Ireland’s favorite athlete has the homecoming she’s always wanted.
Katie Taylor has fought in London, New York, Philadelphia and Boston but never in Ireland during her professional career.
The 3Arena in Dublin is sold out — no surprise there after Taylor and Amanda Serrano packed Madison Square Garden a year ago. And Dublin Castle — last in the international headlines for a dinner banquet celebrating US President Joe Biden’s visit — hosted the final news conference before Taylor challenges Chantelle Cameron on Saturday.
The 36-year-old Taylor is trying to become a two-weight undisputed champion by stepping up to her British opponent’s 140-pound super-lightweight division. The Olympic champion with legions of Irish fans around the world finally has a pro fight on home soil.
“The atmosphere is going to be electric. It’s been a long time coming,” said Taylor (22-0, 6 KO), the lightweight champion who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Electric yes, but the homecoming also underscores Ireland’s complicated relationship with boxing. It’s the country’s most-successful Olympic sport yet there’s been no big-time professional bouts since gunmen opened fire during a weigh-in at a Dublin hotel in 2016.
US authorities said the attack was part of a feud between rival drug trafficking gangs and that Daniel Kinahan was the intended target. Kinahan was one of the founders of MTK Global, a boxing management company that closed shortly after the US ambassador to Ireland, Claire Cronin, announced a reward of five million USD for information that will lead to the “financial destruction” of the Kinahan crime gang or the arrest and conviction of its leaders.
“We’re definitely turning a new leaf for Irish boxing,” Taylor said at Thursday’s news conference. “Hopefully this will be the first night of many nights here at home in Ireland.”
Taylor is a minus-210 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Cameron (17-0, 8 KO) is fully capable of spoiling the Taylor’s party.
The 32-year-old British fighter beat American opponent Jessica McCaskill in Abu Dhabi in November to become the undisputed super-lightweight champion. She initially moved up in weight because she wasn’t getting a shot to fight Taylor. Now, Cameron is putting her belts on the line against Ireland’s “ most-admired “ athlete.
Like other female fighters, Cameron credits Taylor with helping elevate the sport for women. But she adds that it’s the biggest fight of her career and “I’m coming to win.”
“It will definitely be hostile but I’m just going to have tunnel vision and focus on the job at hand,” Cameron said on Thursday.
They’ve squared off once before — as amateurs at the 2011 European championships — with Taylor winning.
Cameron is bigger but slower than Taylor and trainer Jamie Moore says it’s “nearly impossible” to out-box the Irish champion, who is not a big puncher. So look for Cameron to push forward and use her three-inch height and reach advantage to make Taylor uncomfortable.
“I have a chance to make history — nobody’s going to take that away from me,” Taylor said.
The original plan was a Taylor-Serrano rematch after last year’s slugfest that reportedly earned both fighters at least one million USD each. Serrano pulled out because of an injury.
Taylor immediately turned to Cameron, saying “let’s go” to the Northampton native on social media in what amounts to trash talk for the ever-humble Irishwoman. Cameron quickly accepted and the May 20 homecoming was intact.
“We could have went the easier route and chosen and easier opponent but that’s not how we operate. I want the toughest fights,” Taylor said.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn says it’s the first time two reigning undisputed world champions in the four-belt era will square off.
Taylor, who last fought in Ireland in 2016 as an amateur, said they’ll revisit a Serrano rematch after the Cameron fight.
A native of Bray, a coastal town just south of Dublin, Taylor has gone the full 10 rounds against her last nine opponents, including a unanimous decision over Karen Carabajal in October in London.
Taylor, who trains in Connecticut, has had close calls against both Serrano — who appeared close to putting Taylor away in the middle rounds — and Delfine Persoon.
On the undercard, WBA world super-welterweight champion Terri Harper (13-1-1, 6 KO) of Britain will try to defend her title against Cecilia Braekhus (37-2, 9 KO), the former longtime welterweight champion from Norway.
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