There are few women who have punched high enough to reach the heights of male-dominated boxing glory, and only one who can say she is a two-weight world champion and the current undisputed lightweight champion: Katie Taylor. Since going pro in 2016, Katie has been dubbed the world’s best active female lightweight, and the best active female boxer.
36-year-old Katie grew up in Ireland, and before female fights were allowed, her father would enter her into exhibition fights under the name of K. Taylor, so as not to disclose her first name. It was only when Katie took her head guard off that the officials realised she was a female. Then, at just 15, Katie fought in the first officially sanctioned female boxing match in her country.
Here, the boxer tells WH how she got where she is today, and how gender should have no hold on whether someone enjoys the sport.
Katie Taylor on her success
‘You get out what you put in, so for me, it’s really just been a lot of sacrifice and consistent hard work over the years. I think that’s the key to being successful at anything; just keep turning up and keep putting the work in even on the days when you don’t feel like it, those are the most important days.
‘I was a very active child, so I tried pretty much everything as a kid, football, athletics, basketball, Gaelic football, karate, even table tennis. As a teenager I focused on football and boxing, but it was boxing that really took hold of my heart.’
Katie Taylor on her home life
‘My dad and both of my brothers boxed, and my mother was the first female boxing judge in Ireland, so it just felt like a really natural thing for me to get involved in the sport. Even as a very small child, I used to put the gloves on and spar with my brothers in the kitchen at home and pretend I was champion of the world!
‘When I first started going to the gym with my dad and brothers I didn’t really think too much about the fact that girls weren’t allowed to box, for me it seemed like a very natural thing to do and to this day I think I’m most at home in a boxing gym.
‘My family have been my biggest supporters throughout my career, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without them. They never miss a fight. They have been there from the very start, through all the highs and lows and I know their support is unconditional. It’s so important to have that support around you and to have people that care about you who can lift you up when you’re at your lowest point.’
Katie Taylor on her first boxing match
‘I remember being really excited. It was so hard for me to get fights when I was young, because women’s boxing wasn’t actually allowed in Ireland, so my dad used to enter me into exhibition fights against boys as K. Taylor.
‘I’d arrive at the venue with my hair tied up and my head guard on but after the fights there would be uproar with the officials when I’d take my head guard off and they realised I was a girl, so I didn’t get away with that for too long.
‘My parents fought so hard for me to get boxing accepted as a sport for girls and then finally in 2001, when I was 15, and I took part in the first ever female bout in Ireland. At the time, I probably didn’t appreciate how significant it was but looking back on it now, that was obviously a huge moment for women’s boxing.’
Katie Taylor’s training regime
‘No two weeks are the same, as throughout a training camp you focus on different things as the camp progresses, but it’s always two sessions a day, six days a week. I will usually spar every second day and then Sunday is my day off.
‘After a fight I will generally take a couple of days off but I get itchy feet very quickly, so normally by the Tuesday after a fight I’m back in the gym.
‘I’m blessed to work with such a great coach in Ross Enamait. He’s one of the best coaches in the world. My training is very intense and punishing but he always keeps things fresh and varies things up, so I never feel stale in the gym.’
Katie Taylor on nutrition
‘I’m pretty relaxed about my diet. I don’t get too hung up on counting calories or anything like that, but boxing is obviously a sport where you have to make a certain weight. In my case, that’s 135 pounds.
‘I’ve been pretty much this same weight for my entire career – amateur and professional. Some fighters will maintain anything from 14-30 pounds or more above their fighting weight, and then boil themselves down in training camp or cut a huge amount of weight on the week of a fight, but I never really go too far above my fighting weight.
‘I usually have porridge in the morning, and I’m a terrible cook so I tend to eat out for lunch and dinner. I don’t really have any set meal plan that I stick to or anything. For me, it’s just about being sensible; trying to eat as healthy as possible but still enjoying what I eat. I am a chocaholic though!’
Katie Taylor on knowing when she’s overdoing it
‘I’ve been in the sport for well over 20 years, so I’ve learned to listen to my own body so that I know when to push hard in training camp, and when I need a lighter day to help with recovery. I think that comes from experience.
‘As a younger athlete, there were periods where I was playing with the Irish International football team at Senior level while also preparing for major championships as an amateur boxer. That was putting huge physical demands on my body, so there came a time where I knew I had to decide between boxing and football if I wanted to compete at the very highest level.’
Katie Taylor on the work-life balance
‘My career has been my life since a very young age and I always feel like I’m living the life I dreamed about growing up, but I’ve obviously had to make huge sacrifices over the years to get to the highest level. For example, before I turned professional six years ago, I made the decision to move to the United States, so that’s been very hard.
‘There are still days where you feel homesick and miss your family and friends, but these are the things you have to do to succeed at the highest level. Outside of boxing, I like to live a very quiet and “normal” life.’
Katie Taylor on being a female boxer
‘I’ve never wanted to be treated any differently in the sport to anyone else. Of course, there’s been lots of obstacles along the way, but it’s been so satisfying to break down those barriers and see how far women’s boxing has come and to pave a way for the future generations of female fighters to go on and surpass what I’ve achieved. That’s what I hope my true legacy will be.
Katie Taylor’s advice for budding female boxers
‘Just go for it! Walking into a boxing gym for the first time can seem like an intimidating prospect, especially for a woman, but most gyms and clubs are very welcoming places for women nowadays, and taking up the sport will give you so much self-respect and self-confidence. Also, there's no better motivator to get fit than getting punched in the face. The boxing ring isn't the place to be for people who take shortcuts in the gym!’
Katie Taylor on motivation
‘I think motivation comes down to enjoying what you do. I feel like I’m living my dream and I love my “job”. Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t have days where you don’t feel like going to the gym or doing your roadwork, but that’s when you have to push through and get it done. My advice for anyone keen to box is simply to stay consistent and get the work in, and you will reap the rewards over the long term.’
Katie Taylor on faith
‘I was blessed to have grown up in a Christian household and I get my strong faith from my mother. We were all completely encouraged and supported growing up. I was always told that if I put my head down, worked hard and acknowledged God along the way, then nothing is impossible. My faith is really my anchor and such a huge part of my life.’
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