Legacy Enhancing – Yes. Legacy Defining – No Way! Katie Taylor’s Greatness Can’t be defined by one Fight

Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano in Madison Square Garden is a different level of BIG.

It is the greatest female fight of all times. A fight that signifies how far women’s boxing has been pushed by the Irish great and those around her over the last five years.

It should, as Eddie Hearn says, ‘make the world sit up and take note’, break new ground and quite possibly change boxing forever.

Saturday’s undisputed lightweight world title fight is another feather in a Katie Taylor cap so full of plumage it could be mistaken for a bird – and regardless of the result will add to the Bray sensations legacy.

However, that’s just it, this fight adds to the Olympic gold medal winners’ legacy it won’t define it.

Taylor’s standing as an all-time Irish sporting great is already secured and considering her achievements within boxing can never be matched her position as one of the best to lace them up has already been banked and safely locked in the vault.

Taylor has long since been heralded the queen of Irish boxing but in recent years her achievements [and the growth in the game she inspired] have made her the queen of boxing full stop and ruler supreme in terms of Irish sporting greats.

In terms of Irish greatness if it was a case of put your medals on the table the female fight pioneer wins hands down. No argument. To display the medals, belts, awards and accolades the lightweight has won you’d need a medieval-style banquet table.

The WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine world champion is easily Ireland’s most decorated fighter as well as Ireland’s most decorated sports star.

April 28, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano pose at the final press conference ahead of the Matchroom Boxing card on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

In terms of boxing, she has the most packed mantlepiece of any Irish fighter. Celebrated legends such as Steve Collins and Barry McGuigan have three world titles between them. More recent leading lights and fellow greatest Irish fighter of all time candidates Carl Frampton and Ryan Burnett both unified, but didn’t flirt with undisputed status and can’t boast the amateur success of Taylor.

It’s not just trinkets and prizes that make Taylor stand out it’s the regularity with which she shows world-class ability and produces world-class performances that make her unique.

Ireland first female undisputed champion has been winning since she was 15 and has consistently done so at the very top.

18 major gold medals and now all the pro marbles represent over 15 years of complete dominance. No other Irish fighter can boast that level of success and it’s the consistent level of greatness which makes her the greatest in many eyes.

No one other athlete in any other code has ruled at the top of their chosen sport for even a fraction of that time.

Granted a host of Irish sports stars have represented Ireland in their chosen sport with great distinction and should be celebrated enormously, but none have been pound for pound front runner for a decade.

An RTÉ poll carried out in 2009 had an Irish sporting great top 10 made up of Pádraig Harrington, Brian O’Driscoll, Joey Dunlop, George Best, Roy Keane, Sean Kelly, Sonia O’Sullivan, Christy Ring, Vincent O’Brien and the great Paul McGrath.

If you were to put Taylor into that mix and play success top trumps the fighter would be the most coveted card come dealing time. She would be unbeatable if ‘Years at the Top’, ‘Major Honours Won’, ‘Impact on their Sport’ and even ‘Humility’ were rated categories.

Reflecting on that list in particular, it’s clear sporting greatness isn’t just justified by what you have won.

However, Taylor’s greatest achievement may not be what she has won, but the fact she essentially personally ensured she was afforded the opportunity to collect such a trophy haul.

Legendary Irish boxing scribe Gerry Callan argues Muhammad Ali is the greatest fighter of all time for a number of reasons, one of which is ‘he did the impossible twice’ – by that he means defeating Sonny Liston and George Forman in fights people feared for his life going into.

Taylor hasn’t quite had to defy possible death to win in the ring, but she has achieved what looked impossible when she first laced up the gloves as a 10-year-old and fought as ‘K. Taylor’ pretending to be a boy.

When the now undisputed world champion first began boxing there was no female fighting in Ireland.

The 20×20 campaign – which ran in a bid to change the overall perception of women’s sport – used the slogan ‘If she can’t see it, she can’t be it’ warning us that female sporting success is impossible without role models or a visible path to follow.

While Deirdre Gogarty was a role model, there was no real rocky road, nevermind clear pathway, to visualize or follow. The Bray native has been dreaming in a bulldozer and forged a sporting path of her own, in the process changing the face of boxing in Ireland and further afield in less than a decade.

Her trail-blazing approach has carried through into the pro ranks. While Taylor ditched the headgear in 2016 she didn’t ditch her pioneering cape.

It has to be said that other female pros – particularly Claressa Shields – have played a part, but Taylor has helped bring female pro boxing into the mainstream.

Her talent has not only seen her collect titles and become a well-paid fighter but has helped fans watch a female fight as they would any other fight. With Taylor ‘it’s not female or male boxing, it’s just boxing’ as Eddie Hearn would explain it.

Taylor has brought increased exposure, respect and revenue for all fighters in her short stint as a pro. Again, name us another Irish sporting great who can back up a Taylor style medal haul with that kind of legacy? Or name us another boxer who has had a more revolutionary influence on the sport?

So if the Bray boxer is the most successful participant in Ireland’s most successful sport, most decorated Irish athlete by some margin, created her own pathway to success by winning things that virtually didn’t exist in terms of female sport 20 years ago and has changed the face of her sport to such a degree that boxers all over the world benefit… How can April 30th and one fight, regardless of how big it is, define her legacy?

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com