The undefeated lightweight champion speaks with Boardroom about mentality, legacy, and what sets Irish fighters (and fight fans) apart ahead of her bout with Karen Carabajal.
Katie Taylor has the sort of subdued temperament that very much belies what she does for a living — clocking other women in the face in sanctioned professional fistfights. Hailing from Bray on the east coast of Ireland, she was such a prodigious pugilist that she left behind a more-than-just-promising soccer career — she capped for the Ireland national team 11 times! — in her early 20s to place her full focus on boxing.
She did not disappoint, scoring five world championships, six European championships, and a 2012 Olympic gold medal as an amateur. And since turning pro in 2016, she’s a perfect 21-0, a two-division world champion, and the undisputed, four-belt queen of the 135-pound lightweight division. In April, she made history as one half of the first women’s boxing headliner in the history of Madison Square Garden, the mecca of the sweet science, in a thrilling win over Amanda Serrano.
Now, she’s back for more.
Ahead of the Bray Bomber’s title defense against Karen Elizabeth Carabajal in London at Wembley’s OVO Arena, we spoke with Katie Taylor about that incredible night in New York City, her impressively even-keeled approach to the fight game, and the next steps for her growing legacy as an athlete.
SAM DUNN: How do you characterize your approach right now leading up to the fight with Carabajal?
KATIE TAYLOR: Everything has been going great. I guess every fighter says every training camp has been great, but it really has been, it has been great with these last few months, yeah, [I feel] sharp and strong and I’m just looking forward to Saturday night and producing a great performance. The mood in camp is good, we’re all very excited about Saturday night.
SD: Are you one of those creatures of habit who tends to prepare the same way every time, or do you try to add new wrinkles every now and then?
KT: I guess my mindset is completely, completely the same in every single training camp. We do particularly prepare for every single fight and we obviously make a few small adjustments in every single training camp, whether it’s a few changes in sparring partners, a few adjustments, whether we’re working on strength or power or whatever it is, but our mindset is completely the same. [My] work ethic is completely the same.
We’ve been getting in some great, great spars, I have to say — both, both guys and girls. It’s been a fantastic few months.
SD: Your fight at Madison Square Garden against Amanda Serrano was a groundbreaker and one we’re going to remember for a long time. How has your career or your life changed since that night in April?
KT: I can’t say that my life has changed at all, to be honest. I’m still doing the exact same things I’ve always done; maybe people’s perceptions of me have changed.
For me, I live a very, very quiet life. I was back in the gym a few days after that fight. What I normally do is just train away, working harder for this fight as well, so I can’t say much has changed for me really over the last few months. I live a very, very boring life [laughs].
SD: Take us back to April 30 in New York. There’s something different about the Garden, especially when it comes to boxing. What do you remember most about that particular scene compared to all the other venues you’ve witnessed?
KT: I think the fight definitely felt different, in the lead up to the fight, the press tour, during fight week was particularly busy where every single day we were doing interviews on TV. There seemed to be an extra level of excitement before that fight for sure. It definitely felt like the real mega fight, a super fight in the sport.
When I was walking out, the ring walk, obviously you’re seeing the Puerto Rican fans at the Irish fans — it was definitely the loudest atmosphere I’ve ever fought in, and it made for such a special night, just an amazing kind of night. And I think it definitely exceeded everybody’s expectations and I’m so grateful to come out victorious from that night. I’m obviously still unbeaten and still undisputed champion and we can move on from there.
SD: What is the particular essence of the Irish fight fan compared to all others?
KT: We’re known to be a country of fighters. We have the fighting blood in us, and I think we pride ourselves on that, so any fighter that’s actually doing well, that’s actually been successful, every Irish person kind of jumps on board.
I feel like I’ve had such amazing support, even from the amateur days. I was boxing for my Olympic gold medal in 2012 in front of 10,000 Irish people, for example. It was absolutely incredible where those tickets were sold out before the actual final. Even in Madison Square Garden a few months ago, over 6,000 Irish people actually traveled over to support me. Very, very passionate, and they’re just a good time. You love being able to support our fighters and it’s just great to be able to give them this joy and great, great, great, fight nights.
SD: What do fight fans need to know about Karen Elizabeth Carabajal as an opponent? How do you size her up?
KT: I don’t really know too much about her, to be honest. There’s not actually a lot of footage out there of her, but she’s obviously coming in as an unbeaten fighter. 19-0, I think, and obviously she’s tough. She’s coming here [with] everything to gain and nothing to lose, so these fights are always dangerous.
She looks quite long and lanky and awkward, and I think she’s gonna try and obviously keep it long. She’s a very, very good fighter, so I’m expecting a tough battle on Saturday night, but I feel like I’m well-prepared and I’m expecting to come out with the win myself as I always do.
SD: The oddsmakers have installed you as a massive favorite in this one — as big as -6000 at one sportsbook. Does any of that noise and the expectations that come with it affect your approach at all?
KT: I wouldn’t say it affects my approach at all. I’m well used to this, even from the days where you’re stepping into the ring against someone who you’ve never actually seen before and you try to have a bit of time to figure them out and to get their timing down. I feel like I am well-prepared, just even with the spar that I have had over the last few months as well, so I can’t say that it changes anything with my approach. I’m well-prepared for whatever comes by on Saturday night.
