Home to many of the modern-day greats of combat sports, the Irish have always been a proud nation of warriors. Irish legends, Conor McGregor and Mickey Ward are considered household names but they aren't the only champions to fight out of the great nation. Although they are exceptional athletes, many people forget to mention the undisputed Queen of Irish combat sports, Katie Taylor. Read on to discover how she became the queen of the ring and changed women's boxing forever, courtesy of Fight Gear Direct.
Growing Up in Ireland
Born to a father that was a professional boxer and a mother that was a qualified boxing official, Katie Taylor was destined to become a star between the ropes. Katie grew up in the Irish coastal town of Bray, Country Wicklow and was athletically gifted in her youth.
An aerial view of the scenic coastal town, Bray, Ireland.
At the ripe age of 11, she was trained along with her two older brothers at the St Fergal's Boxing Club in Bray by their father. In addition to her boxing training, Katie was a member of her local athletics club, the Bray Runners, a footballer at her school and eventually became a ladies Gaelic footballer for the Bray Emmets and Fergal Ògs. Despite playing several sports, Katie mentioned that boxing had always been her true passion because she enjoyed the discipline and one-on-one element of fighting.
Success in Association Football
While Katie had boxing in her DNA, she was also an outstanding footballer. A proud Leeds United supporter, she grew to love football and during her years as a schoolgirl, played for both the girls and boys soccer teams of St Fergal and Newton. Katie rapidly became one of the country's top football prospects. At 14 she started representing her country at the under-17 level and after turning 15 was promoted to the under-19's side.
Katie Taylor sliding into action for Ireland in 2008.
Her impressive skill set began catching the eyes of international scouts and she was offered a college scholarship to play football in America. She would later turn down the scholarship and elect to start her senior career with Lourdes Celtic. After many successful appearances, Katie was selected to represent the Republic of Ireland's woman's national team. Before retiring to become a full-time boxer, Katie played 11 matches for her country and scored twice.
The Bray Bomber Takes Off
Even though she was still playing football at the time, Katie made her official amateur boxing debut at 15 when she registered a victory over compatriot Alanna Audley at the National Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Following her successful debut, Katie entered into the 2005 European Amateur Boxing Championships and shocked the world by winning her first gold medal in Norway. In the same year, the heavy-hitting Irishwoman competed at the Women's Amateur World Championships in Russia but lost in the quarter-finals to Kang Kum-Hui. Despite it being her first competitive loss, Katie didn't let the loss knock her off the path to greatness. Instead, she claimed gold at the 2006 world championships by defeating Argentine superstar, Erica Farias in the final.
The Bray Bomber had officially earned a name for herself and started being recognised as the world's next female boxing prodigy. Katie's success caught the eye of the Olympic Committee and they asked her to take part in an exhibition match to promote women's boxing. Only moments before the fight, a member of the committee told her that the fate of women's boxing in the Olympics rested on the result of her match. Fueled by the pressure, Katie put on a clinic for everyone in attendance. Impressed by her outstanding performance, the Olympic Committee announced that women's boxing would feature for the first time at the 2012 London Summer Games. Singlehandedly, Katie Taylor had put women's boxing on the international stage.
Claiming the Throne
Billed as one of the favourites for the Women's lightweight boxing event at the 2012 Summer Olympics, many Irish fans had high hopes that Katie would return home with a gold medal around her neck. The country was so invested in the event, Katie's home town of Bray decided to construct a giant LED screen in its heartland so fellow compatriots could follow her matches. Inspired by the support she received back home, Katie smashed her way to the final and set up a gold medal fight against Russian star, Sofiya Ochigava. After going the distance with her opponent, Katie defeated Ochigava by decision 10-8 and claimed the title of being the first-ever women's lightweight boxing gold medalist.
Gold medalist Katie Taylor, fighting at the 2012 London Olympics.
Shortly after Katie won gold for her country, she stepped down from amateur boxing to pursue a career in the professional ring. By the time she took up professional boxing, The Bray Bomber had already received 5 gold medals at the WIBA World Championships and the Women's EU Championships, 6 titles at the European Championships and another gold medal at the European Games.
With an unprecedented record in amateur boxing, the 12-time lightweight champion was expected to take the world by storm again when she made her professional debut. Living up to the hype, Katie dominated Polish boxer, Karina Kopinska, by defeating her via TKO in the third round. She then smashed her way to an undefeated 4-0 record before earning her first title shot in 2017. In front of a capacity crowd at Wembley Stadium, Katie knocked out German Nina Meinke after 7 gruelling rounds to claim her first WBA intercontinental lightweight title.
Celebrating her maiden professional title, Katie Taylor celebrated by lifting the WBA lightweight championship proudly above her head.
Despite proving to the world she is the undisputed queen of women's boxing, her success only grew from her performance at Wembley. By the time 2019 came around, Katie had improved her perfect record to 13-0 and collected the IBF and WBO women's lightweight titles along the way. The Bray Bomber's biggest fight to date was against Belgian champion, Delfine Persoon. Competing at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, Katie narrowly defeated the determined Belgian to become the female WBC and first women's The Ring lightweight champion.
The hard-hitting Irishwoman is still an active fighter and you can watch her scheduled rematch against Delfine Persoon on the 22nd of August. If there's one thing we can all learn about Katie's story, is that regardless of your gender, age or ability, passion and determination will always pave the way to success.