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‘The first time I’ve ever been star-struck’: When Katie met Roy… and ‘challenged him’ to a fight

Katie Taylor hopes to fight in Cork later this year — but Ireland’s assistant manager won’t be stepping into the ring with her.

Katie and Roy:
Katie and Roy: "One of the best days of last year."
Image: @KatieTaylor via Twitter

KATIE TAYLOR WAS quite literally lost for words when she met her childhood hero Roy Keane.

Before giving up football to concentrate on boxing, Ireland’s Olympic champion won 19 international caps for the girls in green.

She has never been shy about her admiration for former Manchester United legend Keane and even tipped him to replace Giovanni Trapattoni.

The two met last year at the Latvia friendly, Keane’s first game as assistant to Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

“That was one of the best days of last year,” Taylor said. “It was fantastic.

“He was my absolute hero growing up and I think it was the first time I’ve ever been star-struck by someone to be honest, so my knees were going weak.

I didn’t know what to say to him. I’m sure he’s thinking I have to give up the boxing because I couldn’t string a sentence together.

He’s a complete gent and it was just a pleasure to meet him really.

Keane, who had a 16-year professional career before retiring from football in 2006, shared some advice as Taylor continues to assert herself as the world’s undisputed lightweight queen.

“We talked about a bit of everything really. He was just saying that there were times that he kind of took it a bit too seriously and he couldn’t enjoy it, so he was telling me it’s important to enjoy my sport.”

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Taylor in action for Ireland in 2009 (INPHO/Neil Danton)

The Corkman was undefeated as a schoolboy boxer growing up in Mayfield but he let his hardman image slip when Taylor — the four-time world champion and five-time European champion — jokingly challenged him to a charity bout.

“He said he had a couple of fights and was unbeaten so he retired undefeated. He comes from a background of boxing as well so he knows about the sport.

“I was actually challenging him to a charity match”, she joked, “but he wouldn’t have it!

It was just great to meet him really. I think sometimes when you meet your heroes it can be a bit of a disappointment but nothing could be further than the truth with him.

Even without Keane, Taylor is set to fight in Rebel country later this year. Speaking yesterday at the €300,000 transformation of Bray Boxing Gym, her coach and father Pete confirmed that they hope to arrange some exhibition bouts against international opposition, possibly in the Silversprings Hotel ahead of the World Championships in the autumn.

“I think everyone would like to see the Queen Underwood fight again,” Taylor said. “That’s the fight I’d love to get.

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Taylor with (L-R) her father Pete, Minister of State Michael Ring and Adam Nolan at the re-opening of Bray Boxing Gym yesterday (INPHO / Donall Farmer)

“I haven’t boxed her in a few years and she’s just won the American title, I think, so she’s in great form and that would be an exciting fight to be a part of.

“Whether that fight will go ahead or not, I’m not sure, but that’s a fight I’d love to take place here in Ireland in front of my home crowd.

But any top international boxer really would be great to box against. I just want to get someone over who’s going to challenge me where I have to be at my best to beat them. They’re the opponents I need.

Taylor’s last fights of a relatively quiet 2013 came in November when she beat Caroline Veyre and Mira Potkonen in Dublin’s Mansion House and a homecoming bout in Bray.

But she faces a much busier schedule this year including a trip to Toronto where she will be Grand Marshall at the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade and possible fights in Dubai and Abu Dhabi later in the year.

More importantly she has the biggest year possible, bar the Olympics, as she bids to win a sixth European title and a remarkable fifth World Championship.

But first up will be the National Championships — provided there is an opponent to face her next month.

“I’m training as hard as I can. I’m not going to get complacent about it. I’ll train as if someone is going to weigh in for it and I’m going to be prepared.

“I hope someone weighs in. I don’t like winning titles in walkovers – it doesn’t mean anything. I’d love to have someone to box against.”

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Niall Kelly

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