Boxing

Katie Taylor can change the face of women's boxing says Alanna Audley-Murphy

Katie Taylor and Karina Kopinska during Wednesday's press conference at The Landmark Hotel in London. Picture by PA

FIFTEEN years after they made history together at Dublin’s National Stadium, Alanna Audley-Murphy has backed Katie Taylor to change the face of women’s boxing forever – starting tonight.

Following a glittering amateur career that delivered five World titles, six Europeans and a landmark Olympic gold in 2012, the Bray woman is back in London tonight to make her professional bow.

Taylor was snapped up by Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn in October, and the 30-year-old’s first fight in the paid ranks will be against Poland's Karina Kopinska (7-14-3).

The bright lights of the SSE Arena in Wembley are a far cry from the Ringside Club, where Taylor and Audley-Murphy faced off in Ireland’s first officially sanctioned women’s bout on October 31, 2001.

Both fighters, and women’s boxing in general, have made huge strides in the time between, with Audley-Murphy joining Taylor on the medal trail when she landed Commonwealth Games bronze in Glasgow two years ago.

And tonight she will be inside the SSE cheering on her one-time foe as she opens a new chapter in her career.

“Katie’s a great a good friend of mine – we’ve grown up together in boxing,” said Audley-Murphy.

“To this day people still ask me about that fight all those years ago, and it’s cool that we made history together in Ireland. We’ll always have that.

“I’m taking a team to London to box at Millwall Stadium on Saturday and we have tickets to go after. I wanted to be there to show my support because she’s a great fighter, and a great person.”

It wasn’t until London 2012, when women were first allowed to compete at the Olympic Games, that the sport really took centre stage in its own right.

Taylor, in particular, captured the public imagination in Ireland and beyond, while American Claressa Shields secured superstar status by winning landed back-to-back gold medals in Rio last summer.

Shields made her pro debut on the undercard of last week’s Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev fight in Las Vegas, and promoter Hearn was critical of the decision to schedule the 21-year-old’s fight at 5.30pm.

Taylor has been front and centre of all the promotion for tonight’s ‘Big City Dreams’ bill, and Audley-Murphy believes her profile will have a “massive effect” on women’s boxing.

She added: “We’re always going to be a step behind the blokes in terms of the promotion of women’s boxing. Some people don’t want to see women getting cut eyes and bloody noses, and I accept that as a boxer.

“It’s still a male-dominated sport but the likes of Katie have broken down the barriers and set the standard in the amateur game, and I believe she’ll do the same in the pros. It might take a couple of years, but it’ll happen.

“We’ve been boxing for 18 or 19 years but it wasn’t until 2012 that women’s boxing really became a big deal because it was televised through the Olympics.

“You look at the likes of Katie and Claressa Shields, and they’re such skilful boxers, there’s no doubt they can elevate the sport, 100 per cent.

“They have talent and skill, and there’s no-one better than Katie Taylor. Claressa Shields is only a pup, only 21, and she’s achieved so much already.

“It’s been a long road to get to this stage because, but doors are being opened now and it’s great to see. It’s about time.

“I believe Katie Taylor will go a long way in the pro ranks and open a lot of people’s eyes - and maybe shut a few people up.”

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