

Along with building a legacy that too has become a mantra. The wonderful thing with Taylor is that just about everything she has ever said about her boxing has come to pass.

*Live on DAZN. Expected start time 9pm-10pm

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