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Katie Taylor: 'I'm not thinking about retirement right now - but I guess everyone else is'

‘My whole childhood was based around this Olympic dream that I had… But never in a million years did I think I’d be in the position that I’m in now.’

Katie Taylor waiting for the call ahead of her bout with Natasha Jonas earlier this year.
Katie Taylor waiting for the call ahead of her bout with Natasha Jonas earlier this year.
Image: Matchroom Boxing/Dave Thompson/INPHO

KATIE TAYLOR’S PROFESSIONAL opponents tend to fall into one of two categories: those who speak of her with respect, even reverence, and say things like, ‘May the best woman win’; and those who vow in no uncertain terms to dominate her in the ring, derail her career, dispel her as all but a myth.

A quick perusal of the Instagram account of Firuza Sharipova [14-1, 8KOs], against whom Taylor will defend her undisputed lightweight title for the fifth time at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on 11 December, tells you the Kazakh firmly fits in the latter bracket.

One post, translated from Sharipova’s native tongue, reads:

December 11 I will make the biggest upset of the year! I’m going to take all of the belts from Katie Taylor and bring them to Kazakhstan. Nothing will help Katie Taylor. Even if Conor McGregor comes out in the ring with her — I’ll knock them both out!

Taylor [19-0, 6KOs], laughing heartily as her mandatory challenger is quoted to her, is confident she won’t need the extra hand in just under three weeks’ time.

“No… I had no idea that that’s what she was saying!

“But I’ll just get my head down as per usual. I’ll never need any help in there: all of my preparation will always be spot on.

“I always expect the toughest fight possible and I’m always willing to dig deep and to go wherever I need to go in order to win the fight. So, regardless of what she’s saying, I’m never one for speaking before a fight. I just get the work done in training and do my talking in the ring. This fight is no different.”

Though naturally her focus is solely on Sharipova, Taylor says that in the event that she has her hand raised next month, it’s “very likely” that she will then face longtime professional-boxing nemesis Amanda Serrano. (The seven-weight world-champion southpaw, a Puerto Rican New Yorker, must also firstly take care of business versus one of Taylor’s recent opponents, Miriam Gutierrez, a week later).

Theirs will be a fight she discusses in greater detail if or when it becomes real, at which point it will be the biggest fight in the history of women’s professional boxing and arguably Taylor’s most significant bout — both personally and in terms of its place in the public consciousness — since she faced Sofya Ochigava for Olympic gold in London nine years ago.

The extent to which Taylor-Serrano will capture mainstream sporting attention on both sides of the Atlantic will separate it from all of her other fights. It will be the defining moment of her journey in boxing’s punch-for-pay ranks, which incidentally began five years ago today (Wednesday).

Three weeks ago, however, Taylor was cognisant of an even more significant anniversary: 31 October marked 20 years since she faced and beat Alanna Audley (now Alanna Nihell) at Dublin’s National Stadium in the first ever sanctioned women’s amateur bout in Ireland.

Two decades on, Taylor is not only one of the biggest names in women’s boxing but in boxing generally. She is a multiple-time world champion as both an amateur and a professional, a cultural figure, a catalyst for change, and one of the highest earning female athletes on the planet.

And the thing is, she saw it coming. Well, maybe not all of it…

“As a 15-year-old, as a kid, I always had big dreams, big hopes,” Taylor says. “I wanted to make an impact in the boxing world. My whole childhood was obviously based around this Olympic dream that I had.

But never in a million years did I think I’d be in the position that I’m in now. Having the chance to box on the biggest stages in the world as a professional fighter has been absolutely fantastic. Just to see where women’s boxing is right now and see the amount of female fighters… It’s been a golden moment for women’s boxing, really, over these last few years and that, for me, is everything. I couldn’t have imagined as a 15-year-old that it would be where it is now. It’s been a dream.

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“With the environment that I was in, I’m very, very lucky to have been surrounded by a family who were so encouraging,” Taylor continues.

My parents always made me believe that nothing was too big for me — and that if I worked hard and got my head down, that it wouldn’t be too big for me. You are a product of your environment at the end of the day and those encouraging words always stayed with me, even during times where I actually doubted whether or not this was going to happen.

“My parents were just constantly speaking encouragement to me. They made me believe and they made me the fighter I am today, as well. I grew huge dreams, huge ambitions because of them.”

Outside of her close-knit circle, there is a growing clamour for Taylor to start winding her career down, a sentiment heightened by her age, 35, and the reality that her two most recent performances — versus former amateur rival Natasha Jonas and the lesser known Jennifer Han – were scarcely vintage.

Taylor, however, still harbours huge dreams, huge ambitions. She built a career on a foundation of her parents telling her what she can do, but she has rarely in her life shown any regard for people telling her what she can’t do.

“I’m obviously very, very aware that I can’t do this forever,” she says. “It is a very limited career. But I don’t feel like I’m slowing down as of yet. I feel like I have a few years left in me and plenty of big fights left in me as well. But I just take it one fight at a time, really.

I feel like so many people over the last year or so continue to speak about my retirement. I’m not thinking about retirement right now — but I guess everyone else is.

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