Neil Loughran: A privileged few get to go out on top - Katie Taylor should grasp chance to join them

Neil Loughran

Neil Loughran

Neil has worked as a sports reporter at The Irish News since 2008, with particular expertise in GAA and boxing coverage.

Katie Taylor celebrates Saturday night's momentous victory over English rival Chantelle Cameron. Picture by PA
Katie Taylor celebrates Saturday night's momentous victory over English rival Chantelle Cameron. Picture by PA

NO sooner had the bell sounded on Saturday’s epic rematch with Chantelle Cameron than talk turned to what Katie does next.

Indeed, it takes a special kind of sporting star to acquire single name status in the first place. Tiger. LeBron. Henry. Katie Taylor has long been in that company, representative of those whose influence and reputation transcends their chosen discipline.

She doesn’t do ads, doesn’t talk trash, doesn’t get into trouble or court controversy, with television interviews few and far between. Even then, the nervous smile behind those softly-spoken words suggests she couldn’t be further from her comfort zone.

Yet everybody knows who Katie Taylor is and, in Ireland at the very least, everybody holds her in the highest esteem for all that she has achieved inside the ropes, as well as the understated manner in which she conducts herself outside the ring.

Compared to Conor McGregor who… actually, let’s not even go there.

There is an investment in Katie that few other athletes of any generation have commanded. Perhaps because her story is so familiar to us all, perhaps because we have had a ringside seat to so much of it.

From the 2001 Halloween night breakthrough alongside Belfast’s Alanna Audley - trailblazers beating down the door for women to box in this country - to the gold medal glory of London 2012, the first time females were allowed to compete at an Olympic Games, people have followed her journey.


  • Warrior Katie Taylor celebrates greatest win as Croke Park spectacular beckons
  • Neil Loughran: Why trailblazers like Gogarty should be remembered on Taylor's big night

The tears in Rio, played out against a backdrop of personal trauma, brought her closer to a nation’s heart, before the commencement of a professional career that has not only delivered some of the biggest fight nights of recent years, but elevated interest in the sport to unprecedented levels.

That is why her next move is so critical.

It is only natural, with the blood pumping after avenging your sole loss, that sights immediately switch to more of the same. The microphone was only before her battered, bruised face for a matter of seconds before Katie Taylor was talking up a trilogy fight with Cameron at Croke Park.

Eddie Hearn leapt on the bandwagon, calling for the Irish government to do their bit to make Katie’s dream come true. It all sounds terribly familiar, though maybe there is enough momentum this time to get it over the line.

Is it really the right thing for Katie Taylor, though?

Not in my view, because no matter what might happen on Jones’s Road next summer, Saturday’s redemption mission cannot be topped. There are a couple of reasons for that.

At no point in her decorated career has Taylor exuded a greater sense of satisfaction, of vindication, than in the moments after the scorecards were read at the 3Arena.

Leaning back and letting out a roar as her arms pumped towards the crowd, just like in London 11 years earlier, she admitted it was the greatest night of her career - better than Olympic gold, better than beating Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden. Better than anything.

That's because she was the underdog. For the first time, at the age of 37, she was written off. Finished? Nobody wanted to say it, but plenty believed that to be true.

The fanfare of May’s homecoming was never Taylor’s scene, no matter how much she craved a return to Ireland. Interview requests and publicity were relentless, demands on her time like nothing experienced before – then there was the painfully elongated walk-in, an expectant public, and the emerging face of female boxing in the opposite corner, determined to spoil the party.

Between the ropes, the writing was on the wall within minutes, Cameron starting like a steam train and holding off a late Taylor surge to take the decision.

This time, everything was stripped back. Media commitments were kept to a minimum, and carried a previously unseen edge, the familiar smile a victim of new-found focus. None of her belts were to be seen in any of the pre-fight publicity shots, while Cameron’s shoulders struggled with the weight of hers.

Walking to the ring first for the first time as a pro, there was little fuss. Taylor meant business from minute one, and that single-minded approach drove her to a level few imagined she was still capable of reaching.

Yet the final rounds were fraught, Taylor holding repeatedly in a bid to smother Cameron and see out the job. Of her last 11 fights, seven have been tough nights at the office. That is unsustainable, especially at her age.

How much longer can she keep going to the well? How much longer should she keep going to the well? The challenger mentality brought something new. Being doubted did too.

“I was nearly half offended that people were writing me off so much,” she said with a half-smile afterwards, probably the closest Katie Taylor will ever come to cussing people out in public.

But where does the fire come from for a third fight? Boxers can always find a cause, but whether it's one they truly believe in only ever reveals itself beneath the bright lights of fight night. Should she lose to Cameron at Croke Park, then the cycle only continues when some day it surely has to stop.

Boxing doesn’t observe the same rituals that surround a footballer’s final match, or a tennis player’s last game. Between the ropes, the end is all too often realised in brutal, bloody fashion for all the world to see.

Only a privileged few get to walk away from the sport at the top – Katie Taylor should grasp the opportunity to join them.