How appropriate -- the First Lady of Boxing as a guest of the other First Lady in the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.
Katie Taylor will be in the House on St. Patrick’s Day, and that is significant. Not alone is this girl the best female boxer in the world, she is probably one of the best Irish sports stars out there at present.
The world lightweight champion is right up there with Brian O’Driscoll, Robbie Keane and Padraig Harrington as a shining example of the talent this little country can produce.
And she’s there against all the odds, a young girl whose father first entered her in competition as K. Taylor -- and the boys she beat only discovered she was a girl when the head gear came off!
She has revolutionized female boxing not just in Ireland but in Europe. She was the amateur game’s boxer of the year in 2008.
And she goes to the Olympic Games in London in 2012 as Ireland’s brightest hope for a gold medal in many years.
Katie Taylor was born to box. She grew up watching her father Pete shadow boxing in the family kitchen, all the time copying his moves, matching his punches, throwing the shapes that serve her so well in the ring to this day.
“Boxing is in our blood,” she readily admits to the Irish Voice.
“From an early age I can remember watching my dad training in the kitchen of the house, and he used to bring us down to the gym in Bray to watch him train.
“I was going there from the age of six or seven and I was always fascinated by it. He’d have the gloves on in the house, messing with my two brothers Peter and Lee, and I was always trying to join in.
“I was a bit of a tomboy. I was never girly, girly. I always knew how to throw a punch, even before I first went up to the boxing club in Bray at about 10 years of age.
“That first night I was straight in the ring, sparring with the lads. It was a male world then, there weren’t any other girls boxing at all, but I was the coach’s daughter so there obviously wasn’t much problem with me going there.
“I don’t know what was said about me at the time and it didn’t matter -- I just wanted to box. It was so natural. It just felt like I belonged that night.
“As soon as I got in the ring I just loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it that first night, and it’s been like that ever since.”
Dad Pete has been a constant in his daughter’s sporting life. Trainer, confidant, coach and father -- he does all that with little or no fuss as the Taylors hatch a plan for Olympic domination two years from now.
“I don’t think I could have done what I’ve done in boxing without my dad in the corner,” states the 2008 World Boxer of the Year.
“We have a great relationship together, and the trust we have with one another, you need that with your coach. In my opinion he’s the best coach in the world!”
As she talks it’s more than apparent that boxing is Taylor’s first love, her life even.
She dropped out of an arts degree at UCD and a sports and fitness course at Sallynoggin College simply because study got in the way of her training.
“I’ve no time for boyfriends, no time for dancing, and I get to a nightclub about two or three times a year but that doesn’t bother me because I’m a lousy dancer,” she admits.
“People don’t see the work that goes in. When you’re training twice a day for six days a week you’ve no time to go out by the time the weekend comes around.
“I get little enough time to spend with my friends, and when I do I like to relax, go to the cinema and just take it easy.”
Her coronation as World Boxer of the Year in 2008, after a trip to China and a second gold medal at the world championships, was the crowning moment of a career littered with success.
“Of all the things I’ve done, that gave me the most pleasure, it was huge thing for me,” says the Bray girl, beaten just once in 63 fights.
“The worlds and the European titles mean everything as well. I never get sick of them and I never get sick of defending them.
“I know when I get in that ring I’m a different person. I want to finish my opponent off, I want to win that medal, I want to win that title.
“You have to be a bit fiery in there, you have to have that desire and that hunger, you have to want to get the job done and get in and out as fast as you can but it is just a sport and away from the ring I’m the complete opposite.
“So much so that sometimes when I meet people and tell them I’m a boxer they don’t believe me.”
Still only 23, she is clearly in love with the sport that has been as regular as clockwork in the Taylor household.
“My love for the sport has never diminished, never,” she continues. “I love the sport. I love the training. I love going away and fighting for Ireland all over the world.
“Amateur boxing is my thing. I love amateur boxing. People often ask me if I would go professional but I’m not sure because I love the whole ethos of the amateur game.”
Recognition is still only coming slowly for this young sportswoman. People on the street in Bray know who she is, but Taylor is more interested in realizing her Olympic goal than having her face on the back pages -- or the front pages.
“I’m not really into the fame side of it at all, never was and never will be,” she says in a manner every bit as powerful as the punch that has ruled the world.
“I just want a quiet life. I’m not in the boxing for the glamour, and when I’m out of the ring I just lead a normal life. My friends treat me no differently now than they’ve done all my life and that’s the way I want it.”
The world championships in Barbados this September will dominate the rest of the year for President Obama’s guest on St. Patrick’s Day, all the time looking towards London and those Olympic Games.
“I haven’t actually qualified for the Olympics yet,” she reminds those who have interviewed since female boxing was finally accepted for the 2012 games.
“But people are saying that I’m the number one chance for an Olympic gold medal you know? No pressure!”
And she dreams of Olympic glory. “Every day,” she admitted. “Going up and getting a gold medal around my neck -- yes, I think about it.”
Don’t bet against Katie Taylor realizing that dream.
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