Katie Taylor does it again. Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO
i told y'all

'I can’t believe so many people were writing me off to be honest... I'm back on top again'

As Katie Taylor basked in her greatest ever glory, Eddie Hearn re-launched his campaign for a Taylor fight at Croke Park.

KATIE TAYLOR SHARED an elevator with Eddie Hearn in the immediate aftermath of her first professional defeat to Chantelle Cameron at Dublin’s 3Arena back in May.

The promoter broached the topic of the rematch clause in Taylor’s contract, gingerly informing her that it would need to be exercised the following week if the sequel was to be binding on Cameron’s end. Hearn stressed that they could chat it about it properly a few days later, by which stage Taylor would have had time to mull things over.

“Exercise it,” came the response.

Taylor’s preparation for Saturday night’s glory began in that lift.

A little bit further down the line, when she was back in her adopted home of Vernon, Connecticut, Taylor flicked on the original bout from May.

She lasted 10 seconds.

There was little point in looking back for visual confirmation of the physical and emotional shortcomings that she had already felt.

The external consensus was that Taylor, deep into the championship rounds of a 25-year boxing journey, had finally taken on too much in moving up a division to challenge the younger, fresher, stronger Cameron for her undisputed light-welterweight title.

On Saturday night, Taylor took immense satisfaction from proving otherwise as she once again took her career to heights that, at 37, seemed unimaginable to the rest of us.

“It definitely feels like the greatest night of my career so far,” Taylor said following her majority-decision revenge win over Cameron at the same Dublin venue.

“I think it was the longest six months of my life waiting for this rematch.

Over the last six months I’d just go to bed thinking about this rematch. Just the pressure over the last few months as well, everybody writing me off… I can’t believe so many people were writing me off to be honest.

“This win meant so much to me. A two-weight undisputed champion, in front of my home crowd…

“Coming off a loss, I went the extra mile in training. I put my body through torture for this rematch.

“We knew we were going to be well prepared coming into this rematch but definitely, people writing me off… I was nearly half-offended that people were actually writing me off so much. It’s great to prove people wrong – and I’m back on top again.

“The atmosphere is always so special, but tonight was a very, very special night for myself. I’m overwhelmed sometimes thinking of the support I get… Yeah, I can hardly speak at the moment,” Taylor laughed.

katie-taylor-after-being-declared-the-winner Taylor basks in her greatest glory. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The exhausted Taylor turned to trainer Ross Enamait for assistance when she was invited to expand upon why she had felt better prepared for the rematch than had been the case for the first bout in May.

“She was healthier,” came the typically curt response from Enamait, who is rarely keen to indulge in his own achievements — mind you, he was wearing a t-shirt with a subtle message for the media emblazoned across its chest: ‘You don’t know sh** about boxing.’

“More sleep!” laughed Taylor’s manager, Brian Peters, from the wings of the conference room.

There were other factors too, of course, such as Taylor’s concerted effort to take out of the equation Cameron’s jab, the warning shot behind which the Englishwoman detonates her more potent explosives.

Taylor had visibly improved in the clinch, too, where she was able to smother Cameron’s onslaughts at least more effectively than had been the case six months earlier.

Promoter Eddie Hearn, meanwhile, pointed towards Taylor’s decision to avoid the pageantry of fight week as far as was possible, which included the cancellation of a short sit-down with the Irish media at Thursday’s press conference.

Her evasion of such traditional formalities had made Hearn’s job slightly harder, but it had been vindicated.

“As you guys know, I let Katie to herself,” the promoter told the assembled press. “I’ve got unbelievable respect for her, I don’t like to get involved because she does sometimes scare me and this week particularly, I’ve just been like…” Hearn raises his hands.

“I could see her all week and I know that you guys didn’t get the time that you necessarily wanted but you also knew why, and you took it on the chin well and you acknowledge that.

“No one really moaned to me anyway — thank you — but when you talk about a true great, you just hold your hands up.

“I wouldn’t have even said to her this week, ‘Do us a favour, just do a couple more interviews.’ I was petrified. And normally I’d say it to Brian. I didn’t even say anything to Brian! Brian just looked at me and went, ‘Don’t even. No. Go away.’

“And Ross did a great job of pulling her out of situations. That’s what a team does.

“She wanted to go and see kids and sign autographs (at Wednesday’s public workout at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre) and Ross went, ‘Out.’

“And that was the difference tonight because last time she looked spent. Physically, she wasn’t herself. It’s draining and the team did well to make sure she went in with plenty of energy.”

Reflecting on his seven years as Taylor’s promoter, and the extent to which she has changed the face of professional boxing forever, Hearn described it as “genuinely one of the most enjoyable” experiences of his career.

“I’m just so pleased we got this chapter,” the Matchroom boss added. “Even if tonight [had been] the final part of the story, I would have been delighted that we got the opportunity to fight twice in Ireland.

“But as it happens, there’s a few more chapters to go yet.”

Their primary author, Taylor, had made clear her intentions in the ring post-fight when she uncharacteristically grabbed the mic from her broadcast interviewer and launched a call to action for a Croke Park bout.

