Irish fight fans can scarcely believe it is finally here, but Katie Taylor is set to make her long-awaited professional Dublin debut on Saturday.
Taylor flew in from camp in Connecticut last weekend and will go through her first official Fight Week as a pro in front of her own fans ahead of a huge fight with fellow undisputed champion Chantelle Cameron.
Taylor had originally been due to face Amanda Serrano in Croke Park in a rematch, but Serrano got injured and the May 20 date could not be moved so Cameron came in and the show moved to the 3Arena.
Even though Serrano was a can’t-miss opponent, enthusiasm for the night has been far from dampened. In fact, some believe undisputed super-lightweight Cameron is a more dangerous opponent for the unified lightweight champion.
Regardless of that, the talk of the fight has been more about Taylor’s homecoming than the opponent.
But Cameron is far from a walk-on part. Cameron is a legitimate threat and regardless of the location of the fight, the pressure would be on Taylor wherever the bout is. That it is her homecoming bow has earned Taylor a great deal of respect, but for Taylor the excitement and magnitude of it all outweighs the nerves and the pressure.
“I guess there is pressure in every single fight, but obviously there’s a bit more added pressure when you’re fighting in front of your home crowd,” she admitted. “But I have this experience of fighting in big occasions and fighting when there is a lot of pressure on my shoulders, so I don’t really see it as anything away from what I’ve experienced before. Every single time I’ve stepped into the ring I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me and I am just kind of getting on with things. I’m looking forward to the fight, I’m excited. I’m not really feeling the burden of the pressure right now. I’m just excited to step in there and to fight at home. This is a huge occasion for me.”
It was last April when Taylor and Serrano lit up Madison Square Garden in one of the sporting events of the year. And while the desire for the rematch has not dissipated – and Taylor said that should she come through Cameron it’s likely her attention will switch back to Serrano – Katie felt there was inevitability that she would face Cameron at some point on her professional journey.
“I think we always knew this fight was going to happen,” Taylor continued. “I’ve had my eye on Chantelle for a few years now, this is a fight I’ve always wanted myself, and to make the adjustment from Amanda Serrano to Chantelle Cameron was a fantastic one because motivation is as high as ever for me. I think it would have been a lot worse if I was going from Amanda Serrano to, say, a mandatory opponent and a fight I couldn’t really get up for. It’s a fight I’m genuinely motivated for and she is as well. I know that. I’m going to have to be at my very very best on fight night and people are saying this fight is going to be even better than the Amanda Serrano fight. There is a huge appetite for it so I’m just excited about it and delighted it was able to be made."
She is not the only one. A nation will pause with baited breath hoping that the 22-0 36-year-old continues her winning ways and that more glory nights will follow, and that she is not just coming home to say ‘goodbye’ or that Cameron does not spoil their party. It is likely to be one of the most spectacular boxing atmospheres the sport has witnessed, a cauldron unlike anything even Taylor has seen before.
“I’ve needed to pinch myself that it’s actually happening,” Taylor went on. “I remember the Bernard Dunne days when big-time boxing was in Ireland and he was selling out The Point, which is the 3Arena now, and he was selling it out on a yearly basis and they were such special nights for the whole country and to bring that back again… it’s a monumental achievement for me to become a two-weight world champion in front of my home crowd. It’s an amazing opportunity for me and I just can’t wait.”
Yes, it is a fight that Taylor has always wanted, but the Irish superstar has always been in Cameron’s sights, too. Taylor is not the only champion in the fight. She’s not the only undisputed champion in the fight, either, and Cameron is not the one moving up in weight.
“She should be confident,” Taylor said, when asked about Cameron’s own belief in victory. “She’s also a champion. At this level I think every fighter believes they’re going to win the fight, so it’s nothing unusual. That’s the mindset you’re supposed to have. Every single person believes they’re going to win the fight but only one person can be the winner. I believe it’s going to me, she believes it’s going to be her. I guess we’ll see on fight night. It’s one of the reasons why this fight is very exciting, because we’re both going into the ring 100 per cent confident of a victory.”