Katie Taylor won’t be held to ransom in unification push
Frustration creeps in as would-be opponents hold out for more money
Katie Taylor with Santa at the County Club in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, yesterday where she gave an update on her attempt to unite all four lightweight belts. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
There was a time when the best would rock up, because they had to at World Championships and Olympic Games. Then Katie Taylor would knock them down.
She doesn’t sweat the small stuff, the match making, the fight details. But yesterday Rose Volante (14-0-0) was expected to be named as Taylor’s next opponent.
However, as the year turns, a similar tune is playing. The Brazilian WBO world champion was in Taylor’s sights. Then she wasn’t.
Frustration is creeping in with a date provisionally set for March in Philadelphia for her 13th professional bout, her determination to unite all four lightweight belts driving on regardless.
“I have now learned that this is part of the pro game and that is the most frustrating thing about it,” says Taylor. “I want these fights. But other girls are not stepping up to the plate.
“They’re calling themselves world champions but you have to step up and fight the best as well. It’s your responsibility as a professional fighter to actually step up and take those fights. But unfortunately it’s just not happening in professional boxing.”
At its centre is a game of Mexican standoff. Volante and Belgium’s Delfine Persoon hold the belts Taylor needs to unite the division. They know that. They also know they are likely to lose and so the algorithm used to calculate their worth to Taylor’s ambition has sharply changed.
Six-figure sums have been flying back and forth.
“It is going on as we speak. Volante, she was given 24 hours,” says Taylor’s manager Brian Peters.
“She was supposed to fight us in the last fight and there have been heavy talks. But Katie Taylor’s career will not be held up by any other fighter. By this time tomorrow Volante will be either in or out. We thought we would announce it today.”
WBC world champion Persoon (42-1-0) has offered Taylor $130,000 to fight her in her home patch in Belgium. But Taylor won’t be going to Belgium to fight in a school hall “in front of two men and a dog”.
For a champion who last week retained her IBF and WBA belts against Eva Wahlstrom in Madison Square Garden on the Canelo Alvarez v Rocky Fielding undercard, Belgium would be a career step backwards exposure-wise and a financial and television wreck. Mexican Canelo recently signed a $365 million dollar contract for 11 fights over five years, the richest deal in sporting history. Belgium?
“That’s right actually,” says Peters. “He [Persoon’s manager] made $130,000 as recently as five minutes ago. But Katie wouldn’t get out of bed for that kind of money.”
Taylor, sitting beside Peters shoots him a bewildered look.
“So yeah he’s trying to get more money and you can’t blame him. We have dates set . . . otherwise the tale wags the dog which doesn’t really work out.
“When they are being offered more money than their whole career, 10, 15 times more than they have been offered before, it does have to come to a stage where you can’t be held to ransom.
“I suggest they just want more money,” he says with an air of resignation. “There’s always enough for the needy, never enough for the greedy, so it’s just a case of . . . they are getting their moment in the spotlight and they are just not used to it.”
Home for Christmas, Taylor now lives for most of the year up in Connecticut, USA. The current game of blink first may slow down her unification push. But she will not be deprived of fights and if she must, she is prepared to step up a weight division.
There are other credible names such as Amanda Serrano, sister of Cindy who Taylor has beaten and Cecillia Braekhus, the 147lb champion. If that fight was to happen Taylor would want it as the undisputed lightweight champion at 135lb. The pair would meet somewhere in the middle at 140lb as two undisputed champions.
There is also Holly Holm, possibly the biggest name because of her UFC connection. She has a couple of fights left with the UFC, so that, if it came about, would be further down the road.
“There was no picking and choosing opponents in the amateurs,” says Taylor, now thankful she has left behind a sport that is fast imploding and in serious dispute with the International Olympic Committee.
“I went into professional boxing with the same mindset. It is a pity that the rest of the fighters don’t have that mentality.
“I just have to stay patient and the right fights are going to come about. I think the Volante and Persoon fights will eventually happen because of the demand for them,” she says.
Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua may set a date to fight in The Garden in June. Taylor has fought on his undercard a number of times before including at Wembley when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko.
Both Taylor and Joshua are promoted by Eddie Hearn. A slot for Taylor there would demand a marquee name to face.
But first March. First Philly in the spring.