By Thomas Lyons (WrapsOnTV)
Unified WBA and IBF lightweight champion Katie Taylor faces a tough mandatory challenger in Kimberley Connor at the O2 Arena this weekend on the Dillian Whyte-Joseph Parker undercard.
With ambitions to become the undisputed champion of the division at arm’s length, Taylor remains switched on and focused on the task at hand and has been looking mentally and physically sharp in preparation for battle this Saturday night live on Sky Sports Box Office.
The colourful and charismatic Taylor is her own terms, having brought women’s boxing to the forefront of competitive sport full stop, wants to take boxing back to her hometown with a dream night at the national stadium Croke Park or possibly the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Having seen the progress Taylor has made, topping the bill at York Hall, last December against another American Jessica McCaskill to making her debut in the US which captivated the wider boxing audience across the shores, Taylor has fulfilled her targets to date and alongside trainer Ross Enamait has made adjustments that solidify her position as the top female athlete in the sport.
No disrespect to Claressa Shields, who is also paving the way for young female athletes that have the same drive and work ethic to turn their lives around and make something of this sport, that gives a plethora of opportunities to disadvantaged people across the world, and Savannah Marshall who has teamed up with high profile boxing pugilist and trainer Peter Fury, but their brands are not as exciting and prolific as Taylor’s who’s carried her accolades from the amateurs right through to the professional scene.
Other star names include Nicola Adams, who similar to Taylor has reached the top through the Olympic setup and gone onto win numerous World championships and European honours which separates them from the pack.
Taylor has mixed it with the best in sparring and even shared a ring with Paddy Barnes ahead of his World title fight with Rosales and even growing up together in the Irish boxing team.
Taylor has not only transcended the sport of women’s boxing as a role model and ambassador but not once bragged about her achievements and like Anthony Joshua who is on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of campaigning as a male athlete, these two have carried themselves as humble, hard-working individuals.
Taylor is nowhere near satisfied with her progress in the pro ranks and with Eddie Hearn, Matchroom, the new multi-fight deal with DAZN, has deserved every chance that has come her way.
So, what threat does Connor posses to Taylor, talking about the present and not the future?
Well, the Waskom (Texas) women has challenged for the world title twice and come up short but never stopped chasing her dream of becoming a world champion. The first was down at super-featherweight against the experienced Peurto Rican Amanda Serrano who suffered one defeat to date to Swede Frida Wallberg for the WBC strap.
This was for the vacant IBF 130lb title. Connors suffered a devastating stoppage loss but bounced back with a hard-fought win against Nicola Wood on home soil.
The second title challenge, in fact, a mutual opponent of Taylors in Victoria Bustos who managed to take the Bray women the distance on her US debut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in April.
Therefore, Connor comes into this fight with a respected record and thinks this could be her ‘third-time lucky’ chance to upset the odds and take the limelight away from Taylor.
The exposure and excitement of a stacked O2 card gives Connor the desire to disrupt Taylor’s future plans and with a Chicago appearance in October already planned out for her DAZN debut also, Taylor must not overlook Connor and come away with a strong statement of intent and send out a warning to the rest of the champions she’s coming to take their belts of them.
Taylor seems to be improving all the time and demonstrated her ability to soak up punishment and dish it out twice as hard, her durability to go the distance and get rid of opponents with relentless work rate and concussive shots that ripple through her opponents who cannot withstand the brute force of her punches from all angles.