FeaturesHeadline NewsThe 13th Round

The 13th Round: Taylor-made for pro success, it’s the right time for Katie

Top Pro Gif Ad
I’m still trying to wrap my head around Katie Taylor turning pro.

It just doesn’t seem real. A constant figure of the Irish set-up for the past decade. A one-woman medal factory. Arguably the greatest, and definitely the most decorated, Irish sportsperson of all time.

A rocky last year aside, the Bray woman offered unparalleled consistency, bringing home medal after medal at every tournament she tried her glove at. Now she has entered the unpredictable, messy, professional game.

Perhaps I’m short-sighted, but I just never saw it happening. Even after losing at the Rio Olympics I believed Taylor would continue for another tournament or two, win a gold, and go out on a high.

That’s not to say that Taylor has made the wrong decision, far from it. This is a lot more interesting, and it all seems to be coming together for Katie.

The Right Time
Many have said in the aftermath of Taylor’s link-up with Matchroom Boxing and Brian Peters that it has come four years too late for the 30 year old. However, the opposite can be argued, and that now, rather than 2012, is the perfect time.

Post-London, the arguments against turning pro from the Taylor camp regarded the finality of pro boxing. How she had already beaten many of the top pros and, with the thinner pool of talent, she would quickly reach the top and then have nowhere to go.

Another factor cited was lack of the financial viability in women’s professional boxing. With Peters largely gone from the Irish scene and no real urge to relocate to one of the hot pockets of the sport, there was no framework or platform worthy of her talents.

In the past four years a lot as changed. The sting of missing out on gold in Rio has hurt, but it was right to attempt for it. Even away from the Olympics, Taylor’s 2012-2016 medal haul of World gold, World bronze, European gold, European Games gold, and EU gold,is more than most elite amateurs can ever dream of. It was hardly wasted time.

Now, four years older, Taylor can enter the pros, admittedly at the back end of her prime, with enough time for a short, incisive, World title-laden stay. This will be facilitated by the backing she now has which, most likely, would not have been forthcoming in 2012.

This leads us to how the landscape has changed in the past few years. Like it or lump it, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom have grown massively since 2012 and are now in a position of dominance where they are able to take the relative gamble of taking on Taylor. Add to this the increasingly prominent position of, and demand for, women in combat sports. ThisĀ means that the Bray woman will be given a platform that, even off the back of her worst (results-wise) year ever, will be much bigger than had she made the move in 2012.

The most important difference between now and 2012 however is desire. Katie Taylor wanted to stay amateur and aim for a historic second gold in Brazil. It didn’t pan out, but she now has closure and a genuine new goal for which she is hungry for.

The Right Woman
With the road open in front of her, how will Taylor adjust and perform in the pros? She definitely has the talent, arguably being pound-for-pound the most complete fighter in the history of women’s boxing. However, her vast technical skill may not be enough in a sport that, unlike the amateurs, requires bums on seats. Thankfully, Taylor allegedly possesses the crowd-pleasing power which is often shielded by the sponge-injected amateur gloves. As former sparring partners such as Paddy Barnes, Tyrone McCullagh, Eric Donovan, and Deco Geraghty will attest to, the Wicklow woman has a fair bit of pop, and this should serve her well with 8oz horse-hair gloves on

Focus is another factor which should aid Taylor in the pros. A factor in Rio seemed to be her preparations which, understandably, focused on some of the other leading names in the division, helping allow the relatively overlooked Mira Potkonen pull off the shock.

From around 2012 onwards, with her Olympic final v Sofya Ochigava being a perfect example, opponents started to adapt approaches to negate Taylor. This caused more tactical affairs and, while Taylor invariably triumphed, we lost some of the seek-and-destroy element that wowed fans that first time the general public saw her on the Bernard Dunne v Ricardo Cordoba undercard. This approach seemed to make something of a comeback in the 2016 Wolds, and in the longer rounds we should see it even more. While it has been proven possible to sneak a win over Taylor over four rounds, ten will be a different story.

Marketability, as always, is a major aspect and Taylor is definitely easy to sell. Expect to see more of Taylor’s personality and sharp wit in the coming months and years, something which has somewhat flown under the radar in the past. While not as outspoken as a Barnes or a Conlan to self-promote, she will now have the platform for her engaging personality to shine through. Even aside from personality and success, there is a lot to admire in Taylor’s urge to further the sport on behalf of all female boxers. She can be the ambassador that women’s pro boxing needs. The face of entire sport.

Taylor is the right person and now, at the right time, with the right motives, and the right team, she has made what looks to be the right choice.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie