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Taylor on Harrington: 'What she's doing for those kids - inspiring a generation - is very, very special'

‘The young girls growing up actually watching Kellie win that gold medal: you have no idea what that’s going to do for kids in that area.’

Kellie Harrington, Katie Taylor and Irish boxing head coach Zaur Antia pictured following the 2016 World Championships.
Kellie Harrington, Katie Taylor and Irish boxing head coach Zaur Antia pictured following the 2016 World Championships.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Updated Aug 31st 2021, 8:02 PM

‘REAL RECOGNISE REAL’, as the kids say, and Katie Taylor recognises a fellow Irish-sporting phenomenon when she sees one.

Professional undisputed lightweight champion Taylor and Olympic lightweight gold medalist Kellie Harrington never fought when they shared the amateur ranks and generally did their own things even when part of the same national-team setup (Harrington recalls one single spar between them years ago; Taylor doesn’t).

But Taylor cheered on with admiration from her home in Connecticut as Harrington achieved her crowning moment in Tokyo earlier this month, winning Ireland’s 11th ever Olympic gold, its first in the sport of boxing since Taylor’s own stunning success at London 2012.

“I was obviously the proudest person in the world watching all of the Irish athletes perform and to see Kellie’s victory was absolutely phenomenal,” said Taylor, who is days removed from a defence of her professional world titles against American Jennifer Han in Leeds this Saturday (live on DAZN). “It was such a great performance.

“I was glued to the whole Olympic Games throughout but just to see her compete and perform at the highest level — to perform so well, as well — was absolutely incredible.

“Just the honour of representing your country at the Olympic Games, really, there’s nothing better — but bringing so much pride and honour to your country is something very, very special.

Kellie’s success over the last few years, I think, has been absolutely phenomenal but especially for kids in the Dublin inner city. What she’s doing for those kids, inspiring a generation, is very, very special. Just seeing the excitement of people even watching her — the kids, the young girls growing up actually watching Kellie win that gold medal; you have no idea what that’s going to do for kids in that area.

“Such an amazing win and a phenomenal performance,” Taylor gushed.

Due to the degree of separation between them when Taylor ruled the roost at 60kg up until five years ago, hers and Harrington’s respective legacies are almost entirely separate entities — or as separate as any Irish female Olympic boxer’s legacy can be from Taylor’s. There will always be inextricable links in that Taylor competed in the first ever sanctioned women’s bout in Ireland over half her life ago; and in that three years out from the London Games at which she took gold, the Bray woman boxed de-facto trials in order to help convince the IOC to accept women’s boxing into the Olympics in the first place.

Harrington’s achievement in Tokyo is certainly her own, but Taylor takes a degree of personal pride in it too: it is part of a longer story — one that Taylor hopes is still in its introductory chapters.

“Me getting involved in the sport, competing in the Olympic Games and bringing back that gold medal was all to inspire the next generation. I feel like the girls competing [in Tokyo] — Kellie, Michaela Walsh, and Aoife O’Rourke; those girls competing is part of my legacy as well.

“This what I’m in the sport for: to inspire girls to go on and achieve more than I’ve ever done. That’s what true legacy is all about.”

As for whether those legacies could ever directly intertwine depends on Harrington’s next move. The Dubliner has received offers to turn professional but is yet to publicise a decision on her immediate future.

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Talk of a prospective professional fight between the two Irish boxing greats tends to get people’s backs up, and understandably: it’s seen by some as merely an attempt to generate headlines, the forced creation of friction between two of the most well-intentioned figures in Irish sport.

The reality, however uncomfortable, is that if Harrington does go pro, and if she was to start well, a fight between her and Taylor would be explored by all parties for both commercial and competitive reasons.

Until then, it remains conjecture. “A fight between me and her?” Taylor asks, echoing the question of a British journalist on Tuesday’s media call. “I dunno. I guess if she decides to go pro, we can talk about that but for the time being, I have my own opponents to focus on.”

First up, it’s former long-reigning IBF featherweight world champion Jennifer Han whom Taylor faces this Saturday night, exclusively live on the streaming platform DAZN.

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