Katie Taylor faces the first challenge in a potentially ”history-making” 2019 when she meets Rose Volante in a women’s world lightweight unification battle on Friday night in Philadelphia, having fought influenza in the last month of camp in Connecticut. The aim this year is to become undisputed champion at lightweight, starting with this St Patrick’s weekend showdown.
Taylor, the former Olympic champion and multiple world amateur titlist from Bray, Ireland, already holds the IBF and WBA titles at 135lbs, and, undefeated after a dozen professional fights, aims to unify for a second time against the Brazilian WBO champion Volante, who is undefeated herself after 14 bouts.
The projection, with victory, is that Taylor will face WBC ruler Delfine Persoon in the summer, with plans already being made for a clash with seven-weight world champion Amanda Serrano later in the year, as well as a step up two weights to fight long-time undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus.
Norwegian Braekhus, 37, has already retired undefeated on 35 fights, but both promoter Eddie Hearn and Taylor’s manager Brian Peters believes the women’s boxing star could be tempted back by a bulging purse.
“They’re huge fights for boxing in general. I’ve always said from the get-go I wanted to make history in this sport. These are the fights that will do that. It’s exciting times ahead,” Taylor told The Telegraph.
“This could be a monumental year for me, the biggest of my career both amateur and pro,” said Taylor. “I believe that by the end of the year I can look back at being the undisputed lightweight champion and have had huge fights with Amanda and Cecilia. They want those fights as well, but I have to keep winning and everyone raises their game when they fight me.”
Taylor, now 32, added: “When I sat down with Eddie Hearn a few years ago and talked about turning pro, the one thing we talked about was to fight 3/4 times a year and he’s never let me down, I’m fighting regularly and they are great fights too. I have the chance to win my third World title belt inside two years as a pro, and I’d love to have four fights again this year, but Rose is the only fight in front of me.”
In reality, mentally and physically, Taylor cannot look beyond the threat of Volante. “Rose is a great champion. She’s strong and has a big right hand, she’s undefeated too so she’s a proud fighter and she’s chasing the same prize as me. We want each other’s belts and unbeaten records, but I have had a great camp and I am full of confidence. I think I am getting better and i think it will show on the night. This could be a very physical fight and I am prepared for that.
“I’m at 135 now and I make the weight very comfortably. I could move up to 140lbs but 147lbs could be a stretch. Welterweight would be my maximum. My speed is going to be key in these big fights and I think that technically I am better than a lot of the other girls as well. I feel I have a great team around me, the best coach in the world in Ross Enamait, I feel so prepared going into every fight. But each one is harder than the last and I am aware of that, but I have a lot of confidence and belief in myself, I really feel that no-one can beat me.”
Taylor’s clash with Volante is part of a major night of action for Philadelphians with local hero Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 6 KOs) defending his IBF super-featherweight title against Ireland’s Jono Carroll (16-0-1, 3 KOs). Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell meets Mexican Andrian ‘Chinito’ Yung on the undercard. The event is live on Sky Sports.
Elsewhere, WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, who reclaimed the crown by decision over Eleider Alvarez in a rematch last month, has been ordered by the sanctioning body to make a defence against mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde. The mandate comes after Yarde’s fifth-round knockout of Travis Reeves at the Royal Albert Hall last Friday. Promoter Frank Warren told The Telegraph that the contest for Yarde is most likely next. It could be in either the USA or the USA. Kovalev last fought in the UK in 2013, when he took the WBO belt from Welshman Nathan Cleverly with a fourth round technical knockout.