Katie Taylor’s greatest day — August 2012
PEOPLE get ready, there’s a plane-a-coming.
It don’t need no baggage, just Katie’s gold.
Blessed are those who are known by their first name.
There were times when we’d sing songs of praise to Sonia, Roy, Henry, Robbie, Rory and Ruby.
Now it’s Katie’s time. Our Katie, because that’s the way she’s made us feel.
The ads got it wrong, Ireland is Katie country. The rest of us just live in it.
Memories of the day will take on time and win.
Katie digging deep to come back from 4–3 down to have a storming third round.
Katie falling to her knees after the referee raised her right hand.
Katie pointing to the heavens, giving thanks to the God she puts so much faith in.
Katie doing a lap of honour of the ring with a tricolour held aloft.
Barry McGuigan bounding forward from his seat to envelop her in a hug as she headed towards the dressing-room.
This was Katie’s toughest fight, on the biggest day of all.
She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Sofya Ochigava had done her trash-talking in advance, but the circus games ended when the Russian and Katie touched gloves and got it on.
Words have no power when you go toe-to-toe in an Olympic final.
This was the most gut-wrenching, nerve-shredding sporting occasion that most of us lucky enough to be in the ExCel Arena had ever sat through.
As the fight ebbed and flowed, we kept half an eye on Katie’s father and coach, Pete.
A couple of yards away from the ring, Pete sat ram-rod straight on a steel chair.
Beside him on the floor was a gear-bag.
Inside it, along with the towels, sponges, ointments, towels and spare gumshields was a tricolour.
The flag was there because Pete was convinced his girl would win.
It was a father’s faith in his daughter, something that has been at the heart of Katie’s success.
Twenty years and a day after Austin Carruth coaxed his son, Michael, to Olympic gold, Pete performed a similar feat.
What must have been going through his mind during those excruciating eight minutes?
Watching Katie in the ring, you would swear that ice water runs through her veins.
Her expression gives nothing away. No sign of confidence or cockiness. No hint of fear or dread either.
Inscrutable. Focused. Ready.
At critical moments in yesterday’s final, she searched for the point of weakness in Ochigava’s defence and found it.
In the end, that turned out be enough.
Katie Taylor’s stellar career has been a victory for pragmatism and nerve as much as for sweet science,
The greatest trick Katie has played on us is the illusion that victory is almost inevitable.
After her semi-final, it was put to her that it had been an easy win.
The incredulity on her face was writ large. “Easy? Was it?”
Anyone who has ever stepped through the ropes knows that nothing comes easy in the ring.
Taylor had been on the wrong end of verdicts against Ochigava before so she knows well one of the eternal truths of boxing.
Some days you’re the fly, some days you’re the windscreen.
At the end of the fourth, the tension in the arena was thick as treacle.
Gradually, the cheers died down and the nerves kicked in.
It seemed as if the judges were taking an age to come to a verdict. Many started to fear that it would come down to a countback.
It was a cruel kind of public torture for Katie.
But then there was the release and the roar of triumph into the London sky.
Seasoned boxing experts were blown away by the Katie Show.
“She’s a true champion. When you look back at the great ones in boxing, the Muhammad Alis, they wanted to compete against the best, said USA coach Basheer Abdullah.
“And that’s the same mentality Katie Taylor has.
“She is going to go down as one of the best boxers in history.
“Not just female boxers, the best boxers. She can do it all. She can box, she can fight, she is a true champion.”
When Maeve Kyle competed for Ireland at the 1956 Olympics — becoming the first Irishwoman to do so — there were letters to the newspapers branding her a disgrace to both motherhood and the country.
When Deirdre Gogarty fell in love with the fight game 20 years ago, she found so many obstacles put in her way in Ireland that she had to move to America.
She ended up as world featherweight champion, and a 16-year-old Katie Taylor knocked on her door one day looking for tips.
A decade on, she stands supreme. An Olympic champion. The queen of queens.
As we headed into the London night, the old Jimmy Cannon line about Joe Louis seemed most apt of all. She’s a credit to her race, the human race.