Katie Talyor is going into what has been dubbed ‘the biggest fight ever in women’s boxing’ with her eyes wide open, knowing victory over Amanda Serrano can catapult her towards immortality in the sport.
The Irish superstar, the quiet woman of boxing, takes on seven-weight world champion Serrano in the first-ever female fight to headline New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden this weekend with her reputation, status, legacy and undisputed lightweight championship at stake. She has fought at the Garden before but never with anything of such magnitude on the line.
A headline slot at MSG moves the bout into a different stratosphere — and Taylor hopes to emulate the first two fights there between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the 1970s.
‘I’d like to be seen as the greatest,’ she told Metro. ‘These are the kind of fights that can leave your mark in the history of boxing and you want to be involved in these kind of things. We’re fighting at Madison Square Garden, like Ali and Frazier, and this fight could be talked about for years too like that was.’
At 35 Taylor is keen to continue ticking off the remaining goals on her to-do list in the sport.
Winning all the belts against the unified featherweight queen in style at MSG would be right up there for this unassuming star of global boxing.
Having played a big part in dragging female boxing to the higher profile it enjoys now, Taylor — like her opponent — will be well remunerated for this clash at least.
‘This is the dream I had,’ says Taylor. ‘I was asked what I’d like to do before I retired and I said this, so I am pinching myself right now that it is happening. It has now become more than a dream for me.
‘When I first started, we were making pennies but we’ve come so far. I’d like to think I’ve had a part to play in that.
‘Women’s boxing has come so far and we still have a long way to go in terms of money in comparison to the men but this fight is the exception to that. We’re getting good money for this fight but the rest of the women have a long way to go.’
She has done so much already. Victory over Delfine Persoon in 2019 saw her become one of only eight boxers in history, female or male, to hold all four major global belts — WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO — simultaneously.
Her amateur career was just incredible, winning five straight world titles as well as Olympic gold for Ireland at London 2012 before turning pro four years later. She is now rated the best pound-for-pound women’s boxer by The Ring magazine.
It took a while but finally the Serrano fight was agreed. It was originally slated for May 2020 before coronavirus intervened.
Taylor’s promoter Eddie Hearn has called this ‘a fight for the history books’. Even greater greatness awaits one of these two.
‘I knew I only wanted to fight the very, very best and she is a history-maker in her own right, a seven-weight world champion,’ Taylor says of her opponent. ‘I feel this has been a long time coming. It has been there on the schedule before but fallen through. I’m going in with a winning mentality but in terms of the hype I’m in my own little bubble and I don’t notice too much of what people are saying or opinions about the fight. The hype doesn’t get to me.’
Puerto Rican Serrano, who has just one blemish on her 42-1-1 record, has a background in mixed martial arts as well as wrestling and is two years Taylor’s junior. She is promoted by YouTuber and social media star Jake Paul.
Taylor says both fighters recognise each other’s achievements.
‘I think so — there’s a mutual respect between us but also a bit of bite,’ she claims. ‘We’re very competitive people and it is a history-making fight, so we both know it is one we have to win. This is about what we are made of.’
One thing Taylor — who boasts a 20-0 record in the paid ranks — is yet to do is fight in her native Ireland as a professional.
It is something which burns inside of her as she looks to do all the things she wants to in the sport in her remaining years at the top.
‘Yeah, it would be a shame if I ended my career without the chance to fight in Ireland,’ Taylor explains. ‘I think we could sell out an arena there.’
Taylor has often spoken on the debate over whether women’s boxing should adopt three-minutes rounds, like the men, rather than the shorter, more explosive two minutes.
In fact, Serrano challenged her to box her over the longer duration in the Big Apple, stating: ‘I think we need to make a stand.’
Taylor disagreed with the proposal but believes the change could happen one day regardless.
‘Maybe but the good thing about two-minute rounds is they are fast and have a higher tempo and they make for really, really exciting fights,’ she insists. ‘I think if we do go up to three-minute rounds there has to be a significant pay rise with that.’
Whatever happens in boxing, whatever changes, whatever trash talk is going around, Taylor remains neatly ensconced in her training-camp bubble in the small town of Vernon in deepest Connecticut, with her American coach Ross Enamait. It is a set-up ideal for someone reluctant to seek the attention that boxers so often lap up.
Taylor does not buy into the hype — never has done. So nothing changes in camp for what is a fight that surpasses anything that has ever been done before in women’s boxing. Serrano. Undisputed. Madison Square Garden. But Taylor is unmoved.
‘Little things change but overall it’s the same — we prepare for each fight the same,’ says the Bray fighter. ‘But I’ve not been as excited before about a fight because the magnitude of this one is huge. It has been dubbed the biggest fight in women’s boxing.’
Is it the tranquillity that attracted her to such an unlikely home from home? The word is peaceful. ‘Very peaceful. I really do feel like I am in the middle of nowhere,’ she adds.
‘It’s very tranquil and a great environment for training. I’m loving it. I love the set-up and am very, very grateful I have been able to be here for the last five years.’
Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning over here, will provide the biggest contrast. Taylor will be thrust into the biggest fight of her life.
But you wouldn’t bet against her succeeding. She just always finds a way. And then, whether she likes it or not, it will be harder than ever to keep quiet about her.
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