Katie Taylor laments her defeat to Chantelle Cameron in Dublin. Gary Carr/INPHO

Cameron and time catch up with Taylor to spoil homecoming party

A deflating night in Dublin, but one that made perfect sense.

THE HOPE IS always that a boxer will be able to leave their sport ‘on their own terms’.

Those terms are typically that they walk away from the sport with a still-fully functioning brain, most importantly, but also ideally that they jump before they are pushed by the next in line.

Katie Taylor’s terms were always going to be different to those for which the Irish sports fan would have wished for her.

It has been clear for a long time that Taylor, who has been boxing at an elite level for two decades and who turns 37 in August, is intent on competing in her sport until she crosses paths with an opponent who proves to her beyond reason that she is no longer the greatest female fighter on the planet.

It’s an uncomfortable thought but it is Taylor’s choice alone.

It shouldn’t be mistaken for naivety either. For all of her shyness in public, Taylor is an extraordinarily self-assured, forceful character in private. It was once joked to this writer that to advise her to retire from boxing would require an American-style ‘intervention’ attended by her mum, her siblings, her promoter, her management team and her trainer — and she’d probably still tell them all where to shove it.

Only a defeat in the professional ring was ever likely to give Taylor pause for thought on her future in the sport and, even at that, she will almost certainly seek to avenge that defeat before anything feels especially conclusive.

It is an illustration of Taylor’s epochal greatness that it took 17 world-title fights in a seven-year pro career — all of which have happened while she has been on a downward curve athletically — before time finally had its ‘gotcha’ moment.

Only freak athletes and drug cheats tend to make it as far as she has and, while former Republic of Ireland international footballer Taylor might have a touch of the former about her, the longevity of her unparalleled success in the ring has been predicated mostly upon an irreplicable dedication to her favourite pastime since she was nine.

And there was a long time even during Taylor’s professional career in which Chantelle Cameron wouldn’t have gotten within an ass’s roar of recording the result that she pulled off in Dublin on Saturday night.

In the end, it wasn’t just Cameron’s size advantage which proved decisive but her own technical ability which, while excellent in its own right, still pales in comparison to that of the Taylor we saw between 2005 and about 2020.

But it more than held up against the 2023 Taylor whose reflexes have faded and whose legs are not quite as robust as they once were, physical factors which these days inhibit her attack and render her a relatively static target in defence.

Taylor still brought the 8,000-capacity crowd to its feet with flashes of her old class and, as always, she summoned stirring moments of defiance from her gut; the last thing to leave her will surely be the supernatural force of will from which she draws when the you-know-what hits the fan.

But she was plainly a diluted version of even the 35-year-old Taylor who wrestled victory from the jaws of defeat against Amanda Serrano 13 months earlier, a performance with which she raged maniacally against the dying of the light and produced what may have been her final miracle.

None of these gnawing truths should detract at all from the magnitude of Cameron’s deserved victory, though: time plays a role in most major bouts, and bear in mind it was Taylor and her team who determined the timing of this one.

By all accounts, Cameron is the boxing equivalent of a footballer who ‘just needs an arm around them’, and so it stands to reason that she and Shane McGuigan didn’t make for a compatible partnership. In Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis, Cameron has found more sympathetic trainers whose methods equally won’t bring the best out of every boxer, but who have instilled in Cameron such self-belief and single-mindedness that she was able to shrug off the hostilities that awaited her to either side of the ropes in Dublin.

In the aftermath of her defence of her undisputed light-welterweight (140) title defence on Saturday, Cameron stated her intention to grant Taylor her contractually mandated rematch — but down at lightweight (135) which would mean that, this time around, it would be Taylor’s belts on the line.

The plan makes perfect business sense for one thing: if Taylor managed to reverse her defeat in a sequel, it would probably lead to a rubber match back up at light-welter.

But also in a boxing sense, to not only spoil Taylor’s homecoming with a first professional defeat, but to then come down in weight to take everything else that belongs to her, would be about the most bad-ass thing one boxer could do to another.

It might strike as cruel that Cameron would so readily push Taylor off the cliff into boxing extinction. In, reality, though, it would make for merely a natural occurrence in an ecosystem in which both she and Taylor are apex predators. There’s never enough food to go around.

Early indications are that their eventual rematch will take place again in Ireland, where it would still make the most financial sense to both fighters as well as Eddie Hearn and Matchroom.

For all of its logistical hassle, Hearn seemed to have a blast all week in Dublin. Taylor-Cameron at the 3Arena cost twice as much to put together as an equivalently sized event in England but Matchroom recouped a lot of those expenses at the gate, which yielded well over €2m.

Crucially, too, the week also moonlit as an opportunity for Hearn to schmooze with one of the few men in combat sports who is more famous than he is, Conor McGregor, with whom he has struck up a rapport since the MMA star — a genuine supporter of Taylor’s, whatever else you think of him — boarded the event as a sponsor.

Add to the equation that it will lead to one of the most anticipated rematches in boxing between Cameron and Taylor, and Hearn’s first promotional trip to Dublin in nine years can be considered a solid investment overall.

But even if Matchroom do return here for Cameron-Taylor II, it will probably turn out to be their last trip here for a number of years.

Gary Cully’s stunning stoppage defeat to Mexico’s Josesito Felix in the chief support bout on Saturday night means that, beyond Taylor, Hearn doesn’t have a reason to promote in Dublin again for the foreseeable future.

In reality, Irish professional boxing possesses neither the young figurehead nor the overall depth of talent to reincarnate the Bernard Dunne Days, at least for the time being.

Prospects such as Limerick’s Paddy Donovan, who earned a brilliant victory on Taylor’s undercard, and Cork’s Callum Walsh, who is making waves on America’s West Coast, will tell you that they are the future exceptions — and more power to them.

In the cold light of the present, however, an electrifying event in Dublin on Saturday night feels like it was the end of one great thing, not the start of another.

All the things they say about time are true: it waits for nobody, and it remains undefeated in boxing.

It’s also a healer. Regardless of what happens next, Katie Taylor’s name will one day belong to history alongside its greatest boxers, 99% of whom also tasted defeat or carried on for a couple of fights too many.

The same thing that made them great is what drove them to compete even when their time seemed to have already been and gone. Invariably, those are their terms.

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