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THE LAST WORD: Game-changer Katie Taylor continues to break down barriers

May 8th, 2022 12:00 PM

By Ger McCarthy

THE LAST WORD: Game-changer Katie Taylor continues to break down barriers Image
Katie Taylor celebrates her historic victory with promoter Eddie Hearn. (Photo ©INPHO/Gary Carr)

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Katie Taylor’s Madison Square Garden heroics are a reminder that women in sport have come a long way but equality remains an ongoing issue.

World renowned sports journalist and author Donald McCrae conducted the following interview with Katie Taylor’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, ahead of the Irish boxer and Amanda Serrano’s Madison Square Garden fight this past weekend.

‘It’s got the stigma of a tough, rough man’s sport,’ said Hearn in an interview with McCrae for the Guardian newspaper.

‘It was only the changing perception of women’s sport in general that opened the door to Katie. But I’ve learnt from Katie that broadcasters were looking to use women’s sport as a box-ticker. She taught me that’s wrong. Box-ticking is not equality’.

According to McCrae’s interview, promoting Katie Taylor has proven an educational experience for the long-time boxing supremo Hearn.

‘I went to Katie about four years ago and said I’ve had a great idea,’ Hearn explained.

‘On International Women’s Day we’re going to do an all-female card at Madison Square Garden in the Hulu theatre. It’s going to be ground-breaking, blah, blah, blah. I was so excited.

‘Katie went “no way”. She looked at me like she was disgusted.

‘She taught me the only way that we would have a sustainable future with women’s boxing was for it to become a standalone product as a great sport – not as a token of goodwill.

‘If it stands alone, and has its own value, then we have longevity and sustainability.

‘That’s what Katie Taylor has built. She and Serrano are not selling out the Garden with a capacity crowd because everyone is going ‘we should support women’s sport’. It’s selling out the Garden because it’s a great fight.’

Taylor retained her WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO lightweight titles in front of a rabid, sold-out crowd of 19,187. It was a hell of a fight, one of the best of the last decade.

Once the opening bell rung, did it matter that it was two women headlining Madison Square Garden? Absolutely not. The quality of the bout was all that mattered and on that, Taylor and Serrano delivered.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending another Celtic Ross Hotel, C103fm and Southern Star monthly sports award ceremony at the Rosscarbery hotel.

Two winners, Skibbereen RFC captain Averyl Condell and Ballinascarthy Camogie, Clonakilty LGFA and Cork dual-star Millie Condon, were honoured for recent achievements in their respective sports.

Both award recipients spoke of their pride at each of their teams’ accomplishments and that they were accepting the trophies on behalf of their rugby and camogie/football team mates.

Condell and Condon continue to excel in their respective sports. Both are well spoken, humble and, whether they believe it or not, excellent ambassadors for women’s rugby (Condell), football and camogie (Condon). Yet, all three of those sports have had to fight, and continue to fight, for equality when it comes to pitch access, funding, media coverage and respect.

Things are improving at local and national level but the pace of those improvements is painfully slow.

Most West Cork (and the other divisions) GAA clubs recognise the value of ladies football and camogie, the roles those sports play in their club members lives and the importance of facilitating access to pitches for training and matches.

Equality is not giving an underage ladies football or camogie team access to a training pitch for one of their matches while a men’s team trains on the club’s best playing surface.

Equality is understanding that women and young schoolgirls have exactly the same right to access a clubs’ best pitches as much as their male counterparts do.

The same goes for rugby, soccer or any other outfield sporting or school’s organisation in West Cork and beyond.

Remember, it was not that long ago (2017) that the Republic of Ireland international women’s senior soccer squad were forced to change into their FAI kit inside public toilets. Worse still, those international players had to share tracksuits and then hand back their Irish kit to the FAI immediately after a game.

Those Irish international players were forced to go public with their concerns for the future of the sport in this country. The subsequent media backlash forced the FAI into action.

Look at the Irish international women’s soccer team now.

It shouldn’t have come to a head but those players’ insistence on the most basic requirements for an international footballer had the desired effect.

Think about it for a second. It is only five years ago yet can you imagine the world-wide outcry if the Irish men’s international soccer team had to share their kit or change in a public toilet?

As Eddie Hearn said, the only sustainable future for women’s boxing was for it to become a standalone product as a great sport. Not as a token of goodwill.

It is about respect and doing the right thing. If all women’s sports stand alone and retain their own values, then they have longevity and sustainability.

We have come a long way in terms of equality but there is still a long way to go before the box-ticking finally disappears.

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