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Irish boxer Katie Taylor 'will go down in history'

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Media captionKatie Taylor 'opening doors' for female boxing

Irish boxer Katie Taylor has previously reflected on the "mountain tops and valleys" of life, and this weekend she hopes to scale her highest peak to be the undisputed women's world lightweight champion.

Taylor, 32, has sampled highs and lows, inside and outside of the ring, during her career.

She already holds the WBO, IBF and WBA world lightweight belts.

Now she is bidding to write her finest chapter in boxing history by defeating Belgian police officer and WBC champion Delfine Persoon, 34, at New York's Madison Square Garden.

If she succeeds, she will claim her fourth world title in just 14 professional fights, and would be the first Irish female boxer to become the undisputed world champion.

The County Wicklow native is already a significant sporting figure due to her instrumental role in getting women's boxing recognised in Ireland and on the Olympic stage.

But as boxing author Barry Flynn explains, a win on Saturday night would put her achievements on another level.

"She is a once-in-a-generation athlete," said Flynn.

"In the modern era, in terms of Irish boxing, it would be unprecedented if she wins.

"She will stand at the pinnacle. It is a remarkable achievement given the hurdles she has had to overcome."

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Image caption Taylor with her promoter Eddie Hearn and Belgian opponent Delfine Persoon

Flynn says you have to frame Taylor's achievements within "the perspective of women's boxing in Ireland".

"There has been a struggle over the years for it to get a general acceptance in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport," he adds.

"Women's boxing has now been accepted worldwide, and Katie Taylor has brought that to the fore and been a torchbearer and pioneer in terms of women's boxing."

When Taylor first dreamed of becoming an Olympic champion as a child training in her back garden in Bray, County Wicklow, women's boxing was not officially recognised in Ireland.

She has admitted that when she was a young girl she pretended to be a boy in order to enter contests.

As a 15-year-old amateur in 2001, Taylor fought in the first women's fight sanctioned by the Irish boxing authorities.

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Image caption Katie Taylor (far right) playing for the Republic of Ireland women's football team against the US in San Diego in 2006

Her athleticism was also honed playing in the Republic of Ireland international women's football team.

Taylor's ascent as a boxer, under the tuition of her trainer father Pete, was remarkable.

She claimed five World Championship golds at amateur level from 2006 to 2014, as well as a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Katie Taylor's father Pete was her trainer during her amateur career

Former World professional flyweight boxing champion Dave 'Boy' McAuley said he had not been impressed by women's boxing until he witnessed Taylor in action during that successful spell.

"When I saw her on the undercard for Irish boxer Bernard Dunne's world title fight in March 2009, her performance blew me away," he said.

"She was absolutely fantastic. When I sat watching her, she changed my whole perception of women's boxing.

"I think she is unbelievable, she is a great puncher and exciting to watch.

"I have met her outside the ring and she is a lovely girl, but inside it she is a different specimen."

Image caption Katie Taylor celebrating Olympic gold in London in 2012

Taylor and her father Pete split professionally in 2016, months before the Rio Olympics in which she was surprisingly beaten in the quarter-finals.

"The first time I had to go training without him, the tears were rolling down my face," she said in the documentary Katie, which was released last year.

"I knew when I made the decision to step away from my dad it was going to cost me a lot."

Nearly two years after the Rio Olympics, in June 2018, an Irish gym founded by her father Pete was targeted in a shooting.

Bobby Messett, 50, died in the shooting at Bray Boxing Club. Pete was one of two other men injured.

Katie Taylor condemned the "horrific attack", but said she had had little contact with her father in the "last three years and no contact or association whatsoever with Bray Boxing Club since 2015".

Her Christian faith has been a constant in Taylor's career; she was a regular at St Mark's Pentecostal Church in Dublin's Pearse Street from her teenage years.

She has been known to pray with her mother, Bridget, before fights.

Taylor's devotion to boxing has run parallel to her faith - Psalm 18 is embossed on the arm of her tracksuit.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Training in New York, ahead of Saturday's world title fight

Taylor's decision to turn professional with promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing in October 2016 has reaped considerable rewards.

The Irish Times reported in April that Taylor's company had accrued cash reserves of more than €1.5m (£1.32m) after another successful year.

The boxer is now based in the Conneticut town of Vernon, in the US, where she is under the guidance of trainer Ross Enamait.

He has previously said "there's a lot of people don't recognise the talent that exists" in Taylor, but that is unlikely to remain the case for long.

Saturday's contest, on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's fight against Andy Ruiz Jr, is widely anticipated.

McAuley remains a believer as Taylor heads for the summit. "She will win the fourth title, she is the best there is about," he said.

"I think she will go down in history, I can't see anyone stopping her - there is no-one better than her."

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