Katie Taylor relishes flashback to Olympic glory ahead of Natasha Jonas rematch

‘I think we are both very different fighters now to what we were back then’

 

A reference to RTÉ’s 30-minute nostalgia slot, Reeling in the Years, last Sunday night and the familiar, well worn footage of Katie Taylor reminded people just how far this weekend in the Manchester Arena reaches back in time.

A more savage professional game now, Natasha Jonas was Taylor’s first ever win in an Olympic Games, in London 2012, that the Irish world champion had lobbied to have included. And how sweetly that ended.

World champion then, world champion now, just the belts change as nine years come a full circle. They meet again, Taylor’s 18th professional fight against the punching Liverpudlian and occasional television presenter, Jonas pepped up now from a drawn match against the classy Terri Harper in last year’s WBC super-featherweight title fight.

Since then there has been one significant change. Jonas has allowed herself to think of Taylor as ‘human’. We all know what she means. In her head, in her heart she already believes she has defeated the Taylor aura. She means vulnerable.

Belgium’s Delphine Persoon, if she achieved anything in her two narrow defeats to Taylor, the first disputed, it was that Taylor could be got at. Persoon has instilled belief.

“I guess I’ve been asked a lot of questions about that this week, about that fight in London,” says Taylor. “I’ve been forced to look back on it and obviously it was a great moment for me.

“I just remember the atmosphere at the fight and the Irish fans who broke the decibel levels in the arena that day. It was just a fantastic week for me. I achieved my childhood dream and I had no idea that nine years later we would be facing each other again in the pro ring. And here we are.

“I think we are both very different fighters now to what we were back then. That’s why I think you can’t draw much from our last fight in the Olympics.”

It is just Taylor’s third fight since the pandemic struck last year. But with the champion nothing changes, except that Jonas the southpaw has forced her to whistle up some lefties for sparing in her hideout in Connecticut.

Other than that it’s a routine, hermetic, dedicated life for the champion who will be 35-years-old in July and shows little signs of tiring.

But nine years is nine years, even for Taylor. So far, thoughts of retirement remain beneath the surface and while questions on that issue don’t seem quite as irritating as they once were, they are politely shelved.

“I don’t think I have thought of retirement as of yet,” she says. “I can’t do this forever as well. I know that. I only have a few years left in the sport. But right now I feel very fresh.

“I feel quite good and still love my job as well. That still motivates me. I’m still on target getting up in the mornings, doing the road runs. I want to improve. It would be amazing to become a multi-weight undisputed champion, if that is a possibility.”

Taylor is coming off her lopsided win over Miriam Gutierrez last November just after she won Persoon II in August with Jonas brimming after the disputed draw with Harper last summer.

Jonas is stepping up in weight from Harper to meet the heavy favourite, who is defending her undisputed world lightweight titles. On the face of it, Taylor wins again but Harper’s reputation was rattled and the draw for Jonas has shaken existing paradigms.

“I always wanted to fight her again but our paths just haven’t crossed since,” said Jonas. “It sounds mad but we’ve only crossed paths so few times even though we are in the same weight for such a long time.”

For now Taylor, is typically serene and also ready to go immediately, confident but respectful and as always thinking beyond the dimensions of the ring. Still, the modest champion who wants to consume the world.

“People are actually excited about these female fights. They are not getting laughed at any more,” she says striking an endearing tone. “They are serious fights and people are actually interested in them. We have made so much ground over the past few years.”

Nine exactly. She knows it.

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