Katie Taylor primed to go full distance with Karina Kopinska
Entertainment key to professional boxing soap opera, says promoter Eddie Hearns
Katie Taylor in London during the weigh in ahead of her fight with Karina Kopinska. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Reuters.
Eddie Hearn’s infectious enthusiasm is all part of the professional boxing soap opera. This time, though, he is taking a punt, talking of new markets, breaking barriers, women boxers and Katie Taylor, all of it pristine territory and unexplored.
The English promoter and managing director of Matchroom Sport is excited because it may not work.
Taylor understands. Winning is no longer enough. The factored in part of it all is her Polish opponent Karina Kopinska who has a record that can most charitably be described as average. Of 24 fights, she has won seven. But Kopinska is as much part of Katie’s brave new professional world as her coach Ross Enamait, Hearn, Brian Peters and her mother Bridget.
Kopinska is the foil for Katie’s skills, the opponent they believe will showcase what Taylor has been missing for the last six months.
Enamait, at least, says his eyes have been opened.
“I put her in with world champions. I put her in with guys. I am not going to name them . . . you know . . . ” he says shaking his head. “She could beat them.”
That is not surprising, although the counter point is that Katie has lost her last three amateur fights. So her greatness and her current competitive form rests somewhere among the grandly inflated claims that are the currency of the professional code and her unique talent.
There is a certain amount of belief required for Saturday night, belief that her focus and ability have realigned, that her skill set can seamlessly transfer to the ring and used in the way that has brought five World Championships and an Olympic gold medal to Bray.
“Break down new markets for women’s boxing,” says Hearn on a solo run. “The UK is a completely new market, America is opening up, Scandinavia is already there and I’m not ruling out the Far East as well, that’s starting to grow.
“This first year is about raising the profile, getting the experience but also turning her into a global star. I believe she can win a world title now or in two or three fights but there’s no point of winning a world title and not being able to capitalise.”
Kopinska played the game better than Katie did at the London weigh-in. Her high-heeled boots allowed her tower over the debutant in the point scoring posturing that are face offs.
In the pro game the soap opera comes free. The Pole will take anything she can, given her chances of winning. She is two inches taller, more a sleight adjustment for Taylor than a problem. Many of the 30-year-old’s amateur opponents were taller than her 60kg, 5’5’’ frame. That didn’t seem to impact in an unequalled 10-year winning spree.
“The one thing that I’ve learned about Katie, even knowing her for a small time, she’s very confident in herself,” says Hearn. “Although sometimes she might appear quite shy, she’s very confident in her fighting and boxing.
“The real pressure for Katie Taylor comes from entertaining because the amateur game is not about entertaining. You don’t need to go out there and look good and put bums on seats. You just have to win and progress to the next round and then win a medal.”
Six rounds instead of four. No head guard. There will be blood, although that’s not an issue. Taylor has broken her nose a number of times before and she has been cut as recently as this year’s World Championships in Almaty. But clashing heads is another consideration and without the protection of a head guard it’s an aspect of the meeting in the SS Wembley Arena that requires close attention, especially as Kopinska knows her opponent is a rookie.
Taylor’s speed at moving from amateur to a first professional fight is perhaps where the real issue arises. Even Michael Conlan, a supporter of Taylor and not questioning her ability, observed that the transition has happened very quickly.
His first professional bout is in March of next year in New York, four months away.
“It’s a new goal, a new challenge but my approach is very much the same,” she says. “I always went into every competition with no stone unturned and I was obviously very disciplined and dedicated throughout my amateur career. That’s not going to change. I just needed a new goal.
“That’s something that I’ve trained for over the last few months. I’ve been doing a lot more sparring as well and I definitely am prepared for a tough six-round battle this weekend.”
Six rounds. Don’t count on that.