SD: Knowing that you’re building such a resume as an undefeated, undisputed champion, do you ever sense an extra level of either motivation or pressure to put on a certain type of performance beyond simply getting a win?
KT: I think regardless of who shows up or not to watch me, I want to put on my best performance anyway, so I can’t say that changes how I will fight on fight night. I always want to put on a great show. I always wanna be at my very, very best, and if I’m fighting in front of 10,000 people or 10 people, my mindset and the process is exactly the same — I want to just be my absolute best in there.
There’s obviously pressure going into any fight, but it would be strange if there wasn’t any pressure on you. I think pressure is a good thing. Pressure is a privilege, and I’m definitely feeling very, very blessed to be in this position and to have a chance to showcase what I can do again.
SD: You’re throwing down at the OVO Arena at Wembley where you’ve previously fought once before as a pro against Miriam Gutiérrez.
KT: Yeah, yeah, I think so, yeah. Although all the venues feel like they’re the exact same after a while [laughs]. It’s hard to figure it out, but yeah, apparently my last fight was Gutiérrez there.
SD: What stands out about London crowds as opposed to, for instance, the one you witnessed in New York at Madison Square Garden or in places like Manchester or Liverpool?
KT: It was very, very different from fighting at Madison Square Garden, and the last time I fought here against Gutiérrez, it was actually during the pandemic, so there was no crowd there. But I’ve fought many times over here before in the UK and I get a lot of great support over here as well. There’s a lot of Irish competing over here in London, so I hope they’re gonna come along to the fight as well.
I think the atmosphere is gonna be very, very good for this fight. There’s a lot of Irish on the undercard — Gary Cully, for example, on the undercard, he’s a fantastic prospect. So, yeah, I’m just looking forward to putting on a great show.
SD: I want to ask you about the big London card earlier this month with Claressa Shields vs. Savannah Marshall and Mikaela Mayer vs. Alycia Baumgardner. Especially with the latter, do you find yourself sizing these fighters up knowing that one day there’s a possibility that you could be matched up against one or more of them?
KT: Yeah, an amazing night of boxing. That particular fight between Alycia and Mikaela, there’s obviously very little between both of them. A great, great fight. They’re both but potential opponents for me, and I obviously have my eye on all those girls in and around my weight division. I have business to take care of on Saturday night, and I don’t look too much into it, but I was watching it quite closely and thought it was a great, great fight. You couldn’t really argue with the decision, I don’t think.
SD: What do you make of the L-word, legacy? You’ve accomplished so much in the sport already, but is evolving from undisputed world champion status to legend status something that you think about at all?
KT: I think the best way to have great legacy behind you is just taking the big fights and taking on the best challenges and the best opponents, and the likes of Alycia and Mikaela Mayer, they’re all fantastic fighters. Chantelle Cameron is fighting in a couple of weeks as well. These kind of girls. I just wanna be involved. I want to be involved in the biggest fights possible, and I want to continue to improve and to produce great performances and to be in those big, big nights. I’m very, very confident every time I step into the Ring against those kinds of girls that I will out as a winner.
Once I end my career, I want to be known as someone who never ducked any challenge, and I think [that] so far, you can say that about me. I haven’t ducked a challenge, I’ve always took the toughest tests and the toughest challenges, and that’s the best way to secure your legacy.
SD: Errol Spence-Terence Crawford still can’t get booked. We’re not getting Tyson Fury against Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua. It would be a 100% unfair burden to place on the women’s side of the sport, but do you nevertheless feel a responsibility to help make the biggest fights happen like the ones you just described knowing how frequently the men’s side fails to do so?
KT: I never really think of it like that, but just me, myself, I have that mentality where I just want to test myself against the very, very best and [I’m] not even thinking about it from a women’s boxing point of view. I just want to, from a personal standpoint, test myself against the very, very best, and I’ve always been like that. I just want to see who the better fighter is.
Definitely with the man’s side of things, you’re seeing so many of the fights falling through, and it is very, very frustrating. We all want to see the best fight the best; that’s what makes boxing so incredible. Looking back at the past champions, like with Marco Antonio Barrera-[Erik] Morales, those type of fights that you look back on a hundred years from now, they’re [still] one of the best fights in history because they were willing to face the best. They were willing to take those risks, and that’s the kind of fighter I want to be. I want to be a Barrera type of fighter, someone who tests themselves against the very, very best.
SD: When you get into the ring against Karen Elizabeth Carabajal on Oct. 29, how does it play out?
KT: Well, I’m not much for predictions, just to keep it nice and boring for you [laughs]. But I’m just hoping to produce a great performance. I’m feeling ready and feeling sharp and very, very confident [that] I might come out as a winner again. It’s just as long as I come out with the belts in my hands, that’s it. That’s all that matters, really.
The Taylor vs. Carabajal fight card streams live on Oct. 29 on DAZN in over 200 countries. The card begins at 1 p.m. ET, with main event ring walks expected to take place at approximately 5 p.m. ET.
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