In-depth with Katie Taylor – ‘I just wish I’d enjoyed the journey a bit more’

Katie Taylor
'Without the Olympic Games, I don't think professional women's boxing would be where it is right now.' Katie Taylor speaks to Matt Christie

What are your memories of your fight with Natasha Jonas at the London Olympics in 2012?

Katie Taylor – I can’t really remember too much of the fight, to be quite honest. The fights themselves are always a bit of a blur but I do remember the atmosphere and putting my Olympic gear on before the fight and thinking ‘ohh gosh, this actually happening, my childhood dream has come to pass here’. Seeing Team Ireland, the Olympic rings, the shorts and the vest I was wearing was such a proud moment for me. Then boxing in front of 10,000 Irish people was unbelievable. After the fight I met up with my family who are all over supporting me, I just had a bit of food with them and then went back to the Olympic village to focus on the next fight. I can’t really remember too much other than the atmosphere, it was a pinch me moment, ‘this is actually happening and I’m boxing for my country in the Olympic Games here, my childhood dream come to pass’.

Was it a seminal moment for women’s boxing?

A lot of people said it was the best fight of the whole Olympic Games, I think. It was the first time also that the whole world got to see women’s boxing on a top-class level. Those Olympic games has prepared us for what we’re seeing now in the pro game. For the first time in the pro game, I feel like we’re seeing women’s boxing at the very, very best because these girls are coming through with a great amateur pedigree as well. It’s been an amazing journey, that’s for sure.

Do you think professional women’s boxing would be where it is today without London 2012?

Without the Olympic Games, I don’t think professional women’s boxing would be where it is right now. I feel it’s a lot stronger right now just because we’re all coming through with a strong amateur pedigree and that’s really, really important. Before that 10 years ago we were seeing women’s pro boxing where fighters were learning on the job, they didn’t have a lot of amateur pedigree, didn’t have a lot of amateur experience and they’re picking these things up later on in their life. Nowadays the girls are starting from 10 or 11 years of age and they have a hope of becoming Olympic champion from there, they have a hope to become world champions in the professional ranks.

Katie Taylor
Mark Robinson/Matchroom

Can you believe everything you have achieved?

It’s definitely been an amazing, amazing journey. From starting boxing at 10 or 11 years of age, having this dream of becoming Olympic champion when women’s boxing wasn’t even an Olympic sport, just continuing to break down barriers over the years and here we are now. We’re at the pinnacle of women’s pro boxing right now where we’re seeing amazing fight after amazing fight, all of these big cards. We are just seeing now it’s not a circus act anymore, we’re seen as genuine boxers and athletes, that to me is everything.

If you had told your 10 or 11-year-old self what was in store, would she have believed you?

I think at 10 or 11 years of age, I was just so naive. I always thought I was going to be at the top, I always thought it was eventually going to be there, I had so much belief and that’s what kept me going in the early years. Even when I wasn’t getting any fights I was genuinely believed that we were going to get to a place where we were going to be recognised and from 10 or 11 years of age, there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t think about that Olympic gold medal, that’s what kept me going.

If you could offer that same 11-year-old girl one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d probably tell her to enjoy the journey a bit more. I always feel like after each victory I’m always so focused on the next one and I guess that’s just my competitive spirit coming in. But sometimes I wish I had the discipline to actually enjoy the victories that bit more. I’m still preaching to myself right now! I’d definitely tell her to try to enjoy it that bit more. Even the Olympic gold medal that I did win, when I was on the plane home from London, I was already thinking about the Rio Olympics. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I probably should have.

Will you ever be able to truly appreciate what you’ve achieved?

I think I will eventually. Right now I’m focused on what I need to do but I think once I retire from the sport I will take a moment to look back. I’m not one for looking back in general but there probably will be a stage where I do look back and think about all the stuff that our generation of fighters have actually done.

Katie Taylor discusses her rivalry with Natasha Jonas, her astonishing career and the one piece of advice she'd give to her teenage self

This fight against Jonas is probably the best on the whole card. Should it have been the main event?

A lot of people have said that to me. I think it would probably be worthy of a main event. But also Parker and Chisora is worthy of a main event, it’s a huge heavyweight fight, isn’t it? Maybe on a different day it would have been a main event but regardless it doesn’t really matter, I’m just there to put on a great performance, I’m not really too hung up on those things.

In this week’s Boxing News, Thomas Hauser says in 20 years’ time female boxers will look back and say they wish they could have fought the great Katie Taylor. How does that make you feel?

It’s a lovely compliment, it’s always nice to hear nice things about yourself, regardless of who it is. It’s always a very nice compliment, I suppose. The journey has been amazing and I feel like women’s boxing has come such a long way. There are so many household names right now in women’s boxing, you have the likes of Savannah Marshall, Amanda Serrano and Claressa Shields. That’s incredible for the sport.

What else do you want to achieve?

The girls you just mentioned I’d love to step into the ring with those girls, I’d love to become a multiple-weight world champion, I’d love to headline a big pay-per-view event in the future, I think that would be huge for the sport as well, if that’s a possibility. I just want to continue to break down those barriers, I think we’ve even made a lot of ground over the last few years. With the money, for example, when I first started as a professional boxer, the female boxers were making pennies in comparison to the male fighters. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground in that area so I’d love to just continue to do that as well.

This will be your third time fighting behind closed doors and it doesn’t seem to phase you one bit. What do you prefer, fighting in front of crowds or behind closed doors?

I’m definitely eager for the crowds to come back, that’s for sure. But I’m just so grateful to be still getting fights during the pandemic as well, there’s a lot of fighters who have been sidelined over the last year because of what’s gone on. Because I have fights lined up I’m always in the gym focused on the next fight. Once you get in there it doesn’t make a difference, you’re just focusing on what’s happening in the ring. But I can’t wait for the atmosphere to be back. It’s mad, the last time I actually fought Tasha, we broke the decibel level in the area but now we’re going to be fighting in front of an empty arena. The difference is crazy and it’s a sign of the times. But I definitely can’t wait for the crowds to be back.

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