Katie Taylor faces Rose Volante next Friday in a world-title unification clash. Emily Harney/INPHO
moving the dial

'There were times when I didn't even ask how much I was getting for the fights - I'd just find out afterwards'

Katie Taylor knows her value in boxing’s punch-for-pay ranks, and so do her opponents, but money remains low on her list of priorities.

AMONG THE CONCERNS when Katie Taylor turned professional in the autumn of 2016 was that she was entering an industry which in its perpetually evident nefariousness was completely at odds with her values.

Two and a half years on, Taylor is by a considerable margin the most valuable entity in a women’s professional boxing scene which is all the more healthy for her presence: Taylor earns more money per fight than any other female pugilist, and her opponents earn more to face her than they ever have previously. Many of them have earned more against Taylor than they have for their previous outings combined.

Taylor, alongside her younger American contemporary Claressa Shields, has created the tide upon which all boats have risen. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.

It was originally hoped that WBA and IBF lightweight world champion Taylor would face WBO titleholder Rose Volante in a unification clash in December, but the Brazilian’s team steered their woman off Taylor’s course.

A press conference at The County Club in Dunshaughlin after Taylor imperiously retained her titles in a tasty scrap with former amateur rival Eva Wahlstrom — a world-class and world-champion alternative opponent, but still an alternative — was called with the intention of confirming a clash with Volante in the presence of Taylor’s home press.

Best laid plans and all that: ‘Queen Rose’s representatives declined a six-figure offer worth 10 times more than her previous career-highest purse, and it suddenly seemed likely that Taylor’s pursuit of the undisputed title would be derailed by those pesky boxing ‘politics’ to which so many cautiously referred when she joined the punch-for-pay ranks post-Rio.

Taylor’s team of Brian Peters and Eddie Hearn seriously considered going down another route — one which would see Irish icon forego her dream of cleaning out the 135-pound division and instead fulfil another by diving straight into a sequence of match-ups with fellow pound-for-pound contenders. There was a cognisance, however, that these impending superfights would be somewhat less super, and in turn less lucrative, if Taylor went into them without having first become the undisputed ruler at lightweight.

And so the purse strings were loosened slightly, a few more strings were pulled, and finally, Taylor v Volante was a go for Philadelphia on St Patrick’s weekend, the ‘road to undisputed’ repaved.

“I was delighted when the fight was actually confirmed,” Taylor tells The42. “It’s a fight I’ve wanted for a long time. I guess she was holding out, looking for more money and things like that — the business side of things was holding it up a small bit.

“Training camp has gone great for this fight. I know I say that before every single fight”, she laughs, “but I really am feeling good and sharp ahead of this one.

I know the danger that Rose Volante brings to the table: she’s a very strong fighter, she’s an undefeated fighter, she has a big right hand and all of her other opponents can testify to that.

“It’s a huge chance for me — a chance to unify the division once again, and a chance to take that step closer to becoming undisputed champion.

“This could be a huge year for me, and there are big, big fights out there for me, but I have to get past Rose Volante for those big fights to happen.

Katie Taylor Katie Taylor will attempt to take one step closer to claiming the undisputed lightweight world title in Philadelphia next Friday night. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“It is definitely frustrating at times when the fights aren’t happening when I want them to happen”, Taylor adds, “but I do realise there is a business to professional boxing as well.

Obviously, I’ve picked up a greater understanding of it over the last couple of years. I do realise that the right fights have to happen at the right time; that people are going to try to earn as much money as they can, and that’s why these fights aren’t happening sometimes.

“But I also know that they are going to happen — I’ve just got to be patient. Thankfully, Brian [Peters] kind of looks after that side of things.

“The Rose Volante fight didn’t happen when we wanted it in December, but we got a super replacement in Eva Wahlstrom — we couldn’t have had a better opponent, really. I think Eva said herself that it was the biggest fight in women’s boxing at that time; we both came into the fight as undefeated champions, fighting at Madison Square Garden. So I still got a huge fight even when the fight I wanted didn’t quite come together at the time.”

Adds manager Peters: “We had a plan: we wanted the WBO belt, all going well, and then we’d move onto Delfine Persoon for the WBC.

It’s tough to get Katie talking about this, obviously, because the next fight is the only one she’ll ever talk about, but after this we’d love to get Persoon in the ring at The Garden, on the AJ (Anthony Joshua) card, for the undisputed title. That has a nice little ring to it. And then that will hopefully set up a fight with another lady who’s fond of talking, Amanda Serrano. All going well, that gets Katie a big payday, it gets headlines all over the world, but the fight itself headlines as well — it headlines a venue, maybe in New York, and it’s shown live on DAZN. But if you don’t have the ‘undisputed’ tag on it, it just doesn’t have that same magical ring to it.

