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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 21 November, 2017
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'I'm really, really bad at trash-talking. She'll win that, but it's who wins in the ring that counts'

‘Britain’s latest world champion’ Katie Taylor laughs off another Sky slip as she prepares for a rapid first defence.

“WHERE ARE YOU from, Mark? …Donegal? Have you traveled all the way from Donegal tonight? …Wow! And why are you so fascinated by Katie Taylor? …Ha! Because she’s amazing! I love it!”

“What about you, Madam? …Johanna, great. Where are you from? …New York? Wow! And why are you so fascinated by Katie Taylor? …She is brilliant, isn’t she? And…and because she represents! Yes, I agree! Fantastic!”

JD Mary Street Store front

Upstairs in JD Sports on Dublin’s Mary Street, the queue resembles ‘Snake’ on your grandfather’s Blokia: it’s rolling along nicely but ever-lengthening and, at this rate, will soon be forced to double over upon itself to fit inside its square confines.

Nobody is complaining, though. There’s not a peep from the children gripped to their mothers’ hands; not so much as a ‘Daaad, I’m bored’ as families amble long past the cash desk, past the two gloved youngfellas shadow-boxing behind a rack of The North Face merchandise; no crying, no cribbing, just tippy-toed excitement.

Case and point: a toddler who having conquered the final step of her Everest, JD’s static escalator, without a limb to spare, reclaims her footing and flings both arms skyward – a young Rocky Balboa – screeching ‘KATIE! KATIE! KATIE!’ from the summit, before turning back to her mother for an almighty bollocking.

She’s young enough for ‘Katie’ to have been her first word, and she couldn’t care less for her reprimand. Tonight, no telling-off nor metal mountain nor meandering queue can dampen her spirits.

She’s here to see the champ.

I spot her again some 40 minutes later in Katie Taylor’s arms, both of them beaming from ear to ear, the kid’s fists pointed skywards once more, her mother’s phone flashing like it should have come with a warning.

Every child gets their hug, their moment – every parent a handshake or indeed their own moment. Pictures. Autographs. Memories – maybe even a first memory in some cases.

“It’s very hard to get used to something like that,” Taylor tells The42, finally taking a seat after some 90 minutes, 100 hugs and/or handshakes, 200-odd signatures and 400-or-so pictures. “I actually get quite humbled by it, really. I appreciate it so much, and the support has been absolutely incredible.”

She’s still beaming.

“It always has been, but I never take that for granted. What can I say? It’s just very humbling.”

We have only 10 minutes to chat – five, officially – and are sat afront JD’s shoe selection. Taylor’s brand spanking new WBA world title belt is perched on a table next to a decimated pile of A5 cardboard posters bearing her image, and beside them lie four black markers, worn to their respective nubs by ‘Britain’s latest world champion’.

“Yeah, I saw that!” Taylor says, laughing off Sky Sports News’ latest slip of the tongue.

“How many times can they get that wrong?

Ah, it doesn’t really bother me too much. I guess it’s just a common mistake – I don’t think they’re trying to ruffle any feathers or anything. I think it’s a genuine mistake each time. But yeah, at the same time, I’d look for them to get it right… Soon!

Perhaps Sky and its presenters could be forgiven for feeling a tad possessive; every fight of Taylor’s professional career has been broadcast by the network, and her latest performance – a blistering world title encounter with Anahi Sanchez – was the consensus saving grace for an otherwise flat Sky Box Office card.

Even during her ring-walk beneath the roof at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium the reception from some 50,000 spectators was ear-splitting, second only to that which greeted Anthony Joshua’s entrance two hours later.

Given its progress to date, and the notable dissipation of sexist nonsense from some of the world’s great thinkers on social media, it’s difficult to register that the professional leg of her legendary boxing journey began just over a year ago – and did so with a moment of pure arse-chancery: a Twitter direct message to Eddie Hearn, who per his own admission was initially undecided on recruiting the Irish star.

