Who knows where Katie Taylor summons her nasty side from, but from beneath her soft voice and kind smile is one of the world’s most accomplished fighters who is still learning new ways to inflict hurt.
She has been watching how Terence Crawford, the fantastically spiteful champion who is as chilling as Taylor is warm, inflicts pain.
If Taylor can add his sheer viciousness it will be another string to her bow but tonight, against Natasha Jonas live on Sky Sports Box Office, she faces a serious test against a wily opponent whose revenge mission is nine years in the making.
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“I can definitely be better,” Taylor tells Sky Sports ahead of tonight’s undisputed lightweight championship defence.
She is unbeaten in 17, an Olympic gold medallist, a two-weight world champion and a pioneer but she is unsatisfied with her most recent win over Miriam Gutierrez.
“I had her hurt a few times and I rushed to get the stoppage,” she says. “Little things like that I can improve upon.
“I’ve been watching the likes of Terence Crawford who is absolutely brilliant at stopping opponents. And ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard who is one of the best at stopping opponents, one of the best knockout artists that we’ve seen.
“I’ve studied and watched them over the past few months to get myself better at sitting down on my punches, and actually stopping my opponents when they are hurt.
“There is a lot to learn from each fight but I am making small, subtle improvements.
“It’s about slowing down, learning to relax, and not rushing the stoppage. Sitting down more on my punches.”
A Taylor capable of this fight-ending instinct will be a harrowing sight for the women’s boxing landscape – their anointed queen making major improvements at a stage where, aged 34 and a veteran of over 200 fights amateur and pro, her rivals are waiting for the decline.
Jonas and her trainer Joe Gallagher see beyond Taylor’s aura and that’s what makes tonight’s fight so fascinating. The same attitude almost saw Jonas upset Terri Harper last year. Jonas has boxed Taylor twice, once famously at the 2012 Olympics – she knows how to look beyond Taylor’s emerging legend.
“I think she can be hurt,” Jonas’ trainer Gallagher said about Taylor. “If people study her long and hard enough, you’ll see in fights where she has been hurt. She’s been caught, she’s been wobbled, she’s been stunned.”
Taylor and Jonas broke the record for the noisiest Olympic moment at the London Games, the first to allow women’s boxing. They were both part of history but Taylor left with the gold medal and the immortality.
“I can’t even remember the fights,” she shrugs about previously sharing the ring with Jonas.
Jonas remembers every punch but did not re-watch her defeat until eight years later: “I never felt the need to. Ego, pride, hurt.”
Taylor saw beyond Jonas’ early struggles: “When she lost to Viviane Obenauf she didn’t show her best.
“She had a rocky start to her pro career and I was disappointed for her because I knew she was a lot better than she was showing.
“In her past few fights she has come into her own. She has produced great performances. This is exactly where she belongs.”
She says of Jonas’ draw with Harper: “It was a fight of the year in terms of female fights.”
Jonas is 36 and tonight should be her last chance to be a world champion. Taylor warns: “She is very, very aggressive, she has a great backhand, she is a solid puncher, she has a good brain, she is very smart in the ring. But I also have those things in abundance.”
Taylor is incredibly active – she has fought three times in the past 18 months including a victorious rematch over rival Delfine Persoon.
The hope for future challengers is that, with her place in history secured, complacency may creep in. She must surely show herself to be a mere human soon. Not yet, Taylor says.
“I’m not tired of getting up in the morning and doing those runs yet!
“Women’s boxing has broken down barriers but we have a lot more to go. I want to intensely tear down those walls for the next generation to come up, to make it easier for them.
“That, to me, is what true legacy is all about.”
This is Taylor at her most comfortable in the spotlight, an introvert who now understands the power of her own voice as well as her punches.
On the issue of women being restricted to 10 rounds of two minutes, rather than 12 rounds of three minutes, she says: “There are pros and cons. With two-minute rounds it is a higher pace, more exciting to watch. With three-minute rounds there would be more knockouts.
“I don’t have a preference but I do spar three-minute rounds. I enjoy the fast pace of a two-minute round.”
There was a moment this week that reduced this illustrious athlete to the young girl with a big dream that she was once – she bumped into Roy Jones Jr, the American all-time great who now trains Chris Eubank Jr, in her hotel lift.
“Oh my gosh, Roy Jones Jr!”
“I don’t get starstruck by many people but he’s one of the greatest of all time,” she giddily smiles.
Taylor asked for a photograph with him for the memories. In years to come, that picture will show more than one boxing legend.
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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