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Katie Taylor is idolised by McGregor – but loved 40-yard screamers before boxing

Katie Taylor is idolised by McGregor – but loved 40-yard screamers before boxing

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Katie Taylor is one of the most iconic female sports stars in the world today and is renowned for letting her fists do the talking.

An Olympic Gold medallist and a two-weight world champion in the paid ranks, Taylor is the current undisputed lightweight world champion.

Taylor is one of the best female boxers on the planet, but she’s also a great footballer

Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Taylor is one of the best female boxers on the planet, but she’s also a great footballer

The 35-year-old returns to the ring this Saturday night in Leeds to defend her belts against Jennifer Han and reaffirm herself as the pride of Ireland.

But it could have all been so different for the Bray County-native had she decided to stick with football after making it as a Republic of Ireland international.

That’s right; the same Taylor considered to be the best pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet is actually an Irish international.

With 11 caps and two goals for the senior side to her name, you begin to wonder if there is anything Taylor cannot do.

Taylor (bottom right) has represented Ireland at senior level on 11 occasions

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Taylor (bottom right) has represented Ireland at senior level on 11 occasions

In fact, she didn’t stop playing until 2010 before focusing solely on boxing before winning Gold in London two years later.

Taylor was just 14 when she made her debut for the Ireland Under-17’s team and 15 when she played for the Under-19’s team – hardly surprising when she played schoolgirl football alongside boys.

Her physical development should come as no surprise to anyone considering she was also training to be a boxer at the same time, although she did keep the two separate.

Former Under-19’s coach Sue Martin remembers how she managed to combine the two sports at such a high level.

Taylor in action against USA in 2006

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Taylor in action against USA in 2006

She told talkSPORT: “The timings of Euro Qualification tournaments in those days saw the 1st Round take place in Sept & the 2nd Round, which we always qualified for take place March / April the following year and unfortunately there always seemed to be a clash with Katie’s boxing commitments. 

“So I regularly had conversations with her Dad to try ensure she’d be available to us and in fairness to Katie, if at all possible she wanted to compete in both sports in those days.  I remember one year when we hosted the 1st Round Qualifying Tournament here in Dublin, it must have been close to one of Katie’s fights because I came to an arrangement with her Dad so she’d be available to us. 

“He came to the team hotel in the evenings after we were finished our training, team meetings etc and he took her for her boxing session in her room. 

“We qualified and she won yet another tournament so it worked out well.”

Former Ireland Under-19 coach Sue Martin took Taylor off after scoring four goals in one half against Macedonia

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Former Ireland Under-19 coach Sue Martin took Taylor off after scoring four goals in one half against Macedonia

Taylor was a centre-forward with the penchant for the spectacular – capable of scoring goals from any distance and hurting teams much in the same way she does in the ring now.

During a UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship qualifier in 2003, Ireland thrashed Macedonia 10-0 away and Taylor scored four goals in the first half. She was withdrawn at half-time, much to the relief of the Macedonians.

Martin added: “Katie was obviously very fit and physically strong from her boxing training, but she was also very good technically and scored some vital goals for the team. 

“She played in an attacking midfield role, but could have played anywhere she was so talented.”

Football’s loss would prove to be boxing’s gain and Taylor became a world champion in just her seventh professional fight at the Millennium Stadium in 2017 on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s world title fight with Carlos Takam.

After unifying the lightweight division in 2019 against Delfine Persoon, she would conquer a second weight division by becoming super-lightweight champion in Manchester against Christina Linardatou.

Her accomplishments transcend boxing, with MMA star Conor McGregor also a huge fan.

The former UFC world champion watched Taylor fight after his ill-fated match against Khabib Nurmagomedov and had nothing but kind words for the Olympian he called an ‘Irish hero’.

McGregor is a huge fan of the 34-year-old Olympian

Sportsfile

McGregor is a huge fan of the 34-year-old Olympian

He said: “You’re a special, special talent. Filled with hard work – you can see it and big respect to you.

“You know my number Katie. Let me look after you! Come here, give me another hug… 

“I’ll hit you up and I’ll see you soon… I’m delighted to come here and see you live. You’re unbelievable Katie.

“You deserve way more respect. Take your respect; demand it.

“That’s why I would have loved if they had given you the mic. Start taking on the division, and going at it. Because you have the ferociousness in you. You’re ruthless in there. I could see it in your eyes when you were in there.

Natasha Jonas has the unenviable task of trying to stop Taylor this weekend

Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Natasha Jonas has the unenviable task of trying to stop Taylor this weekend

“So just keep doing your thing. I have your back all the way. I’ll back you all the way; whatever you need. 

“It is an honour for me to come and see you. You’re an Irish hero, and I mean that.”

What is next remains the questions for the Irish superstar, with a potential crossover bout against former MMA world champion Cris Cyborg a possibility.

However, Han remains up first for Taylor this weekend and the American knows she will have to be at her very best against one of Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes.



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