“Yeah, but he didn’t take much convincing,” says Taylor. “I only sent him the one message, basically saying that I was interested in turning pro. He messaged me back straight away, so I contacted Brian [Peters] then asking him to organise a meeting between the two of us.

“That’s how it all came together, really. I went over the his offices a few weeks later. We sat down, we chatted, and I just loved the fact that he had the same vision as I did for the game.

“It was a big risk for him as well, I guess, in bringing me on. Who knew? You don’t really know how it’s going to go, with people’s perceptions of the game, or whatever, so it was a big risk for him.

“I think since I have turned pro it’s been absolutely great. I’ve had the opportunity to box on huge shows. It’s been absolutely incredible.”

She’s keen to set the record straight on one of them.

Whatever about her performance in Cardiff which, in spite of being rated a 5/10 by Taylor herself, more than sufficed in seeing her throw the black and gold strap over her shoulder at fight’s end, it’s the media’s misinterpretation of events in the dressing room prior to the contest which Taylor first feels obliged to correct:

I didn’t actually turn down Colin Farrell’s request to walk me to the ring – there was no request! He just came in to say hello to me, and that was it, really. I’m not really thinking of anyone walking me to the ring at that stage – I’m just trying to get my head sorted for the fight, and I’m focused only on that.

“He was there with his partner so let him just enjoy the night. He came down to the dressing room afterwards as well. He was a complete gentleman, actually.”

Taylor’s not a major fan of the hypothetical and so had there been a request, she’s unsure as to whether Farrell could have played the Conor McGregor to her Michael Conlan, opting to shrug off the question with a politeness it scarcely warrants.

I ask only because she strikes as a fighter decidedly disinterested in pomp.

Take, for example, her walk-out song: the chorus to James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s World’ which, by way of a jarring record-scratch, plays into AC\DC anthem and gym playlist stalwart ‘Thunderstruck’ – a concoction designed as a middle finger to misogynists and naysayers, certainly, but one chosen by her brother because Taylor herself wasn’t fussed.

Take her fight ensemble, too: when she turned professional last autumn, she wished to debut wearing an all-black vest, all-black fight trunks and all-black shoes, no trimmings. It was only after some persuasion from Hearn and manager Brian Peters did she agree to a dash of gold.

Fast forward 11 months and it’s less a dash, more a dousing, but Taylor laughingly winces at the notion that she’ll be 24-karat-clad for her first headline fight live on Sky Sports in December.

Well, I used to love the likes of Mike Tyson, the Kostya Tszyu look – just all black. It’s just nice and plain. I don’t think you need anything too flashy. I want people talking about the boxing more so than the actual outfit that I’m wearing.

“But the gear has been absolutely great as well, and I’m starting to like all the bling!” she says, the sheen of her WBA world title strap not going unnoticed.

Anahi Esther Sanchez with Katie Taylor Source: Lawrence Lustig/INPHO

Taylor is hellbent on adding more jewels to her crown, suggesting that a change of scenery, change of pace and, for all intents and purposes, a change of sport, have whet an appetite which had long been satisfied in the amateur ranks over which she ruled.

As it so happens, it was another Twitter interaction which set the wheels in motion last autumn.

“I think I’ve always wanted to make history in my sport, whether that was in the amateurs or the pros,” she says.

“Definitely, since I have I turned pro, it’s given me a new lease of life, I think. I definitely needed that change – that’s why I made the decision to turn pro.

I just probably felt a bit flat in the amateur game for the last couple of years. I needed this change.

“I now have a great team around me, people who believe in me and who are getting the best out of me. I’ve enjoyed these last 11 months so much.

“Even going out to Ross in America, training with him – it’s been absolutely brilliant for me as well. Just after Rio, I guess I just messaged him – on Twitter again! I seem to be…eh…”

Sliding into a lot of DMs?

“Yeah, exactly! I just asked him could I come over for a few weeks for a training camp, for a bit of a change, and thankfully he obliged me for a few weeks.

