PROFESSIONAL boxing can be a theatre for the ridiculous. At a press conference in London this week, ahead of tonight’s show at Wembley Arena, Italian WBC Silver titlist Andrea Scarpa, who will box Ohara Davies, read out a speech in broken English, declaring solemnly, “I’m serious. I’m f***ing serious.” British title challenger Ronnie Clarke glared at Martin Ward and then attempted to insert his own chewing gum in Martin’s mouth.
But a figure apart from all the madness is Katie Taylor. She speaks softly, it forces listeners actually to lean forward, pay close attention, hang on her words. Her achievements are already groundbreaking. Ireland’s first female boxer, a five time, record equalling amateur World champion, unbeaten in a decade, one of the first female Olympic gold medallists, she makes her professional debut tonight, against Karina Kopinska, at Wembley Arena.
“I’m feeling great. I’m very excited about it,” she told Boxing News. “I’m very excited about boxing live on Sky as well. I think this is huge for women’s boing. This is the platform women’s boxing needs.”
Taylor has found herself in an unaccustomed position. Looking essentially invincible for so long, astonishingly Taylor lost three times in 2016. A shock defeat to Yana Alekseevna at the first Olympic qualifier put her under real pressure. She was unfortunate to lose a decision to Estelle Mossely at the World championships and then conceded a close decision at Rio 2016 to Mira Potkonen.
“It’s just very disappointing really. It was just a really poor performance on my part,” Katie said of the Olympics. “I should be beating those girls a bit more clearly.”
She admits she had lost faith in the amateur sport. “I think I definitely became despondent, disillusioned with the amateur game over the last year or so. I’ve seen so many bad results over this past year. I’m talking about my results, just in general,” she said. “I definitely felt like there’s an awful lot of bad decisions over this year. These boxers have put their heart and soul into training every single day. For the judges to just take it away from them like that is very, very heartbreaking. You’ve seen in the Olympics from the very, very start to the finish there were bad decisions. The reality is the boxers stood on those podiums didn’t really deserve to be there a lot of the time, so the better boxers weren’t going through and it was very disheartening to watch. At the same time amateur boxing has been very good to me over the years as well. Representing my country in those Olympic Games was the biggest honour of my life.”
She has linked up with new trainer, Ross Enamait. “I’ve been familiar with Ross for years now. I used to have his books lying around the house. I just initially made the contact with him. I asked could I go for a few weeks on a training camp, straightaway there was just an instant connection. Straightaway I could see the progress, see the improvements,” Taylor said. “I think this is the start of a great partnership between the two of us.
“I just needed a change and I got in contact with Ross in the States and the more time I spent with him in the pro gyms, the more appetite I got for the pro game. I knew then I wanted to turn pro. I got in touch with Eddie [Hearn, the promoter] and asked would he be interested.”
She has both turned professional and is boxing soon after Rio 2016, despite already having had three major tournaments in an active year. “I think I felt ready to box. I didn’t feel I needed any sort of a rest. A change is as good as a rest,” she said. “I feel like I have the love back for the sport, that spark again. I think that’s going to show.”
Returning to London should rekindle that fire. Huge crowds came to the city to support Taylor in her first Olympics four years ago. “It’s a good omen for boxing here in London,” she said. “I’ve got great memories here and it’s great to be making my debut here as well. It’s very, very exciting for me.”