She echoed as much at the post-fight presser: “It would be amazing: 80,000 people and the most iconic stadium. That’s what we’ve been looking for, really, over the past year.

“It has been amazing to fight here in the 3Arena but Croke Park would be iconic.”

katie-taylor-is-interviwed-after-being-declared-the-winner Taylor called for a Croke Park bout in the ring following victory over Cameron. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

A rubber match with Cameron or a second bout with Amanda Serrano would top the agenda for GAA HQ as far as dance partners would be concerned.

Asked by a young English video reporter if she would have a preference between the two, Taylor replied: “I really don’t care. Either one, to be honest. Which one would you prefer?”

“Don’t put me on the spot like that,” laughed the reporter, suddenly gun-shy.

“You put me on the spot!” Taylor laughed back.

But how realistic is Croke Park, really?

Hearn began: “I’ve got to be careful, I don’t want to upset anyone in the process, so maybe Brian — the local — can come in and have these friendly chats with people.

“But I feel like everyone has to put the pressure on, from the country to politicians to the sport.”

Hearn wasn’t especially careful in the end, passionately reopening the can of worms that led to the binning of a prospective Croker homecoming around this time last year: he and the director of Croke Park Ltd, Peter McKenna, were simply miles apart on the numbers. (Somewhere in the region of 700,000 miles, by this writer’s understanding).

“We could make a financial case (to the Irish government) on the tourism and why an event like this would be a huge success for this country”, Hearn said, “but if they can’t understand the compassionate side of giving this event and night to their greatest ever athlete, then I really don’t know what we’re doing.

“All we’re asking for is for the cost to be in line with the biggest stadia in the world where we hold boxing. We don’t want a free stadium — if they want to give us one, that would be marvellous! All we’re saying is could we just make it there or there abouts (price-wise) with a Wembley or Millennium Stadium or Dallas Cowboys.

“Should we just all try and work together… what a moment that would be.

“You see that tonight — and that’s only 9,000. The difference with going to Croke Park is that we could make it more accessible to people.

“We had to hit numbers on the gate. The tickets tonight were expensive and not everybody can go. Go to the shopping centre (for the public workout), you’ve got all generations: eight, nine-year-olds, you’ve got granddads… And when you’ve got €30 tickets or cheaper — and tens of thousands of them — it’s going to be a massive celebration for generations in this country.

“To see those people come out would be a visual moment this country would never forget.”

Hearn elaborated that Matchroom would be content to earn the same gate revenue from the 3Arena — just shy of €3m; a massive figure for boxing — for a Croke Park event with seven or eight times the footfall.

He reiterated, though, that Croke Park wouldn’t presently make business sense, with Taylor’s own purse a significant factor in his thinking.

“Of course, every athlete, every boxer wants to make money and Katie’s never one that’s going to… y’know… she’s got a team to push that. But I want to deliver that.

“We’re always under pressure. It’s all very well saying, ‘Oh, she’s changed the face of the sport, she’s broken down barriers.’ When it’s all said and done, you better make sure you get what you deserve while you’re doing all those things. We just want to make sure that if she was fighting at Croke Park, she would make the same purse as she would receive at Wembley Stadium.

“Some people don’t like to talk about the money side. I will. I have to make sure she gets absolutely what she deserves. And at the current costs (of Croke Park), she just wouldn’t.

“And the numbers don’t make sense. I have to deliver her the right number. It’s my job.”

a-general-view-of-croke-park-during-the-warm-ups Hearn still harbours ambitions of hosting a Taylor fight at GAA HQ. Leah Scholes / INPHO Leah Scholes / INPHO / INPHO

Asked why he believed it possible at all to sway Croke Park, the government, or both towards his line of thinking, Hearn replied: “Because how can you not provide that?

“I mean, you guys have had a pretty rough week, right?” he added, alluding to Thursday’s stabbing incident and consequent riots in Dublin.

Tonight, you look around and, not being funny, but when we come to this country — not to sound cheesy — the welcome that we receive is unbelievable. It’s the only place I don’t get booed! People stopping me in the car: ‘EDDIE! UP KATIE TAYLOR! YESSS!’

“And that’s such a great feeling. So, when you saw the things that happened this week and then you see tonight, and you see people with passion and holding the flag up and supporting one of their own… We’re just asking you to let one of your greatest athletes of all time have her night.

“Also, to have a night that will drive unbelievable tourism and financial benefit for the city and the country — more so than a yachting tournament or something else that they (the government) will support. And I like yachting.”

It was then put to Taylor that on a dark week for country and, in particular, its capital city, she had brought a sliver of light to the Irish public.

“Well, if that’s the case, I’m very happy with that,” replied the two-weight undisputed champion. “I think it’s… I was heartbroken to hear about the stabbing of five and six-year-old kids. It’s absolutely cowardly and I can’t even fathom what those families are going through.

“I’m very happy to be a light in the country at this moment and my heart’s going out to those families, genuinely.”

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