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'You know her, but you don't know me. You haven't seen me much because my best fights are not on YouTube'

Champion Christina Linardatou is backing herself, seemingly literally, to beat Katie Taylor in Manchester on Saturday.

Christina Linardatou working out in Manchester ahead of her headline fight with Katie Taylor this Saturday.
Christina Linardatou working out in Manchester ahead of her headline fight with Katie Taylor this Saturday.

THERE HAVE BEEN opponents of Katie Taylor’s over the last couple of years who have conspicuously wilted long before they were dismantled by the Irishwoman in the ring.

In some, the discomfort was evident as soon as they ducked into a packed press conference venue, the magnitude of the impending occasion hitting home as they fielded a deluge of foreign questions; in others, that meandering walk from the dressing room to the ring with only a couple of security guards and a backpedaling TV cameraperson to pave the way, the dimmed lights only doing so much to mask the vast stands and the fair share of strangers who have paid to watch them get beaten up.

Christina Linardatou is not one of those opponents.

She’s a champion for starters. Strictly speaking, challenger Taylor is ‘the opponent’ this Saturday, albeit also the A-side of their WBO World light-welterweight-title headliner at Manchester Arena.

Linardatou landed in only on Wednesday but has taken to fight week like a duck to water. The Dominican-born Greek has better English than she would have you believe — although she did initially predict her bout against Taylor would be akin to “a mouse and a rat” at Thursday’s press conference before correcting herself (“Oh, no! A mouse and a cat!”) much to everyone’s entertainment, including her own — and oozes confidence even when conversing in her third language.

And her body language is such that one suspects she could have floated to Manchester aboard cloud nine; she has been bouncing and smiling and laughing since arrival, and if you cup your ear right now, you’ll probably be able to just about hear her.

christina-linardatou Christina Linardatou speaking at Thursday's press conference. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

Perhaps the greatest difference between Linardatou and the majority of Taylor’s past foes, though, is that the Irish icon has typically had to wait in the hope that her primary targets would finally accept the umpteenth offer and sign to fight her. Linardatou was just waiting to be asked.

“I’m very confident — of course I am,” the beaming 31-year-old tells The42. “I’m here to win. I’m here for that. I’m after that.

I was waiting for this fight for a long time. I knew it was going to come. It was just about the time. And now is the time!

“This means a lot to me,” she adds, glancing around at the swathes of cameras, journalists and fans. “Great opportunities happen when you work for them. So, I was waiting for the opportunity — I was just waiting. And now the opportunity is here. There is something that the Greeks used to say: ‘luck is when the opportunity meets your work’, you know? So…”

She trails off with a laugh and nods for the next question, which is, verbatim, “You don’t seem to believe you’ll need luck on your side against Katie Taylor… Where do you think you are better than her, and where do you think you can beat her?”

Linardatou errs and throws an accusatory glance: “I don’t want to say my secrets! My tricks…

You have seen Katie Taylor a lot. You know her, but you don’t know me. You haven’t seen me that much because my best fights are not on YouTube or somewhere. Just a few moments of the very good fights, very strong fights. So, I will keep the surprise for you on Saturday…

The only other opponent of Taylor’s who seemed so comfortable in the chaos of it all was Delfine Persoon, which might ring an alarm bell or two in Irish quarters.

It’s worth noting that the sole blemish on Linardatou’s 12-1(6KOs) CV came at Persoon’s hands. Many would argue that’s something she shares in common with Taylor, including Linardatou herself who was less than impressed by Taylor’s display en route to becoming the undisputed lightweight champion on a razor-thin majority decision back in June.

The Greek’s defeat to the former WBC queen still rankles, but she can to some extent qualify it three years on having since moved up in weight and won a world title five pounds north. But somewhat jarringly, she hopes Taylor got a rare blip out of her system during her own fight with Persoon: Linardatou wants to mow down the best version of the Bray woman this weekend, not a champion in decline.

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“I had a fight with Delfine Persoon — it was my only loss. And I can say it was only because of inexperience, because, like, people say, ‘politics’, when you go somewhere else (as the away fighter), when the referee starts doing things; when I cut her with a punch but the referee gives me a poi, eh, poi –” she gestures with her thumb, referee-like, to act out a point deduction. “You’re going to see all of this when I put up the video!” she adds, visibly frustrated with her verbal trip-up. “Then everyone can see.

After the fourth round I stopped going forward as I do, and I started moving around. But even in that kind of fight, I was better than Katie Taylor. She was supposed to fight outside, but in this fight I didn’t see that. I didn’t see the Katie Taylor that I was expecting — the girl that knows how to fight outside and how to dominate there.

“It’s okay,” Linardatou interjects upon herself, laughing again. “I hope she just had a bad moment because I want a really good fight with her on Saturday.”

christina-linardatou Linardatou has her hands wrapped. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

There is then a brief conversation about her fight purse which doesn’t involve exact figures — “okay money, good money, not crazy money” — at which point one of her cornermen intervenes.

“After you beat her, you will get it,” he tells his fighter.

He turns in the direction of her interviewer, nods back in Linardatou’s direction, and in broken English reveals that she has placed a bet of at least a portion of her six-figure purse on herself to beat Taylor this Saturday.

Linardatou nods when asked to corroborate his story, but this time there’s no laugh.

‘Like a mouse and a cat’ – Linardatou confident she can bully challenger Taylor up at 140 pounds

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