When Katie Taylor returns to the ring this Saturday, she will be battling on all fronts. Primarily she is fighting to try and add the undisputed super lightweight title to the undisputed lightweight championship she already holds. But she also fights to maintain her unbeaten record in a classic “somebody’s 0 must go” collision with fellow unbeaten fighter Chantelle Cameron. But perhaps most of all it is legacy Taylor fights for. It is what she always fights for in a way, but now more than ever. As the women’s boxing landscape she paved becomes more densely populated, Taylor now finds herself fighting to maintain her primacy in a sport that she has ruled almost since her debut.
As the first superstar of modern women’s boxing, Taylor’s influence is felt far and wide. ‘KT’ was one-half of the first women’s boxing show to headline Madison Square Garden, with her thrilling win over Amanda Serrano. While she did not participate, it is hard to see the sport reaching the point where an all-female card was staged at the O2 Arena last October.
Women in boxing used to be marginalised and treated like a sideshow. Isolated cases like Laila Ali and Holly Holm earned a level of notoriety, but women were unfairly treated as participants in an entirely different sport to their male counterparts. All that changed when the likes of Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams emerged at London 2012, the first Olympics where women were allowed to compete for boxing medals. The pair both clinched gold, becoming worldwide names in the process.
It would be four years before Taylor turned over into the pro ranks but when she did, she found a built-in fanbase weaned on her Olympic exploits. Rather than being ghettoised on minor small hall cards, Taylor was beamed into millions of homes on high-profile shows headlined by Anthony Joshua, David Haye and Tony Bellew. Taylor wasn’t a curiosity, she was a fighter you could watch on a Saturday night alongside all the other stars of the time.
Eventually she would usurp those with whom she shared an early spotlight. Before long Taylor was headlining her own shows at arenas across the UK and Ireland. A genuine ticket-seller in her own right, a barrier had been broken. Many followed her through the breach and now Claressa Shields, Mikaela Mayer, Alycia Baumgardner, Chantelle Cameron and Natasha Jonas are headliners in their own right on both sides of the Atlantic.
But the thing with being a trailblazing industry leader is that someone will always be after your spot at the top. Cameron is after that spot in a direct way of course, but even girls like Shields who is likely too big for Taylor to ever realistically fight are challengers in a sense. Taylor is fighting at this point not just for titles but for greatness. ‘Simply The Best’ must win and win well to keep her name at the very forefront of the conversation over the best women in the game.
Cameron is the perfect opponent to reestablish that position against. Not because she is compliant but specifically because she’s not. The unbeaten Northampton fighter doesn’t know how to lose and has the advantage in size and strength. While neither woman is a consummate knockout artist, both are tough, volume punchers. This fight is going to be decided in a flurry of shots in a battle where no quarter is asked and none given. Neither knows the meaning of defeat.
These are the fights where a legacy is sealed. If Taylor beats Cameron she can file it alongside big victories over Amanda Serrano, Delfine Persoon and Jessica McCaskill. Lose and she’ll find herself edged down the list by the likes of Shields and Baumgardner. But this is precisely why Taylor will go down as one of the all-time greats, regardless of gender. She seeks out the toughest challenges, fights where she has everything to lose. Then, at least so far, she wins them all.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change