ON October 28 the eyes of the boxing world will be cast towards Cardiff for the latest showing from world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, as he defends his crowns against Bulgarian challenger Kubrat Pulev.
The undefeated heavyweight star has swiftly become one of the leading attractions in the sport, transcending beyond solely boxing stardom with his thrilling victory over Wladimir Klitschko in April.
While ‘AJ’ rightfully shone on the biggest night of his career to date in front of 90,000 Wembley spectators, another former Olympic gold medallist had already made an earlier impression on those in attendance and the many more tuning in.
Ireland’s quickly rising boxing queen Katie Taylor was on hand to stop German opponent Nina Meinke in London that night, picking up her first professional belt in the process; the WBA Inter-Continental lightweight title.
That success took her to five straight wins in the paid ranks, having dispatched challengers with ease in the English capital and Manchester, while she later made her mark with a clinical American debut in July too.
A three-round destruction of Jasmine Clarkson set the Bray-born boxer up for a deserved crack at world title honours on October 28.
On Welsh soil, before Joshua goes toe-to-toe with Pulev, Taylor will challenge Argentine Anahi Sanchez for her currently held WBA lightweight strap in the same ring.
The 31-year-old will look to follow in the footsteps of the only two Irish female world champions in history, Deirdre Gogarty and Christina McMahon, when she climbs through the ring ropes next.
Regarded as the pioneer of women’s boxing in Ireland, Gogarty lifted the IBF featherweight title back in 1997 when outpointing American Bonnie Canino in Louisiana.
Almost two decades later, Monaghan native McMahon travelled to Zambia and dethroned Catherine Phiri to claim the interim WBC bantamweight strap.
At the age of 40, it was a standalone achievement for Ireland’s first ever female professional boxer, never mind other accomplishments along the way. It’s a feat that she believes newest ladies star and compatriot Taylor will emulate on October 28, despite such a tough task at hand in the current climate.
“Katie Taylor is one of those special athletes that has brought the media attention from the very start, breaking down barriers, bringing love to the amateur game and we are proud that she is Irish,” McMahon told Boxing News.
“I think the pro game is very big and wide open and not always the best boxers come true. It’s a business first and can be cruel. I believe Katie will triumph for sure and has amazing ability and focus.
“But it will be hard to break the barriers in the pro game too. Like Laila Ali, a great boxer and daughter of the greatest, Cecilia Braekhus, unbeaten and holding all world titles and indeed our own brave Deirdre Gogarty from Ireland, who made her way to the top against the odds. There are some unbelievable stories of strong females in the pro game.”
Taylor has already shot to stardom back on home soil through her decorated amateur career, while impressively helping push the women’s sport into the mainstream in recent years.
But she will step out in Cardiff with extreme hopes and expectations placed upon her shoulders, as she attempts to capture a world title on such a huge stage.
It’s a path that McMahon knows all too well.
“I’m very proud to have travelled so far and won on someone else’s home ground knowing I wasn’t there as the favourite. Thirty million people watched my fight and I did two TV interviews while there,” stated the now 42-year-old.
“The amazing part for me was I had no idea what hype would follow or the challenge I was about to achieve. I was used to winning abroad in kickboxing behind the scenes with very small media attention, with only the self satisfaction of achieving my goal. So really I took the world title as an underdog with no expectation and certainly no pressure.
“It was bliss. However, when I went further as a world champion and became known in the sport, it brought on the next chapter of setbacks and horrible goings on and that’s a story I’ll write about in my book some day.”
McMahon is currently off the women’s ranking scale due to inactivity, caused by a WBC suspension for supposedly breaking their code of ethics, but previously slotted in at number six in the world and was top of the pile in Europe.
Interestingly, that 2015 crowning world title success came in her seventh professional career outing, while Taylor will also attempt to enjoy her finest hour in the same number of fights this month.
It may not be Croke Park or the National Stadium closer to her home Irish territory, but Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium is where Taylor could earn the latest honour in her already glittered career.
The popular former Olympic heroine will take another step towards superstardom with victory on the night of Joshua’s latest high-profile heavyweight battle, as she continues to take women’s boxing to the next level with her admirable ring efforts.
“Women’s boxing became popular once it became an Olympic sport and that part was most certainly down to Katie and her team at the time,” continued a highly approving McMahon.
“Now it’s the transition of Katie Taylor, Nicola Adams and Claressa Shields and lots more female Olympians, who are attracting the public eye. It’s for sure growing and won’t be stopped by critics.
“I’m looking forward to retiring and sitting back watching female boxing evolve to a new level and I’m proud to be part of it as Ireland’s first licensed pro boxer and world champion.”