TV review: Katie is the sports documentary of our times

Katie Taylor, world lightweight champion
Billy Foley

Katie, RTE1, Tuesday at 10.15pm

Sports documentaries are like sitcoms, they are among the hardest television formats to get right.

There are a hundred failures before you get an Only Fools and Horses and I've lost count of the amount of behind the scenes sports films which have been disasters.

Katie wasn't When We Were Kings, but it's got to be put in the same bracket as Living With Lions.

Most of all, it was the honesty which made it special. In a sport full of hype and bravado, Katie stripped away the machismo and gave us a look inside the world of an athlete fighting for her life.

When she was 11 years-old she dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal in a sport that wasn't even in the Olympics. Women's boxing wasn't allowed in Ireland and in her earliest fights she had to pretend to be a boy.

She fought in the first sanctioned women's contest in 2001 at the National Stadium, when she was 13.

It was her winning an exhibition match at the Sydney Olympics in 2008 which convinced the IOC to introduce the sport in London in 2012 and she went on to the win the gold medal.

And like all of the highest achievers, Katie is a bit of a single minded, odd fish.

“I don't think many people really know Katie,” said her manager Eddie Hearn, before adding, “I've never met anyone who's so driven, forget boxing, in life.”

“Her competitive streak is bordering in on the unhealthy,” said her brother Pete.

She address her troubled relationship with her dad, her decision to turn pro, and her deep faith.

Having dismissed her dad as a coach and then losing at the Rio Olympics, she asked Hearn to take her on and moved to the US to work with a new coach.

She is so dedicated to winning that she is living alone in small town rural Connecticut. We see her driving to the gym and struggling to cook her mum's recipes. She has no friends in the US and admits she needs to make an effort to meet people at her only other activity, attending the local church.

All she is interested in is running the forest roads, becoming stronger and faster, and winning the world title.

We see the 32-year-old train and watch as her coach explains the differences between amateur boxing, where you are trying to score points, and professional boxing where you are trying to hurt someone.

She is an untypical boxer. Katie is introverted, media shy and modest.

In 2017 she won the vacant WBA lightweight title and added the IBF version last year. Now she is trying to unify the division against the only two women left standing, in fights with “retirement type” money on offer.

You need to watch this documentary if you prize an indestructible desire to win. And while you're there marvel that she is one of our own.

Do not miss this film.


Politics Live, BBC 2, Tuesday at 7pm

It's a spectacular understatement to say that Brexit has brought its problems, but it has also re-engaged people with the process of politics.

Never has so much television time been dedicated to the workings of parliament.

This week, with the substantive vote taken at Westminster, a show which normally plays at lunchtime occupied the prime time 7pm slot.

And almost immediately after May lost spectacularly on Tuesday, Andrew Neil roasted health secretary Matt Hancock in one of TV's great disaster interviews.

Asked repeatedly about the government's “plan B”, Hancock was left with nothing but an “uhhh” and nervous laughter.

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