Katie Taylor has a big 2019 ahead.
On March 15, on a St. Patrick's Day card, over 10,000 people will be packed into the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Meath Super Featherweight Jono Carroll will challenge Tevin Farmer for a world title that night, but for the boxing community at large, all eyes will be on Katie's next step in her inevitable march towards unifying the belts and becoming undisputed champion of the world.
Brazilian Rose Valante holds the WBO Lightweight title, the belt Katie wants to add to her collection, currently consisting of IBF and WBA straps. It will be be step one in what promises be the biggest year of Katie's professional career, a year that should culminate in the biggest fight in the history of women's professional boxing.
Balls spent the day with Katie in Mondello Park recently before she departed for her latest training camp in the States - a camp which should culminate with yet another world title. Katie was there to launch Honda's 2019 range and test drive some of their new and exclusive features on their range of cars.
Not a racer by any means (it was her first visit to Mondello Park), a suggestion to have a "hot lap" in Honda's Type R Civic was met with casual acquiescence. Fear is not something that comes naturally to Katie Taylor. Her hand-eye coordination isn't too bad either. A couple of minutes later, she had recorded the fastest lap of the day. No surprises there. She's not someone to get daunted by achievement, and the prospect of 2019 being her biggest year yet is met with the same casual acceptance and confidence.
Last year I set myself up for a huge year this year. The ultimate goal this year is to become the undisputed champion, and hopefully a big big fight with Amanda Serrano later on in the year as well, so it is potentially going to be a monumental year for me.
The most important thing is I have to keep winning for that fight to happen and I can't obviously overlook any opponent until then. But the fight between me and Amanda Serrano has been talked about a couple of years now and I think it's probably the biggest fight in women's boxing right now, so it's absolutely huge for the sport and it is great to have those rivalries. It's great to have that competition and it is going to be a huge fight.
2018 saw a step up in class and performance for Taylor, adding the IBF title to the WBO belt won in October 2017. Four wins from four, some of her classiest performances in the ring, and importantly, a higher spot on high profile cards. By the end of 2018, the wider international public were taking notice of Katie Taylor.
I definitely feel like I'm adapting more to the pro game. It was a perfect year for me really in the ring, I had some outstanding fights and I'm having the privilege of fighting on these big shows all the time, amazing platforms, and, I mean, my last fight was in Madison Square Garden on a Canelo undercard, so it can't really get much bigger than that.
It's actually incredible. These are the nights I dreamed of when I was a child. You always dream of boxing in big stadiums and having a chance to actually fight on a Canelo undercard, the biggest boxer in boxing right now arguably, so it is absolutely a dream come through for me.
She's on these cards on merit too. Winning comfortably is one thing, becoming a draw in the pro game is something else. Katie is all to aware of this. Katie Taylor The Showwoman is a character we've seen more of in the ring in 2018 than had been on show previously.
Yeah, I definitely think it's important to entertain a small bit, that's what people are paying for to see these fights, you want to be entertained. It is very very different to the amateur game and I didn't actually realise how different amateur boxing was to pro boxing until I actually turned pro and I was sharing the ring with some top pro boxers when I was sparring. It is very, very different. You have to be a bit meaner in the ring, you have to showcase your skills a bit more, and just entertain a lot more. It is something I'm definitely adapting to and I'm definitely enjoying the challenge.
If the Serrano fight happens in 2019, it's likely to be biggest fight in women's boxing history. This is a responsibility Taylor is comfortable with. She was a pioneer in the amateur game and is only too happy to take it on as a professional.
It's a great responsibility to have and I love having that responsibility. I'm definitely in a great position where I have a chance to escalate the sport. I obviously have a great team of people around me who are helping me to do that as well. Eddie Hearn has been fantastic to me and I'm getting a chance to actually showcase my skills on the biggest platforms in boxing, and obviously, having the chance to box live on TV is obviously huge as well for the sport. I think it's the first time in the history of boxing that we're really seeing the best of female boxing so that's obviously very big for the sport, it's huge.
When I first sat down first with Brian Peters, my manager, and with Eddie Hearn, we didn't really know where this was all going to go. We didn't really know what people's perceptions were towards women's boxing. To see where I am now, and actually getting a chance to headline some shows and even be a feature attraction is actually incredible for the sport, and I think people's minds really are changing and it's great to be in that position, that's for sure.
Maybe there are still to minds to change out there, but here, we await the 15th March with bated breath, and after that, who knows? 2019 could be the year the faithless are converted on women's boxing and Katie Taylor.