Exclusive: Katie Taylor - "I think women's sport can share the stage with men's sports"

"You don't have to say controversial things to enjoy a successful career in boxing. I look at someone like Manny Pacquiao and he is one of the most beloved fighters of all-time.”

Katie Taylor has admitted she didn't know whether her decision to turn professional in 2016 would reap rewards, with her own manager Brian Peters and promoter Eddie Hearn sharing those concerns.

In an exclusive interview with Planet Sport ahead of her fight with Natasha Jonas in Manchester this weekend, Taylor has opened up on her road to world title success in an unbeaten start to her professional career that has changed the face of women's boxing forever.

She may be shy and reserved when she faces the cameras, but Taylor knew she was putting more than her own reputation on the line when she announced her decision to walk away from the amateur ranks.

"When I sat down with my manager in Eddie Hearn's office to talk about turning pro, none of us knew what would happen next," confirms Taylor.

"Would people take to women's boxing? Did anyone want to see it on a men's boxing bill? Eddie wasn't sure either and it was an experiment in many ways, but now it feels like we have proved this is a part of the sport people want to watch and we want more now.

"That is down to the people around me and Eddie for the way he promotes it. It feels like people are happy to see me as part of this show now and it is amazing when people say they expect to see me on these big shows at Wembley or the 02 Arena in London now.

"That is an amazing achievement and proof that we have been accepted."

The battle for sportswomen to share a stage with their male counterparts has been ongoing for decades, with Taylor seemingly making a more definitive breakthrough than most in that mission.

While she would never want to be portrayed as a heroine of women's sport, she is convinced the tide has turned in the battle for equality.

"I think women's sport can share the stage with men's sports, for sure," Taylor states.

"We have shown in the last couple of years that omens boxers and female fighters in the UFC are getting a chance to compete on the same events as men and people seem to enjoy what we bring to the table.

"Some of the biggest stars in MMA are female fighters and I hear more and more people saying they expect to see him on Eddie Hearn boxing shows. That is great to hear and shows that people are getting used to this.

"The support I've had from English audiences has been amazing. They have taken me on as one of their own and the roar I get when I come out to fight is amazing.

"Obviously the dream will be fighting at home one day. I can't wait to fight in Dublin, that is going to be amazing.

"I can't wait for the day it actually happens, but for now I'm happy to be fighting in the UK and America and getting great support everywhere I go."

Taylor has been centre stage at a host of high-profile pre-fight press conferences in the UK and America since she turned professional, but it appears the pressure of the cameras are still more daunting than an opponent in the ring.

Katie Taylor celebrates victory against Christina Lindardatou in their WBO super lightweight world title bout at Manchester Arena in November 2019
Katie Taylor celebrates victory against Christina Lindardatou in their WBO super lightweight world title bout at Manchester Arena in November 2019

"I've done a lot of these big press events now, with hundreds of people there and all the cameras and I still don't feel comfortable," she continues. "I am far happier in a ring and maybe that will always be the case

"My manager told me when I did my first press conference for my pro debut that I would get to the stage where I started to enjoy these things, but I haven't got there yet. It is a bit of a hassle for me, but I know it's all part of the job.

"If there was a way of being a boxer and doing what I do without all the cameras and the press conferences, then I would love that, but I realise it is part of the job and I have to get on with it.

"You don't have to say controversial things to enjoy a successful career in boxing. I look at someone like Manny Pacquiao and he is one of the most beloved fighters of all-time, but he has never said anything too contentious in press conferences or in interviews.

"Anthony Joshua is another perfect example of someone who is a great ambassador for his sport without needing to say anything to upset people.

"Gennadiy Golovkin is another one who is a gentleman outside the ring, but an absolute killer in the ring. It can be done."

Despite being an icon of Irish sport for more than a decade, Taylor has managed to keep aspects of her private life under wraps and she insists that the veil of secrecy will never be lifted.

"I have not found it too difficult to keep my life the way I want it," she continues.

"There are certain things I don't talk about in public and it has not been too difficult to keep those issues away from the public eye.

"Even if you are successful in sport, you can live a quiet simple life and I have managed to do that.

"I don't give away too much in interviews and maybe that's the reason why people have enjoyed this documentary is we gave the director Ross Whittaker access no-one has had before.

"I developed a trust with Ross meant he had access to me people haven't seen before. That is why this documentary came out so honest and so raw.

"Ross became a part of the small family we have around us and he know more about me than we know ourselves."

Watch Chisora v Parker and Taylor v Jonas on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office, from 6pm. Book it via your Sky remote or book it online here. Non-Sky TV subscribers can book and watch it here.

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