Brian Peters Manager Brian Peters knows future 'superfights' will be all the more super for Taylor holding all four major lightweight belts. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“That’s why I was so anxious to get this fight,” Peters continues. “We negotiated with Rose Volante, she wanted to get a few defences in first so she could earn more money to fight Katie — and listen, she’s dead right.

“But obviously she’s crucial to Katie’s plan of being undisputed champion, all going well, by the middle of the summer. And from there, we can look at real superfights.”

A showdown with rival Serrano and a meeting a fight or two further down the line with undisputed welterweight world champion Cecilia Braekhus are not dead certs — not least in Taylor’s eyes, which are fixed firmly on Philly next Friday.

But should they come to fruition, they will likely see her pocket high-six- and seven-figure sums respectively, a feat of earning unprecedented in women’s boxing and one that 99.9% of pro boxers — male or female — can only dream of.

There still exists a squeamish concern among casual followers in Ireland that ‘our lovely girl’ is swimming with sharks — that nobody as nice as Taylor can expect to escape a business as nasty as boxing without having first been skinned alive.

Instead, it’s she who is making the killing. And to believe Taylor naive is to sell her short: this is, after all, a woman who has seen plenty of dosh pass through her hands not only via fight purses and multiple high-profile sponsorships, but her commercial firm KT Sports Ltd whose accumulated profits passed the €1.5 million mark in 2017.

She knows her value, and she has surrounded herself with a small, tight-knit team who have thus far succeeded in ensuring she gets every penny of it.

But it would also be wrong to suggest that Taylor is remotely money-driven. A comically off-the-mark BBC article recently stated that she was “willing to give up on her dream of ever boxing in Ireland to pursue a super-fight which could earn her a first $1m purse”.

On that front, Taylor is keen to set the record straight.

“Money is obviously important — this is prizefighting, so you have to earn as much money as you can during your career — but it’s not something that motivates me at all,” she says.

“I’ve said from the start that I want to make history in this sport, I want to leave a great legacy, and that’s why I want the big fights.

“I don’t care how much money I’m making for these fights — I just want the fights, the big fights –”

“She’s only joking, Eddie!” chimes Peters with a chuckle, just in case promoter Hearn catches wind and attempts to shave a zero off her next cheque.

Taylor laughs. “That’s where Brian comes in. He negotiates for me. And it’s great to be getting those big purses but it’s really not something that I’ve ever focused on.

Earlier in my professional career, there were times when I didn’t even ask how much I was getting for the fights — I’d find out afterwards. I’d just go in there, fight, and then afterwards Brian would tell me: ‘By the way, you got this amount for the fight’.

“So it’s not even something that was on my mind. I boxed for years and years as an amateur fighter. I wanted to do the same thing — leave a great legacy and make history — and now I’m trying to do the same in professional boxing. I want to make history and be the best fighter that I can, regardless of how much money I’m making.

I just think it changes if money is your motivation, because what happens if the money isn’t there? You can’t get up and go training, you can’t get motivated for fights at all? That’s never been the case for me.

Katie Taylor in acton against Cindy Serrano Katie Taylor in action against Cindy Serrano in Boston. Emily Harney / INPHO Emily Harney / INPHO / INPHO

Equally, what will never motivate Taylor is the need to prove wrong naysayers, or those who, almost per fight at this stage, will find a means of discrediting her opponents or the women’s code generally.

If she has her arm raised over Volante’s next Friday, those critics will begin to run out of road.

Delfine Persoon is a formidable challenge by anyone’s standards; Amanda Serrano is a seven-weight world champion and legitimate knockout artist; Cecilia Braekhus is an undefeated, undisputed champion. Beyond them — if Taylor can get beyond them — Olympians Mikaela Mayer and Taylor’s Rio successor, Estelle Mossely, lie in wait.

There’ll doubtless be a few more edgy columns written between now and the bona fide ‘big ones’ in June and further down the line. Taylor is unlikely to read them, nor will she use them as fuel beyond the fireplace.

“To be honest with you, I think I’m well used to it. Even during my amateur days, there were still people who never gave me the credit — even when I was coming back with World Championship gold medals.

“So I am very, very used to that, and I don’t take too much notice of it.

I am getting the credit from people over here [in America], people who are knowledgable about the sport. The people who follow the sport, the actual boxing journalists — they realise how big some of these fights are. They recognise the credentials of some of these opponents.

“That’s all that matters, really. The real boxing purists know exactly what’s happening, and I don’t really take much notice of anyone else. I’m not out here to impress those kinds of people.”

Katie Taylor celebrates after the fight Taylor isn't concerned by critics of her career or women's pro boxing. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

“Like, some of these other champions that these people are criticising are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight Katie,” adds Peters. “Katie herself is obviously getting more than them.

Now, as nice as Katie is, I don’t think DAZN and these guys are giving her that money because she’s a nice person. I think they’re giving it to her because she’s a star. She moves the dial. That’s why.

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

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