When I was over there, I had more of a hunger for the pro game, just being around Ross and the other pro boxers in the gym. It was over there, really, where I made the decision that I wanted to turn pro.

As soon as our conversation concludes in two minutes’ time, Taylor will head home and prepare for another transatlantic voyage to train with Emanait, her flight to America booked for Saturday.

Despite receiving a couple of stitches above her eye this day last week – a minor and fast-healing nick, thankfully – she’ll defend her belt in England on 15 December, less than two months after claiming it.

In doing so she’ll set a pace frankly unheard of for world champions in the modern era. She’s cognisant of the fact that for the sake of her body and her sanity, it can’t always be this way, which is exactly why she demanded one more scrap before the new year.

“It does seem all go at the moment,” she says. “But I do love the fact that I have another fight to focus on, and I love the fact that I’m staying busy. But it can’t be this busy all the time – I’m aware of that as well. After the Christmas and next year I’m sure it’s going to slow down a small bit.

“But this year has been a great year for me so far, and it’d be great to end the year on another high.”

Her opponent in England – London, in all likelihood – looks set to be American number one Jessica McCaskill [5-1, 3KOs], with both teams confident a deal will be agreed in the coming days.

‘CasKILLA’ can certainly punch, but isn’t averse to throwing the odd verbal jab either; she and her trainer-manager Rick Ramos have been calling for Taylor’s head since day naught of the latter’s professional career.

However, the WBA number two yesterday confirmed to The42 that should Taylor keep things above board in the build-up, as is clearly her wont, brash antics – and more pertinently the type that might have a detrimental impact on the credibility of the women’s game – will be off the table.

Upon hearing McCaskill’s measured take on matters, Taylor seems a touch surprised by the Chicago fighter’s self-possession, but in any case, remains adamant she won’t engage in any pre-fight chicanery; she too is a guardian of her sport’s reputation, and she also doesn’t know how to speak garbage.

“Oh, well that’s great that she said that, yeah.

“To be honest, that kind of thing – what she or anyone is going to say – wouldn’t really cross my mind. My mindset for this fight would be the same as for any other fight, really. I wouldn’t really think too much about the press conferences or what she’s going to say.

I’m not going to talk any trash. I can’t! I’m really, really bad at trash-talking – it’s just not in me at all. If she wants to talk all that, I’m just going to let her, you know? She’ll definitely win that battle – the trash-talking – but it’s what happens in the ring, who wins in the ring that counts.

milk Jessica McCaskill and team accuse Katie Taylor of 'going missing' in July, placing her image on a milk carton.

In strangely reassuring news, don’t expect to see Taylor converting Jessica McCaskill to ‘meme’ form any time soon, then.

“I actually thought the milk carton was pretty funny, to be honest!” Taylor says with a wry smile.

“But look, I want to fight the best as well. This is a fight that’s very interesting for people – an exciting fight – and I can’t wait for it.”

During our conversation yesterday, McCaskill referred to Taylor’s gruelling battle with Anahi Sanchez in offering the following message to the new WBA World lightweight champion: “Heal up so we can get to it.”

It’s only fair, then, that Taylor gets her right of reply.

“Heal up? What? Oh, heal up? Oh, okay – I didn’t know what that was for a second!

“Eh… No, no, I’ve nothing to say back to her,” she laughs, rubber-stamping her previous point.

Her manager Brian Peters intervenes from our left: “Don’t miss your flight!”

As we wrap some time around 10pm and Taylor gathers her shiny new strap, a JD staff member sheepishly approaches and asks if the Bray woman would mind terribly posing for one last picture.

There’s no need to be sheepish, naturally.

“Oh, of course, absolutely. No problem at all. Work away.”

Katie Taylor was appearing at JD in Mary Street in her role as a JD ambassador.

‘Tell Katie to heal up so we can get to it’: McCaskill hellbent on shocking Taylor in December

‘I felt like Katie disrespected women’s boxing…no one’s reached out to us at all’

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