Taylor back to her thrilling best on a night that was about so much more than the result

The outcome was a mere formality but there was pressure on the Bray boxer to set the tone for a journey she hopes will take her to unprecedented heights.

Taylor celebrates victory at London's Wembley Arena.
Taylor celebrates victory at London's Wembley Arena.
Image: Steven Paston

“I was caught

In the middle of a railroad track (thunder),

I looked round,

And I knew there was no turning back (thunder).”

SHORTLY BEFORE KATIE Taylor made her grand entrance on Saturday evening, promotor Eddie Hearn stepped into the Bray boxer’s dressing room in the bowels of London’s Wembley Arena.

With a stable of high-profile fighters, this is something Hearn tends to do before his client enters the ring. He goes in and has a quiet word, no doubt wishing them luck and offering some form of encouragement.

Never one to be shy of voicing his opinion, Hearn was, on this occasion, left speechless. He didn’t know what to say to Taylor, instead opting for a nod of the head.

There was no turning back.

In the end, it took Taylor just three rounds to dispose of the first challenge put to her in the professional ranks. It was clinical, emphatic and ruthless. It was Katie Taylor back on top form.

The outcome was never really in question. Instead, Saturday was all about the performance and Taylor delivered in typically thrilling fashion. After a tough year, it was good to see the smile back on her face.

It was a night when Taylor, a five-time world amateur champion, demonstrated all of the attributes that have made her such a success. The precision, the execution, the power. They were all back in sync and combined to devastating effect.

Wembley SSE Arena Boxing Taylor was far too strong for her opponent and made light work of the Pole. Source: Steven Paston

A crowd of somewhere in the region of 3,000 watched on as Taylor, wearing black shorts with a gold trim and KATIE emblazoned on the belt, dominated from the first bell. Thousands more tuned in across Ireland and the UK on Sky Sports and you couldn’t help but be impressed.

Tougher tests undoubtedly lie ahead — journeywoman Karina Kopinska wasn’t on the same level — but this was the perfect start in every sense of the word.

It was the first step on the way to fulfilling those lofty title ambitions and a start on tackling the sizable task of changing people’s opinions and removing the antiquated ideologies and stereotypes associated with women’s boxing.

The significance of these early stages, in trying to capture the public’s imagination and prove the skeptics wrong, cannot be understated. Taylor knows it and so does Hearn.

The reality of the situation is that the outcome of her first forays into professional boxing will not determine whether Taylor sinks or prospers in this game. She isn’t expected to meet an opponent anyway close to her standard until next year, so how she wins is of more importance.

To be the best in the business, she has to become the business.

Hearn and her manager, Brian Peters, have already booked Taylor in for big fight nights in Manchester and New York and are likely to add another English date and a trip to Scandinavia to the schedule for early 2017.

Saturday’s debut wasn’t in the original plan with her camp arranging it hastily in an attempt to maximise interest ahead of Taylor’s appearance on the Anthony Joshua undercard in less than two weeks.

Katie Taylor celebrates her win with Eddie Hearn Taylor and Hearn celebrate. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After announcing herself on the pro stage on Saturday, Manchester provides an opportunity for further exposure in-front of a sell-out crowd of 21,000 and thousands more at home.

These early stages are about raising Taylor’s profile and building the brand. In the ring, to entertain and wow the crowd and outside of it to become the face of women’s boxing.

Hearn has already identified Taylor’s marketability and saw Saturday as a chance to put her in the shop window for potential sponsors and partners to come on board. The ‘KT’ brand is an attractive one to be associated with.

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But what worth is having commercial capacity if people don’t buy into women’s boxing and Taylor? The two go hand-in-hand and Hearn, as an acute businessman, is aware of that.

“You only get a couple of cracks at the non-believers,” he said last week.

Therein lies the challenge for Taylor. Her transition into the pro game will be seamless, as Saturday showed, but the real test will be to break down the barriers.

If she is to become a truly global superstar, a pioneer for women’s boxing and join the likes of Ronda Rousey as defining sports people of their generation, Taylor will need to do more than just win.

“The winning is important but with the evolution of women’s boxing it’s a whole lot more than that but I think she gets that,” Hearn added.

“I would never say to her ‘you’ve got to look good here, look exciting’ because you can’t say that but that’s what I really want to tell her.”

No doubt it was on Hearn’s mind when he popped into the dressing room on Saturday evening. He was met by a fighter determined to set the tone; start as you mean to go on.

And Taylor did just that with the type of performance we’ve become accustomed to seeing from her. Normal service has resumed, and now there’s no turning back.

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‘I won the fight and didn’t get the recognition but that’s the way boxing is going. It’s sickening’

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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