Katie Taylor transformed the way we think about women's boxing

Katie Taylor transformed the way we think about women's boxing
 Katie Taylor, Ireland, exchanges punches with Saida Khassenova, Kazakhstan, in the 2012 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in China. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

WHO would have guessed that when Katie Taylor beat Canada’s Katie Dunn in Cork in 2006 that both women would meet in Chicago a year later with Olympic committee chiefs at ringside to make a final call on whether women’s boxing would make its debut at Beijing 2008.

In the end, they gave it the thumbs down, but women’s boxing, led by and inspired by Taylor, was not to be denied and was given the green light in three weights for London 2012 where Taylor won Ireland’s only Olympic gold medal in any sport this century.

Taylor, who has won all over her four fights in the Rebel county in her amateur career, beat the Ontario lightweight on a split decision in 2006. Her dad and former coach Pete Taylor was still shaking his head at that call 14 years later this week.

“Katie dominated the fight and should have won on a unanimous decision in Cork,” he said.

The Leeside outing helped Taylor, the then European titlist, prepare for the World Elites in New Delhi in November of that year.

A year earlier, the Bray woman lost for the first time at the Worlds after dropping a points decision to North Korea’ Kang Hui in Russia. Still, the Wicklow orthodox delivered 12 months later to take home her first world gold from India after winning five fights.

Pete Taylor, speaking to the Echo at the time, amusingly noted that an elephant was standing on the street outside their hotel in New Delhi. It was agreed that the super heavyweights of the animal kingdom are sacred in India and can park anywhere they please!

Meanwhile, Taylor racked up another cluster of positive decisions before being invited to meet Dunn again in an exhibition bout at the World Men’s Elites in Chicago in 2007 where Paddy Barnes, a regular sparring partner of hers, qualified for Beijing 2008.

The late and great Muhammad Ali greeted boxing fans at the University of Illinois for that tournament, and the word on the street was than the IOC was going to sanction women’s boxing for Beijing.

Taylor, who had been campaigning for women’s inclusion in the Olympic boxing fraternity, and Dunn played their part with the Irishwoman winning convincingly. Still, IOC bosses were not convinced, and while they closed the door, they left it slightly ajar for London 2012.

Taylor remarked that she was heartbroken at the Chicago call, observing that while the Irish men’s team were preparing for the 29th Olympiad she - and the women aspiring to be Olympic fighters - had to stay at home.

The world champion would almost certainly be a two-time Olympic titlist now if the IOC had given the sport the go-ahead for Bejing as between 2007 and 2010 the Irishwoman was light years ahead of all her primary opponents in the 60kg class.

So, while the five strong-Irish squad of Barnes, John Joe Nevin, John Joe Joyce, Darren Sutherland and Ken Egan headed off to Vlaidvostoc, once the home base of the Russian nuclear fleet, for their final training camp before Beijing 2008, Taylor bided her time. More World and European titles followed.

Katie Taylor on stage in Bray last year with her impressive collection of belts. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Katie Taylor on stage in Bray last year with her impressive collection of belts. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Victories were routinely delivered. One publication wrote international boxing chiefs could do everyone a favour by just posting Taylor the gold medals to save her the trip.

Pete Taylor laughed, saying “if only it was as simple as that.” A sports editor said: “Look, Katie Taylor winning is not really news anymore, but Katie Taylor losing is.”

The sports desk were looking for a man bites dog headline, and they got two of them in 2010 and 2011 after Taylor was beaten by Russia’s Sofya Ochigava and Denista Eliseeva in multi nations tournaments.

Eliseeva apologised to Taylor for the judging after that shock, but the Russians, who had been studying Taylor’s tactics and approach for years, finally thought they had to woman to beat the five-time world champion in Ochigava, who had moved up a weight to lightweight after winning World and European belts.

They were proved wrong as Taylor beat the Moscow Oblast southpaw in the 2011 and 2012 European, World and Olympic finals. Taylor turned pro after losing to Finland’s Mira Potkonen, an opponent she had beaten five times previously, in a stunning reversal at Rio 2016.

She switched codes having won 170 of her 180 bouts, not counting walkovers (three for and two against).

For the record, she was beaten by Hang, Elisseeva, Ochigava, Potkonen, France’s Estelle Mossely, Russia’s Yulia Nemstova. Azerbaijan’s Yana Alexeyena and Turkey’s Gulsum Tatar in the amateurs.

Tatar beat the London 2012 gold medalist three times, but Taylor posted four wins over the Turk. She’s unbeaten in the pro ranks after 15 fights, collecting the IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO lightweight titles and a WBO World super light belt.

In total, she has claimed 185 wins from 195 bouts, a 94.8% strike rate, and won 23 major titles in both codes. Taylor turns 34 in July by which time she should have met and beaten Amanda Serrano, the New York southpaw with a lot of opinions.

Katie would almost certainly be a two-time winner if the IOC had given the sport the go-ahead for Bejing

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