Katie Taylor’s warrior side and love of a tear-up vital to her boxing DNA

Taylor has baked brawl into her boxing cake to survive when the heat comes on

At the 2014 World Championships in Jeju, South Korea, Katie Taylor's dad Pete, who was coaching her, was asked if it was part of her instructions to go toe to toe with Mira Potkonen, the Finnish lightweight.

His smiling face was the answer. The flying fists part of the show, that was Katie’s rewrite, her script enhancement.

Seeded number one in the competition, Taylor had been given a bye and beat Potkonen in the second round.

But at one eye-catching point she stood in the middle of the ring for a “tear-up”. She couldn’t help herself. It went explicitly against the instructions given to her by Pete, who would usually emphasise her elusive style, speed and shot placement, far away from the brawl end of boxing.


She was cruising, landing combinations and moving away, using the ring and her left jab to pick off her opponent. Then she stopped.

She entirely abandoned a plan that had been working perfectly. For about one minute she flew solo, everything she had been told not forgotten, but cast aside. Instead, she decided on a one-minute punching match to end the round.

Taylor has been doing it her entire amateur and professional boxing career. She did it against Estelle Mossely in the final of European Championships in Bucharest in the sixth of her successive gold medal wins. Mossely is a talented fighter and went on to win the lightweight gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

No matter. Towards the end of the fight, Katie stopped moving, set her feet and accepted the challenge. Those watching from the outside see the brawl sequence as her greatest vulnerability, especially against punchers like Mossely, and last Saturday, Amanda Serrano. One good connection and the final bell rings.

Yet that has never happened. Taylor has never been stopped. She has never been knocked on the canvas and she has never been injured to the extent of not being able to continue.

She is built different," interjected her coach Ross Enamait in the press conference afterwards. "She has got balls of steel. I don't know what else to call it."

Professionally she did it against Viviane Obenauf in her second fight at the Manchester Arena. She did it against Nina Meinke in her fifth professional fight at Wembley Stadium and she did it against Delfine Persoon in Madison Square Garden in 2019 in the first of their two bouts, which Taylor narrowly won.

She did it twice against Serrano in the fifth round, when she was stuck in a corner and again in the final round, which was more in line with the previous times she broke protocol. It was her choice.

Taylor was winning the final round and did win it on all three of the judges’ scoring cards, including the judge who scored an overall win for Serrano, yet she stood her ground in what was a captivating climax to the bout.

"She is built different," interjected her coach Ross Enamait in the press conference afterwards. "She has got balls of steel. I don't know what else to call it."

In the fifth round Serrano threw 114 punches and 44 of them landed. In the 10th round, she threw 87 punches and 32 of them landed. In response Taylor threw 44 punches in the fifth round with 14 landing and 55 in the 10th round with 33 landing.

Her answer has always been “I like a good tear-up” without any further explanation. It might be that she is the smartest boxer that ever traded leather and has baked brawl into her boxing cake, because at some point she knows she might need to tough out a round to survive. That is exactly what she did in the fifth round.

“I just probably stood there a bit too long myself and just made it a bit of a tear-up as I always do unfortunately,” she said without a hint of regret.

It might also be seen as an expression of the risk-taking side of her personality that as part of being Katie Taylor, she needs to express battle readiness and not behave like an automaton with a given set of skills to wind up and put in the ring.

She does not respond to being a programmable piece of high-tech kit that receives messages and slavishly runs through an agreed, preconfigured instruction list.

Inside, there is Taylor the dedicated trainer with a simple lifestyle, living in harmony with a defiant, single-minded athlete, who occasionally needs to go to war.

The warrior side believes in the fight piece of the sport. It can see merit in taking the challenge for challenge’s sake, for rising to meet threat rather than back away.

As a strategic decision, although it might have been difficult to see through the blood from her nose and the cut beneath the hairline on the side of her head, for Taylor it is self-empowering, confidence fuel. She frames it as an opportunity, not threat.

Where it comes from, sensation-seeking or impulsivity, who knows, but it comes with a message to opponents that she won’t ever be intimidated.

Studies have shown that people who participate in high-risk sport are more associated with increased self-esteem. High-risk sport participants also have less post-activity difficulty with emotion regulation.

It’s very doubtful if Taylor or any of her fans thinks of it in those terms. What they see is an ordinary woman, who can and does produce the kind of thunder and lightning that shook New York on Monday as the city got back to work.

It won’t be the last time she trades punches. She is what her coach says she is. She is built different.