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Katie Taylor: ‘Failure is where all your growth happens’

Katie Taylor fights do not end the way her last one did – they just do not. Her first 22 as a professional might have differed in content, but they had a common conclusion: the visual of the Irish icon’s hand raised above her head. Sometimes, there was an extra coat of sweat clinging to her face. Sometimes, there were title belts draped over her still-burning shoulders. But the hand raised high? That was the constant.

So, perhaps Chantelle Cameron didn’t get the memo. Perhaps she did but just didn’t care. Either way, the Englishwoman strolled into Dublin’s 3Arena in May and spoilt Taylor’s homecoming. For 10 rounds, the undisputed super-lightweight champion put her hands to work relentlessly, to ensure that one of them would be raised above her head on this night. For 22 fights, that was a moment reserved for Taylor. Not this time.

But Taylor, in the months since the first defeat of her professional career – her first loss since Olympic disappointment at Rio 2016 – displayed a relationship with failure that is healthier than it has any right to be.

“Failure causes you to analyse things a bit more. I think that’s where all the growth happens,” the 37-year-old told reporters ahead of her rematch with Cameron, which will play out on Saturday night and in the same building as their first clash. “Unfortunately, it has to be that way. You are forced to look at every single detail. In that aspect, it’s always a good thing. I definitely feel like I’m a better boxer now.

“The last fight doesn’t consume me. I don’t think a loss is that big of a deal. Even after the Rio Olympics loss… you’re so heartbroken, you’re disappointed, but you focus on the next one. I don’t wallow in self-pity too much. The next day [after the fight with Cameron], I was surrounded by family; I would’ve done the same thing if I’d been celebrating a win. I went back to training that week – I was preparing for the rematch that week!”

Taylor (left) and Cameron go toe to toe in their first fight

(Action Images/Reuters)

As she did in May, Taylor will have the chance to erase the 0 in Cameron’s pro record on Saturday. As she did in May, Taylor will have the chance to take away the 32-year-old’s undisputed super-lightweight titles and add them to the undisputed lightweight gold that Taylor already possesses.

The opponent, venue, and the reward on offer are the same. For Taylor, the result must not be.

As such, the preparation has not been, either. “Mentally and physically, I feel a lot better going into this one, and that’s obviously a big deal. I think everyone can see that I wasn’t at my best in the last fight, but all credit to Chantelle; she did her job. You can’t afford to have flat nights at this level, I take responsibility for that.”

Taylor, who has given more to women’s boxing and the sport overall than could ever be measured, was less giving when asked about what led to her “flat” performance in May. “I don’t think I should really expand on it,” she said.

The pioneer lost by split decision that night, though some felt that the result was more clear cut than that. Did Taylor know, when the final bell sounded, that her unbeaten run was over? Could she tell before that, even? “I think during the fight I was focusing on trying to win the rounds, focusing on adapting,” she reflected. “I’m not the best at scoring a fight when I’m actually fighting. But I think the right winner won – speaking to my coach and family the next day, I know the right winner won.”

Yet there was no hesitation about the prospect of a rematch. “No other fight would have made sense to me,” Taylor said. “It would have been a killer for me if I didn’t get this chance to fight her again. I do love the rematches; I always seem to come back as the better fighter the second time around.”

Taylor and Cameron face off ahead of Saturday’s rematch in Dublin

(Getty)

Taylor will need to do just that on Saturday. She plays down the idea that there is more “pressure” this time, yet simultaneously acknowledges that the stakes are greater than ever before. It feels an illogical equation, but to Taylor, the maths add up. “Every fight there’s pressure, but it’s probably the most important fight of my career. I think it certainly would be one of the best wins of my career – one of the greatest nights of my career. This one’s definitely a must-win fight for me.

“A lot of people, I think, are doubting me as well, so I love coming into those fights. I’m very, very grateful that I have this opportunity – not everybody gets a second chance, but I have one to make things right. And I’m very grateful to have a chance to box in front of everyone in Dublin again.

“I knew it was gonna be a very loud arena that night, I knew it was gonna be a huge event, but it certainly was emotional when I walked out that night,” Taylor recalled, reflecting on one of the most special atmospheres at a boxing event in recent memory. “You can never really prepare for that.”

The Irish people did not abandon Taylor in defeat. If anything, they are behind her more than ever, and that will be audible on Saturday. “I think the whole country realises this is a huge fight for me, and if it was loud last time, I can’t imagine how loud it’ll be this time. I think the Irish people have always been that way for me, even after defeats in my amateur career; I’ve always felt the love and support of the Irish people.”

It is a mutual love that has inspired a unique legacy, yet Taylor rarely allows herself to think about the nights that crafted that legacy.

Taylor lost a split decision to Cameron in their fight in May

(Getty)

“I always tend to focus on what’s next,” she said. “Who cares what happened in the past? I don’t think too much about [legacy], [but] I’m very grateful to have had an influence on the next generation and my nation as well; that’s very special to me obviously, that’s what it’s all about. There’s no point going through your career without having had any sort of influence on other people.”

Just as she hesitates to look back, however, Taylor refuses to look too far ahead, even amid speculation that she could retire on Saturday – regardless of the result.

“I’m not thinking that this is gonna be my last fight, or of any outcome other than a win,” she insisted. “I feel very fresh, so I know I have plenty more fights left in me, but I’ll obviously retire when I feel it’s the right time. I guess you guys can make your opinion as well, when you see me [this weekend], but I have no intentions of hanging up the gloves right now. Obviously I can’t do this forever, but retirement never came into my mind after the last fight, and I don’t think it’s ever good for a fighter to think of retirement going into any fight. Hopefully [my] legacy can continue, I just want to keep building.”

Taylor’s legacy already stands above the vast majority of fighters to have laced up a pair of gloves, but if she wants to keep building, the next block will be attainable on Saturday. The only problem? It is in Cameron’s hands.

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