Taylor talks Rio, turning Pro and her Dad’s recent absence from her corner

By Michael O’Neill

Ireland’s only Gold medal winner at London 2012 has given a wide ranging interview to TV3’s ‘Ireland AM’ programme which we include at the end of this article.

In the interview she covered various issues from a possible World title bid on the Pro circuit to defending her Olympic crown in Rio, possible early retirement plans, being an inspiring role model and of course the absence of her Dad, Pete from her corner at recent club tournaments as well as at the recent Irish Elite championships where brother Lee was in her corner.

Taylor is not the shy young woman of yesteryear but has grown with confidence since London 2012 . She has her own company and an excellent agent in Mark Devlin from Devlin Sports who is Katie’s Manager and has been an integral part of Team Taylor for the past 5 years working behind the scenes with Katie’s Sponsors and Partners on a day to day basis.

Her business is flourishing, so too to her sponsorships with such as Toyota, Lucozade Sky Sports and Aramark to name but four of a dozen or more companies who regularly utilise her services for business launches not always sports related. Katie is proud to be associated with a number of deserving causes close to her heart including Zest4Kids, Bray Lakers and the Wicklow Hospice Foundation.

She holds strong Christian beliefs following her Mum Bridget’s example and frequently thanks God for her successes in the ring. She has always spoken openly about the role of God in her life.

Her strong, Christian faith plays a central role in every aspect of her life including her boxing. Before entering the ring Katie always takes inspiration by reading a number of Psalms that she finds are particularly relevant to her sport and her life. One of her favourites is Psalm 18 though she often praises others too:

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He trains my hands for battle so my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory and you stoop down to make me great. – Psalm 18

My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26”

When I interviewed the Bray woman, a few years back, at the National Stadium in Dublin, prior to London 2012, she was even then very concerned about her Dad’s health due to the great pressure of his being both her coach and her Dad, and felt that it would be in his best interests medically to ‘retire from her corner’ albeit she knew that it would not be until after London 2012.

Life is rarely as straight forward as one would wish and clearly in recent months family life has not been as smooth as it once was so hardly surprisingly she has not been very forthcoming constantly suggesting to media enquirers that it would be best to talk to Pete himself if they had further queries.

At the time of the Irish Elite final, Pete had said he had every intention of returning for either the Olympic qualifiers in Turkey in April or the World Championships in Kazakhstan next May, and revealed that Katie’s brother Lee would take his place in the ring alongside long-time family friend and Irish HPU Coach Zaur Antia.

He also told the ‘Irish Times’ : “I’m taking a break from the corner,”
“After years it can be stressful watching your daughter fight.
“But I’ll be there in the crowd in the front. We are trying new things at the moment so we’ll see how it goes this time.”

It does though now seem unlikely that Pete will be in her corner for the European Olympic qualifiers and maybe not in Astana or indeed in Rio.
In a later media interview she said:
“Well, I’m lucky to have national coach Zaur Antia there. He has always been in my corner. So I am very, very lucky to have him there. It is great to have the support of everyone around me.
All I can say is my preparation is going fantastic. And I absolutely love my family and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them”.

On the subject of possible retirement, she indicated that she had no immediate intention of hanging up her gloves and clearly would like to add a Pro belt to the eighteen major titles she has won for herself, her family and her country in major International championships.

Whether that will be as a member of the AIBA’s WSB or APB or one of the original Professional organisations like WBC, WBA or WBO no one can say, not even Katie herself. With the recent confirmation that Pro boxers can compete in future Olympic Games, she could yet carry on until at least Tokyo, maybe longer.

The AIBA certainly would ensure that any offer to her would likely be more than any current male AIBA boxer is receiving for she has long being regarded as one of the main reasons why women’s boxing is in the Olympic Games at all and for the AIBA to potentially lose their ‘jewel in their crown’ at a time when they are endeavouring to increase the number of weights for women would be a devastating blow especially if to a major competitor.

Remember what AIBA President Wu said when she became AIBA World No 1 ranked lightweight for 10 years in a row? Does it sound if he’d wish to lose her services to ‘the enemy’?

“What Katie Taylor has achieved over the last 10 years in international competition, including the Olympic Games and AIBA World Women’s Elite Championships, has been absolutely outstanding,” said Wu.
“The International Boxing Association congratulates and salutes Katie. To remain at the top of our lightweight rankings for a decade is extraordinary.”

Praise indeed! Interestingly Katie herself didn’t realise it had been 10 years until IABA president Pat Ryan told her. Her reaction, modest as always was : “Nice of Dr Wu to say it. Two gym sessions tomorrow. Walk the dogs, Hagler and Marvin”.

As she said then to ‘The Irish Times’ :
“Ten years . . . I didn’t really know it. Pat Ryan said it. My da as well,” she says. “Yeah, it’s a lovely feeling starting the year as number one. I’m hoping there are a another few years in me still to come. I think there’s plenty left.
“I became number one just after the World Championships in India. I was very young then and I remember it was just a great feeling, my first World Championship.
“Since then I have always wanted to be the best and be the number one but no, it’s not something I would constantly think about. It’s not something I really chased, you know, to be number one for 10 years.
“But as I’ve always said and I’m sure other people will say it as well, you don’t do it on your own. I’ve a great group of people, a great family behind me all the way, all the time. You cannot underestimate that.”

Would she like to turn Pro?

“I think it’s something I’d like to do. I’m not sure if it’s after Rio. At some stage I’d like to turn professional and give the professional game a go. It would be nice to try and win a world professional title as well,” she said.

The now 29-year-old needs to reach the final in Samsun to qualify for Rio but with the women’s sport improving all the time she will find tough opposition from the Russian entrant (be it Belyakova or Ochigava), from Turkey’s Gulsum Tatar, GB’s representative whether Chantelle Cameron (likely) or Sandy Ryan and French woman Estelle Mossely. Other significant threats will be Yana Alekseevna and Denitsa Eliseeva.

Failing that, she’ll get another chance at May’s World Championships in Astana, where she will be seeking a record her 6th successive title. A last-four finish there will suffice for Rio.

She’s keen to emphasise : “People keep talking about Rio but I actually haven’t qualified yet. I’m just looking forward to the next few weeks and hopefully getting over the line. It would be a dream come true for me again.”

Clearly she believes that if she qualifies the expectations of Rio 2016 won’t be as intense as London 2012.

“It’s great to have that experience, I think experience is everything. I don’t think the pressure is going to be as much as I felt in London. I felt the pressure of everyone on my shoulders. Everyone expected me to win gold.

“I hope to continue to box. I’m not planning on hanging up my gloves yet. I feel like I’m very fresh, I feel like I have plenty more years left in me.”
All her efforts now are centred on a possible second Olympic crown

“Two-time Olympic champion sounds good,“ she concluded.
You can hear the full interview via the TV3 link on the ‘Ireland AM’ slot:

http://www.tv3.ie/3player/show/809/105779/0/Katie-Taylor

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