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'Four years ago we were in the same building for her debut. I didn't know what I was doing'

‘Sometimes you meet people that make your desire burn inside, to just be a small part of their journey.’ Katie Taylor is one of those people, says Eddie Hearn.

Katie Taylor and Eddie Hearn.
Katie Taylor and Eddie Hearn.
Image: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

FOUR MORE YEARS?

That’s the plan, says promoter Eddie Hearn. Last night at Wembley Arena, he watched the last four come full circle as Katie Taylor headlined her first Saturday-night primetime slot live on Sky Sports, the number of eyes on the event multiplied by dint of Sky’s decision to make the female world-title tripleheader available for free online as well as on Sky Sports Mix.

Quite the detour for the Matchroom Boxing chief, who has openly admitted on several occasions that even when Taylor sent him a private message on Twitter in 2016 requesting a meeting with a view to turning professional under his company banner, he initially refused to entertain the proposal.

And then he met her. In just four years, Taylor has fought 17 times (her last 11 have been world-title fights), become female boxing’s third ever undisputed champion, earned enough money with which to live out the rest of her life in relative comfort, and become the catalyst in a seismic culture shift which has seen female professional boxing dragged from the doldrums to a far healthier — if still imperfect — existence.

Hearn, despite crediting Taylor for it all, has been the driving force of that movement strictly within a promotional context — albeit by his own admission not due to some sort of burning sense of morality but because, for the most part, it makes business sense.

Taylor has in four years become one of Matchroom’s flagship fighters, male or female. She is now among the most recognisable figures in professional boxing and one whose stock seems to rise by the fight. Last night’s mandatory defence against Spain’s Miriam Gutierrez was ostensibly just a box-ticking exercise to satisfy the demands of one of the four sanctioning bodies whose belts make up her undisputed title, but her performance provided evidence aplenty as to why she has begun to transcend the punch-for-pay ranks just as she did the amateurs for over a decade.

And with the game but limited Gutierrez out of the way, the door opens once more to bigger and better things.

katie-taylor-with-miriam-gutierrez-after-the-bout Katie Taylor shows her belts to beaten foe Miriam Gutierrez post-fight. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

“She’s the greatest to ever do it in women’s boxing and we’re just starting out,” said Hearn on Saturday night. “I believe she’s got four, five, six [years left]; I don’t want to put a number on it because she’ll have a go at me, but so many years to come.

“No one has ever boxed like Katie Taylor in the female code. The movement, the shot selection, the body work, the head, and the discipline she applies to her camp work, to her career.

You know, I don’t want to embarrass her but she’s an absolute role model to every young individual. Male, female, it doesn’t matter: if you dedicate yourself to your dream, you can make it. And there’s not a day goes by where she’s not thinking of improving.

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“Ross [Enamait], Brian [Peters], Bridget [Taylor] and the team — this has been an amazing journey.”

Quite. Taylor’s success — not competitively but rather commercially, and the extent to which her career has ‘caught on’ among casual fans — has surprised all involved in it, including Taylor herself.

While their media routinely attempt to claim her as British through sheer ignorance or something more nefarious, the British sporting public also vaguely consider her a champion of their own, and somewhat understandably given their exposure to her on Sky.

This was crystalised at the Manchester Arena last year when, as Taylor attempted to give an interview after beating Christina Linardatou to become a two-weight world champion, she was drowned out and moved to tears such was the cacophony of adulation which greeted her from the stands — and though sprinkled with a healthy dose of Irishness, it was predominantly a Mancunian crowd.

Even with no crowd in attendance last night, Hearn was audibly giddy when discussing future possibilities, including a crossover superfight between Taylor and mixed martial arts star Cris Cyborg. And while his assessment of Taylor as a ‘global star’ might be a touch over-zealous for now, it’s nonetheless intriguing to imagine how the next four years might play out on either side of the pond.

katie-taylor-press-conference-dublin Taylor and Hearn at their first press conference together. Source: Niall Carson

“Four years ago we were in the same building (Wembley Arena) for her debut,” Hearn said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. We were just sitting there worrying how it was going to go.

“Now, you’ve seen three female world-championship fights headline a card here, and she’s a global star. Global star! Madison Square Garden, Boston, Philadelphia, Millennium Stadium, Wembley Stadium, even here behind closed doors or in the garden (Matchroom Fight Camp in August). But she’s got so much more to do in women’s boxing.

I love it. I love it. I have a passion for her. Because when she came into the office to me that day with Brian Peters, I only had a meeting out of respect — because she’s a legend in the amateur game and what she’s achieved. But sometimes you meet people that make your desire burn inside, to just be a small part of their journey. And to just help her to create a legacy and to secure her dreams.

“Every day on the Katie Taylor journey is a joy. It is a joy.

Huge [TV] audience tonight — and we’re nowhere near where we need to be [with women's boxing]. But the moves we’ve made in four years… See us in another four years. And it is down to her.

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