Katie Taylor, Ireland's national treasure, finally fights at home
Undisputed lightweight champion challenges Chantelle Cameron for her undisputed junior welterweight title in Dublin
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Katie Taylor, who is boxing’s most popular female fighter, one of the best pound-for-pound and a no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer, has accomplished so in her much career.
She boxed in two Olympics, including winning a gold medal in 2012, which made her a mainstream star in her home country of Ireland, where she is regarded as a beloved national treasure.
As a professional, she is the longtime undisputed lightweight champion, also won a world title at junior welterweight (before vacating to return to lightweight), and is the sport’s highest-paid female.
She also was victorious in what many consider the greatest female boxing match of all time, a split decision over featherweight champion Amanda Serrano in an action-packed battle 13 months ago at sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York, the famed arena that had never before had a women’s fight top the bill.
But one thing has eluded Taylor, something that for most boxers would be simple. A given. Taylor, although adored in Ireland, has never had the opportunity to fight at home during a pro career that began in November 2016.
That finally will change when Taylor moves up one division to challenge undisputed junior welterweight champion Chantelle Cameron on Saturday (DAZN, 2 p.m. ET) at sold-out 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland.
“I definitely think there are going to be a few butterflies, that’s for sure,” Taylor told Fight Freaks Unite this week. “I’m not sure if it will be more than usual but right now I’m relaxed about it. Being in these big fight situations before I think that experience is going to hold me well. Right now, I’m just absolutely excited to be here.
“A few years ago I didn’t think this homecoming was ever going to happen. I have a chance to become a two-weight undisputed champion in front of my home crowd and the atmosphere I think is going to be absolutely electric. I just can’t wait to step in there.”
Instead of boxing in Ireland, Taylor fought all of her previous fights in the United Kingdom and the United States, where she has boxed seven times.
Her exile from fighting in Ireland until now — thanks to a deal brokered by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and Irish regulators — was not Taylor’s fault.
Taylor being shutout of fighting at home was some of the collateral damage from what happened on Feb. 5, 2016 — nine months before Taylor’s pro debut — at the Regency Hotel in Dublin, which is just a few miles from where Taylor will make her triumphant homecoming.
On that day, four gunmen crashed a weigh-in and shot a man named David Byrne to death in a gang-related killing. Byrne reportedly was a member of the organized drug-dealing crime group headed by the alleged mobster Daniel Kinahan, who became involved in boxing by co-founding the now-shuttered MTK Global management company. He is believed to be in hiding in the Middle East after having fled Ireland and is wanted by authorities, including the United States government, which has a standing $5 million bounty on him and his associates.
After the shooting professional boxing was essentially banned in Ireland other than a few inconsequential club shows. Taylor-Cameron will be the first significant card there in seven years.
“Those things were out of my control but here we are six years into my pro career and it’s crazy to think this is my first fight as a pro (in Ireland),” Taylor said. “I just cannot wait. I think we could have picked an easier fight but this is undisputed champion against undisputed champion. This is one of the biggest fights in boxing right now. It has all the makings of an epic fight as well.”
Hearn, who has promoted Taylor since her pro debut, said the fight is “one of the biggest moments in the history of Irish boxing, one of the biggest moments in the history of Irish sport.”
Taylor (22-0, 6 KOs), 36, was initially scheduled for a much-anticipated rematch with Serrano, who had become the undisputed featherweight champion since they met last year. However, Serrano was dealing with an injury and withdrew from the rematch.
‘These kinds of fights have to happen for the sport to grow, for women’s boxing to grow,” — Katie Taylor
Taylor still very much wanted to save the date and have her homecoming. She politely called out England’s Cameron (17-0, 8 KOs), 32, on social media and pressed Hearn to make a deal. Less than two weeks later the deal was done. Cameron, who held the WBC and IBF titles at 140 pounds, outpointed Jessica McCaskill in November to retain her belts and win the vacant WBO and WBA titles to become the undisputed champion.
“The minute we heard that Serrano was out I instantly thought of Chantelle Cameron,” Taylor said. “She’s the only one that could fill the gap there. I just want to be involved in big fights. I wouldn’t be motivated for any other fight I don’t think. I just want the biggest challenges, the biggest tests and I have a chance to become a two-weight undisputed champion. That’s very, very special. I’m just completely motivated for this kind of fight. It’s a big test and a challenge. This could possibly be the biggest night of my career so far to date if all goes well.”
Indeed, Taylor would become only the second woman to become a two-division undisputed champion, joining undefeated American Claressa Shields, the reigning and two-time undisputed middleweight champion and former undisputed junior middleweight champion.
Certainly, Taylor could have picked anyone to fight for her homecoming bout and had a celebratory event. But she wanted the challenge and she also believes she has a responsibility to help grow women’s boxing.
“These kinds of fights have to happen for the sport to grow, for women’s boxing to grow,” Taylor said. “I think these fights are absolutely vital for the growth of the sport. We don’t get that many opportunities as female fighters so when we get the opportunity (for a major fight) we have to jump on it.”
If Taylor wins she will be faced with a decision every boxer would love to have to make: Which undisputed championship to keep? She said he has not decided whether she will remain at 140 pounds or return to 135.
“If the Amanda Serrano rematch is going to happen I’ll be ready to drop back down to 135,” Taylor said. “I guess we’ll make that decision after Saturday evening. I just want to be involved in the biggest fights wherever those fights are.”
Whichever division that means competing in Taylor said she is not close to thinking about retirement. She is enjoying her career too much.
“I still absolutely love my sport. I’m still so passionate about the sport,” Taylor said. “I’m not tired of getting up in the morning and getting punched in the face. I just absolutely love the training camps and the process of getting ready for a big fight. I think once that goes I’ll have to step away from the sport, but right now I just absolutely love the sport. I love these events.
“I think this is the greatest sport in the world. I absolutely love every single thing about it. As long as I’m still passionate about it I’m going to be involved in it.”
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She should be fighting Serrano so we get a clear ending, the last decision was not a clear win as many gave it to Serrano.