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'Money-wise, this is a whole new stratosphere' - Can Katie be boxing's Ronda Rousey?

The Irish star’s manager, Brian Peters, chats to The42 about her plans for the future.

Katie Taylor suffered disappointment at this summer's Rio Olympics.
Katie Taylor suffered disappointment at this summer's Rio Olympics.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

KATIE TAYLOR IS one of the rare contemporary Irish athletes who transcends the sports pages, so it was no surprise that the news that she was turning professional garnered a huge reaction.

And while there was plenty of excitement following the announcement, it was hardly a big surprise.

After all, what did Taylor have left to achieve in amateur boxing? In over a decade competing in the sport, she won 168 out of 178 bouts. Her list of titles, meanwhile, is unparalleled and is unlikely to bettered anytime soon.

The feats she achieved during this memorable period included an Olympic gold, five World Amateur Championship golds, six European Amateur Championship titles, six European Union golds and a decade ranked at world number one.

Her one regret would have been going out of the amateur world on a sour note — a shock defeat by Finnish fighter Mira Potkonen at Rio 2016 meant her dream of winning back-to-back Olympic golds failed to materialise. And as was the case in many other fights at the Rio Games, the decision to award the fight to Potkonen was a controversial one.

“Katie won the fight. She had good skills, sidesteps, great punches. What else can she do,” Zaur Antia, the Team Ireland head coach, commented in a post-fight interview with RTÉ.

And speaking to Independent.ie recently, promoter Eddie Hearn suggested that the questionable judging played a role in Taylor’s choice to go pro ultimately.

The decision came as a blow to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s High Performance Unit, with Taylor’s fellow Team Ireland stars Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Steven Donnelly also announcing their intention to turn to the professional boxing world following a disappointing Olympics for all concerned.

Yet Taylor’s manager, Brian Peters, says she has no regrets about her latest decision and is adamant it’s the right call.

“She’s had a huge impact on women’s amateur boxing, and she wants to have the same impact on women’s professional boxing,” he tells The42. “Myself and Eddie certainly believe she will engage a whole new generation of supporters.

The IABA and the Irish Sports Council have been very good to Katie and she’s been very good for them, and they’ve worked hand in hand to help Katie achieve what she did. But money-wise, you’re into a whole new stratosphere here, this is a whole new ball game altogether.”

Peters explains that Taylor’s iconic status on these shores means the decision was a no-brainer from Sky’s perspective.

If I was to say to you name the three biggest sports stars ever in Ireland, you’ve got to put in Roy Keane, Brian O’Driscoll… But there are not too many that a six-year-old girl looks up to, that an 86-year-old granny tunes into — women and men — so Katie has kind of an unusually broad spectrum of people that would engage in following her.”

The experienced adviser, who also guided Bernard Dunne during his boxing career, feels linking up with with promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing will prove to be an astute move, with Taylor set to make her professional bow on 26 November live on Sky Sports against an as-yet unnamed opponent.

(Eddie Hearn’s) got the same vision as ourselves, he’s got the same enthusiasm. Eddie’s certainly got England tied up. He’s one of the biggest promoters in the world… It’s the connections that Eddie has really enable us to fight.

“Fighting in Asia, the Scandinavian countries, Las Vegas, New York, Dublin, Eddie can be paramount in all that happening and making that happen. And if we’re all being honest, we don’t know that much about it, but we’re all fairly smart guys and we’ll all learn fairly quick.

“I had the pleasure of sitting ringside for (the fight between) Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio and it was boring. The so-called superfight, it took so long, four and a half billion or whatever it grossed, but it was boring, and that’s a label you’d never put on Katie Taylor. Katie, she’s exciting and she entertains, and they’re too very important ingredients for the professional game.”

UFC 207-Rousey Returns Mixed Martial Arts Peters believes Taylor could have a similar impact to UFC star Ronda Rousey (left). Source: Andy Brownbill

On more than one occasion over the course of the interview, Peters mentions UFC fighter Ronda Rousey — arguably the biggest star in MMA, male or female.

And Peters believes Taylor has the potential to have a similar impact in the world of pro boxing. He is hopeful that, all going according to plan, Taylor could have a world title shot within “12 months,” adding that she could also move up in the weight divisions to become a multiple champion ultimately.

Guillermo Rigondeaux was world champion after seven fights — one of the most highly decorated amateur boxers ever. You have Vasyl Lomachenko, in his second professional fight for the world title.

“Katie is right up there with that kind of experience, so she’s not going to be doing the standard four or five years apprenticeship.”

Moreover, Peters believes that such instant success coupled with Taylor’s unique appeal could translate the level of renown she enjoys in Ireland to countries across the world.

Even in London, a lot of women go to boxing, they doll up, it’s a big night out, they go for dinner first,” he says. “There’s a different culture with boxing over there than there is in Ireland. The big occasions are so regular. At the Gennady Golovkin-Kell Brook fight, all the Game of Thrones cast were there, all the Arsenal soccer heads, so it’s a big deal, more like in America.

“When I was going well with Bernard Dunne, you’d see all the stars there, it was an occasion really. I think Katie can replicate that and possibly even up it a notch or two.

When I was working out strategy with (former head of RTÉ Sport) Glen Killane, we used to plan it, the Six Nations was on and we used to put the (Bernard Dunne) fight on after. It turns it into an event and people are still talking about it.”

Peters explains that Hearn previously offered Taylor — who is currently in a training camp in America — the chance to make her debut at an upcoming event in Monte Carlo, but the Bray native was not ready yet.

Consequently, “110% focus and concentration” is now on the Irish star’s much-anticipated bout on 26 November, with details such as the identity of her opponent and who will be in her corner set to be announced at a press conference in Dublin that’s currently “looking like the 17th or 18th (of November)”.

(Head of Sky Boxing) Adam Smith can’t wait,” Peters adds. “Already she’s an ambassador for Sky TV and he’s very excited at the thought of it, which after the London 2012 Olympics, they were not. But now they’re showing women’s cricket, women’s soccer is huge. So it’s exciting times.

“There was a lot of interest in America, there was a lot of interest all over for Katie, because people know she can change the face of women’s professional boxing.”

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Paul Fennessy

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