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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Steve Bunce

Croke Park is calling Katie Taylor for a Hollywood homecoming

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The decision was never in doubt at Wembley on Saturday night when Katie Taylor won every round to retain all the belts at lightweight and her iconic status.

Taylor won for the 22nd time as a professional boxer when she beat the previously unbeaten Karen Elizabeth Carabajal, in front of a devoted flock of flag-waving fanatics. It is possible that with the glittering belts – too many to list – she also deserves to be called the most loved boxer on the planet. Hey, that is a rare title.

It was an odd fight in many ways and Carabajal was competitive in every round, forcing her way forward, letting her long arms fly, but Taylor just knows too much, has been faced with too many different challenges during her decades in the ring. Taylor controlled the fight; it is what great boxers do when hungry challengers have the fights of their lives. Carabajal won in defeat, trust me.

“She took some great shots – she has a good chin,” Taylor said. And she is right: Carabajal never stopped trying and walked through the best punches that Taylor could land. Taylor was particularly vicious with her punches.

In the immediate aftermath, as I climbed up and on the ring apron to interview her, the talk was once again about a fantasy fight in Dublin at Croke Park. This had been the message back in New York, at Madison Sqaure Garden, in April after she made a million dollars and beat Amanda Serrano; that rich and longed for rematch vanished and Croke Park was off the agenda. It is back now.

“Can you imagine 80,000 at Croke Park?” Taylor asked, her words filtering out to make her fans roar. Eddie Hearn, her promoter, confirmed that talks had started for a planned rematch with Serrano in September and that they will continue for an outdoor night of greatness next year. Serrano remains the number one dance partner, but there are other contenders for the night.

Next Saturday in Abu Dhabi, the run of exceptional women’s fights continues with the brilliant clash at light-welterweight between Chantelle Cameron, from Northampton, and American Jessica McCaskill. Cameron will be defending her two titles and fighting for two vacant belts when she meets McCaskill. It has slipped under the radar; the winner would be exceptional in the other corner one balmy night under the stars in Dublin.

Cameron is unbeaten and McCaskill, who is coming down in weight having held all four belts at welterweight, lost a torrid ten-rounder to Taylor in 2017 at a feverish York Hall in London’s old East End. The narratives in the women’s side of the sport are starting to dominate the business at a time when the men are quite simply and shamefully avoiding each other.

The return to fight in Ireland would be an emotional ride for Taylor. In 2001 she was in the first sanctioned female contest, but I do not think she has boxed there since a win in early 2016 at a Spa resort in Tralee against the American Queenie Underwood. I asked Taylor when she had her last fight in Ireland, and she laughed and admitted she could not remember. As an amateur, Taylor was constantly on the road. She beat Cameron one day in 2011 in Poland at the European championships. In 2010 she had more than 25 fights in six countries.

And now the giant walls of seats at Croke Park are calling her name, calling her back for the type of homecoming that Hollywood would love. The great city of Dublin would be at a standstill for the first bell and the roar in that sacred venue is unique. Taylor against Serrano, McCaskill or Cameron would all be ideal. Katie Taylor, at this stage in her long, long career, needs the threat of defeat and the trio would offer that.

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