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The anatomy of Katie Taylor's ringwalk - and will she make one at Croke Park this year?

It’s time to bring Katie Taylor home.

The Irish icon makes her way to the ring in New York.
The Irish icon makes her way to the ring in New York.
Image: Matchroom Boxing/Ed Mulholland/INPHO

EVERY TELEVISED BOXING card has at least one production coordinator, a small part of whose role it is to summon the fighters from their dressing rooms and ensure they proceed to the ring in a timely fashion for the live broadcast.

Ahead of Katie Taylor’s walk to the Madison Square Garden ring on Saturday, the relevant party working for broadcaster DAZN was firmly encouraged not to interfere with the world lightweight champion’s entrance.

All week, members of Taylor’s team — especially her promoter Eddie Hearn, her manager Brian Peters, and her trainer Ross Enamait — had either publicly or privately stressed the need for the Bray woman to embrace the landmark occasion that bore her name.

There was, of course, a potentially legacy-changing fight to be won against a formidable opponent in Amanda Serrano between the ropes but, outside of them, there was going to be the wall of noise; the sea of Irish green and Puerto Rican blue, red and white; 19,000-plus people emotionally invested in either Taylor’s glory or her demise — with between four and six thousand of them having traversed the Atlantic in the hope of witnessing the former.

This was going to be a world apart from the who-cares-about-women’s-boxing tweets which greeted Taylor’s early professional bouts. This was going to be a hair-raising illustration of a world that she had created. And those who had helped her in its construction were insistent that she take a moment to admire it before Serrano would try for 10 rounds to reshape it in her own image.

So, for the first time that any Madison Square Garden official could remember, Taylor was permitted to walk to the ring at her own leisure, unhurried by an event official and flanked only by her small team.

katie-taylor-makes-her-way-to-the-ring Eddie Hearn, Ross Enamait and Brian Peters take in their surrounds as Taylor makes her way to the ring. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Ed Mulholland/INPHO

To accentuate the sense that this was a moment in time which truly belonged to her, she was encouraged to select her own entrance song — a box-ticking exercise, as she sees it, which she typically assigns to either her management team or a family member.

In keeping with her lifelong faith which has carried her through tougher times in life than even 20 vicious minutes in the ring with Serrano, Taylor chose ‘Awake My Soul’ by Hillsong Worship and Tasha Cobbs Leonard. It being a slow burner, the Christian pop song in question initially seemed to suck the energy out of an audience whose ears were still ringing with the sound of Serrano’s own parade-like introduction (‘The Real Deal”s ringwalk had played out to a backdrop of a couple of Puerto Rican bangers on either side of 2000 hip-hop anthem ‘New York’ by Big Apple trio Ja Rule, Jadakiss and Fat Joe, the latter of whom had lent his support to his fellow Puerto Rican New Yorker on his Instragram story earlier in the week).

As she emerged from the residual plume of green pyrotechnics, however, it became immediately apparent that Taylor could have walked out to a Slipknot tune and it would have been quickly drowned out such was the sound which greeted her presence on the esplanade between the tunnel and the ring.

As Taylor ambled to the ring, nodding in affirmation of her reception and even taking in a full 360-degree panoramic of the arena, one supporter threw an Irish tricolour in her direction from the stand to her right. It was picked up by her promoter Eddie Hearn who unfurled it and held it aloft behind her.

Incidentally, Taylor’s team don’t usually carry with them an Irish flag to the ring. While she remains as proud as ever to represent her country — and the following is something to which she will have truly given zero thought over the past five and a half years — there has been a conscious effort to visually market her not only as an Irish sporting icon, but as an emblem for anybody around the world who wishes to take interest in her journey. This is not to suggest that Hearn or anybody else plays down Taylor’s Irishness, mind. Often, the opposite is true. Even on the eve of their fight, while she and Serrano stared each other down for the penultimate time at the electrifying weigh-in, Jake Paul’s mutterings of ‘And new’ were met with repeated shouts of ‘You’ll never beat the Irish’ by a beaming Hearn.

Indeed, what was interesting about the flag thrown towards Taylor during her ringwalk was that Hearn held onto it during the fight. In the immediate aftermath, when it seemed likely that the roof of Maidson Square Garden would be sent to orbit as Taylor celebrated one of the great Irish sporting victories, it was this exact flag which was draped around her shoulders by Brian Peters.

One Irish fan at MSG, perhaps still unbeknown to themselves, had quite wonderfully scribbled themselves into the iconography of a moment which Taylor would later describe as the greatest of her entire 20-plus-year career.

katie-taylor-celebrates-winning Taylor embraces a legendary victory. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

***

A moment of national celebration quickly morphed into a national conversation: could Katie Taylor finally fight in Ireland as a professional?

Taylor, meanwhile, has remained in America with her family since Saturday’s bout. Earlier this week, she was invited to Las Vegas by male boxing’s pound-for-pound king — and the sport’s leading superstar overall — Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, for the Mexican’s light-heavyweight title showdown with Russia’s Dmitry Bivol tonight.

It’s understood that Taylor will meet Canelo backstage at the T-Mobile Arena and she will also be introduced to the Vegas crowd from the ring in honour of her come-from-behind victory last weekend.

Eddie Hearn, who promotes Canelo and under whose Matchroom banner tonight’s superfight will take place, has moved to pour cold water over Taylor’s mooted rematch with Amanda Serrano at Croke Park in October.

Despite his apparent excitement about the prospect last week, Hearn has since described an October date at GAA HQ as a “non-starter”.

It’s likely that he will be implored to change this position.

