From childhood to the Olympics and professional boxing, we look at our Irish hero of the week, Olympic gold medallist, Katie Taylor.
Crowned the best female boxer in the world, it is unsurprising that Katie Taylor is our Irish hero of the week. In the lead up to the 2012 Olympics, there wasn’t a household on the island of Ireland who hadn’t heard of Katie Taylor. She would become a well-loved and respected sportswoman. She would go on to challenge the perception of women in boxing in Ireland.
Katie Taylor captured the hearts of Ireland by becoming a historic sports icon and continues to amaze us with her kindness and compassion, and this is why she is our Irish hero of the week.
An active childhood
Born in July of 1986 in Bray, County Wicklow, Katie Taylor was born to a boxing-mad family. Her father, Pete Taylor, was an Irish senior light heavyweight champion boxer. Her mother developed an interest in boxing and became one of the earliest female referees and judges in Ireland. At the same time, her two brothers also grew up boxing.
Before Katie took up boxing, she played numerous other sports. She played soccer at an international level, Gaelic football and camogie for her local teams, and ran with the local athletics club.
Katie’s early boxing days
It wasn’t until the age of eleven that Katie began boxing. She was coached by her dad, Pete, alongside her two brothers.
As a young teenager, Katie couldn’t compete in boxing competitions because she was a girl, and women’s boxing was not recognised as a sport. She grew envious watching her brothers train and compete, so she decided to tie her hair up and keep it hidden under her helmet. She successfully pretended to be a boy and was able to compete under the name K. Taylor.
It wasn’t until the age of fifteen that Katie got to fight in the first officially-sanctioned female boxing match in Ireland. She beat Alanna Audley in the National Stadium, and it was this win that propelled her into climbing the ranks of the boxing world.
In the following years, Katie won six gold medals at the European Championships, five consecutive gold medals at the Women’s World Championships, and gold five times at the European Union Championships. Katie became a highly-decorated figure in Irish sport who would soon have the entire nation of Ireland, giving her their support.
The battle to the Olympics
Katie Taylor spent many years campaigning for women’s boxing to be included in the Olympic Games, taking part in countless demonstrations calling for a change and for the gender bias in boxing to be resolved. This all changed in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee announced that women’s boxing would be an event at the 2012 Olympics.
Katie would be the flag bearer for Ireland at the Olympics that year and was Ireland’s greatest hope of winning a gold medal. The whole country waited with bated breath as Katie made her way into the ring of the final of the female lightweight boxing bout.
She defeated Russia’s Sofya Ochigava on 9 August 2012, winning an Olympic gold medal. Katie Taylor also became the first-ever Olympic female lightweight champion. This was a historic moment for women’s boxing in Ireland, bringing to it publicity and attention that it never had before.
Katie’s professional career
Following the success of the 2012 Olympics, Katie went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics but lost in the opening bout. Later that year she made her professional boxing debut and is now ranked as the world’s best, active, female lightweight.
Katie as a national treasure
She now lives and trains in America. However, Ireland continues to hold a special place in its heart for Katie Taylor. Welcoming her back for the all-important Late Late Toy Show in 2019, she captured the hearts of the nation once again as she surprised Ella, a boxing superfan. She gifted Ella with a pair of boxing gloves from her last fight and also promised her a one-on-one training session.
Katie’s humble personality makes her an incredible sportsperson and an even greater role model for female athletes in Ireland. She exudes positivity and confidence that follows her throughout her career and everyday life.
Arguably Katie Taylor is one of Ireland’s greatest ever sportspersons, having graciously won many matches and events. It is this level of skill and dedication alongside her passion for advocating for the future of females in sports, that is why she is this week’s hero of the week and famous across the world!