Katie Taylor learning of the ‘dark arts’ of pro boxing

Monica Gentili’s six wins and six defeats represent different challenge for Taylor

A nondescript building at the end of a short lane, and inside Katie Taylor boxes shadows. A ring in Ratoath, Co Meath, spare and functional as boxing gyms always are, it may serve as a reminder of the cinder block shed where she started in her Bray back garden all those years ago.

Sack cloth and ashes has always been more the Taylor way than gold trim and bling. Plain is good. Plain says you will not be weakened by comforts.

Here there are no distractions other than the wrapped up figure swirling around the ring hitting and moving away from imaginary opponents.

One of Taylor’s burdens is selling herself, the self-promotion and the roll-up, roll-up sales pitch of playing the game. But she is learning on the job.


The home bird has also transplanted herself to the US. “I have come to like the isolation,” she says. “I do want to do something very special in the sport, and this is what I have to do.”

In her third fight as a professional, she makes it sound less easy than simple. Train, eat, sleep, fight, she has again turned a daily routine into a lifestyle chant of repetition.

She is picking up what she needs to about the “dark arts” of boxing, heads, elbows and working inside.

Her image outside the ring has always looked after itself and the expectation is that she might demure from engaging in the unsavoury, brawling aspect of boxing.

But Taylor’s career is no monument to being sweet natured. There has always been a part of her that is pragmatic and ferocious. That’s where it will always be. So she wades into the “dark arts”.

Rough and tumble

“I don’t think it goes against my nature. I think once I’m in the ring I do whatever it takes. It is a part of the pro game. This is the pro game. It’s more rough and tumble, yeah. It’s certainly something you never see in the amateur game.”

These days it is also more critically her livelihood than it was as an amateur. When Taylor came home with a medal she drew the top grant of €40,000 a year, reeled in sponsors and that was the drill every year. Now she is one defeat from a setback.

The 39-year-old Monica Gentili’s six wins and six defeats represent a different challenge but should not intimidate. Given the Italian’s record and age profile the five-time world amateur champion knows she is technically better but dwarfed in experience. She can expect some “dark arts”. Gentili won’t outbox her but she will fight her.

“I’ve just been in the ring over the last couple of months with top, seasoned pros, and I’ve learned a lot. On the pads with Ross as well, we’ve worked on that. It’s definitely a big part of it.”

She watches professional boxing to learn, and all styles are useful. Taylor has quick hand speed and fast, fluid movement. She has a great left jab but needs to plant and land harder punches. She needs more hurt in her blows, again a learning process.

Bits and pieces

“You can’t force a style on someone if it’s not who they are,” says her American coach

Ross Enamait

. “You see a guy like

Bernard Hopkins

. Just because you see a lot of tricks it doesn’t mean you copy his style. It’s not something Katie should try to copy, but can she take bits and pieces? Sure.

"Like James Toney and inside fighting, he's as good as anybody at making guys miss. It doesn't mean she is going to be James Toney, but she can certainly pick up on some things. Adding bits and pieces to what she already has.

“I mean she is already an accomplished fighter, she doesn’t have to start from scratch and reinvent herself.”

Three more fights, they say, and she could be world title material. First Gentili and a possible brawl.

Katie's fight is the second last one in London's O2, just before the heavyweight grudge match between David Haye and Tony Bellew. Hers is expected to be from9pm-10pm. It is available from Sky Box Office at €21.95.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times