Publicly, it would appear as though Hearn’s feet have already grown cold at the thought of staging an outdoor event in the middle of the relatively chilly Irish autumn. This is surely a phony concern when you consider that Lansdowne Road is routinely packed for Six Nations games, November rugby internationals, and the occasional football qualifier at significantly colder times of the year.

Privately, he may feel as though October is simply too soon to return to Dublin as his industry begins to correct itself — figuratively, anyway — following the US sanctions placed on Daniel Kinahan and the subsequent demise of the Kinahan co-founded management company, MTK Global.

Taylor has no connection whatsoever to either party but, in 2018, a homecoming bout pencilled in for Dublin’s 3Arena fell through when An Garda Síochána advised Hearn’s side that circumstances were not conducive to staging a major boxing event in the Irish capital.

This was two years after a fatal shooting at an MTK (then MGM) boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel, one in which Daniel Kinahan was a suspected target. While the Kinahan-Hutch feud raged on, gardaí were concerned by the extent to which they would have to provide resources to ensure the security of an even bigger event.

katie-taylor-celebrates-winning-with-eddie-hearn-and-brian-peters Taylor celebrates with manager Brian Peters and promoter Eddie Hearn in New York. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Ed Mulholland/INPHO

One big fly in the ointment was that several of Matchroom’s Irish fighters who were likely to populate Taylor’s prospective undercard were managed by MTK. While in theory, Matchroom could have staged a show in Ireland without them, the reality was that MTK and Kinahan had interwoven themselves into the prizefighting industry to such an extent that to get on their wrong side would risk further business complications for any major promotional outfit.

It remained the case for over four years that a maiden professional outing for Taylor in this country was just not worth the hassle for either Irish authorities or for the event’s stakeholders.

Now, there is significant political will behind the idea of staging a boxing event in Croker for the first time in half a century, this year marking 50 since Muhammad Ali explored his Irish roots and stopped Al ‘Blue’ Lewis in the 11th of 12 rounds on Jones’ Road.

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The turnout for Ali versus Lewis — somewhere between 18,000 and 25,000, many of whom didn’t pay to get in — is often used to illustrate the reality that this country, for all of its centuries of fistic pedigree, has never actually boasted a culture of fight attendance.

Somewhere in the region of 20,000 people turned up to watch Dan Donnelly’s two major prizefights at Belcher’s Hollow (now Donnelly’s Hollow) in The Curragh, Co. Kildare in 1814 and 1815, and this attendance has rarely been bettered in the 200-plus years since.

muhammad-ali-waves-to-photographers Muhammad Ali's visit to Ennis in 2009. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A greener Hearn experienced first-hand the pitfalls of promoting in Ireland during his last venture here in 2014, when his enjoyable Matthew Macklin-headlined Return of the Mack show fell well short of selling out the 9,000-capacity 3Arena.

Consequently, he may fear losing his arse on the gate for a Katie Taylor homecoming at the 82,000-capacity home of GAA.

Taylor, though, is vastly different to Macklin, and different even to the likes of Steve Collins and Carl Frampton who in comparatively recent times pipped Dan Donnelly’s early attendance records in their fights at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Windsor Park respectively. She is perceived in this country not merely as a boxer or even as a sportsperson, but as a kind of island-spanning cultural idol. Few Irish figures in modern times — sporting or otherwise — have been so universally admired by the people they represent.

Conceptually, too, a Taylor homecoming event at Croke Park would be designed in keeping with that iconic status: it would not be sold as merely a boxing match but as a national sporting celebration, the likes of which we haven’t experienced in Ireland since the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics at Croker in 2003.

The allegorical storyboard involves everything from family tickets to the attendance of President Michael D. Higgins. One of Taylor’s few heroes, Roy Keane, who phoned her at her lowest point following her Olympic exit in 2016 and text her ahead of last weekend’s Serrano bout to wish her luck, would almost certainly be invited to become part of of her ringwalk or, at least, for a dressing-room visit.

special-olympics-opening-ceremony The Special Olympics Opening Ceremony at Croke Park in 2003. Source: INPHO

There are also no concerns about the broadcast time: it’s understood that DAZN would cooperate fully with what would be an afternoon showing in the United States, and that what they may forfeit in American viewership they could offset with a larger UK and Irish audience than tuned in during the wee hours last Saturday. In any case, the long-term prestige of their brand being so closely associated with a generational sporting event might outweigh any small discrepancy in viewership.

For the undercard, Hearn counts on his books three highly regarded Irish fighters with no affiliation to MTK in Belfast up-and-comer Caoimhín Agyarko and his fellow Antrim men Tommy McCarthy and James Tennyson, both former European champs. In recent times, he has given opportunities to several more including Eric Donovan, Jason Quigley, Ray Moylette, Thomas O’Toole, Niall Kennedy and Thomas Carty, any or all of whom would shift tickets if matched against one of Hearn’s own Matchroom fighters. Equally, the Hennessy Sports-promoted McKenna brothers, Aaron and Stevie, are champing at the bit for a big break and would haul down with them a serious contingent from Monaghan.

katie-taylor-celebrates-winning Taylor soaks it in at MSG. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Of course, all of this is far easier described in theory than it is made. But there has never been a better opportunity in Taylor’s professional career to make it and, with her stock at an all-time high in the green-tinged afterglow of a career-biggest moment in New York, there may never be a better opportunity again.

The four years’ of acquiescing and platitudes and ‘one days’ were understandable. Last week’s moment in time in New York was biblical.

It’s time, now, to bring Katie Taylor home.

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