“I never put limits on myself.”
Boxing remains a rich seam for those who enjoy mining for stories of glory, triumph, loss or redemption. It is a world inhabited by the colourful and paradoxic, from the magnanimous hero to the loveable villain and a fair smattering of everything in between.
Occasionally, for those immersed in boxing’s culture, in her truths and philosophies and her lies and darker corners too, it is possible to become desensitised to the virtue of most of her participants and to the greatness she can draw from people.
In November 2017, in the unspectacular surroundings of Wembley Arena, on an otherwise forgettable card notionally headlined by a van glorious Light-Welterweight, Katie Taylor made her professional debut and, in doing so, woke the gathered.
A special fighter, perhaps a special person, was among them. And, like me, years from that night they would be able to say they were there when it all began.
Monday’s UK release of ‘KATIE’ offers those ringside observers, even the one minded to hurl a full bottle of beer into the ring when Dundee’s Ronnie Clark lost, the chance to join the wider public in watching the story of how the now 32-year-old reached that point, and then on further to her 2018 World Title win and subsequent unification of the WBA and IBF belts.
The film received a cinematic release in Ireland, where she is rightly venerated for her Olympic triumph and multiple Amateur World Championships, and becomes available for UK viewers via the usual home platforms; Amazon, Google, Sky Store and iTunes.
In the 80-minute study, featuring contributions from her family, those involved in her boxing journey; trainers, promoters, opponents and journalists, the depth of Katie’s single-mindedness, her determination and restless, seemingly ceaseless, appetite for progress, for the validation of victory is revealed.
For this observer, this remains the most interesting, if intangible force at work in Katie’s life and professional career. It’s origin, the well from which she draws this boundless determination and drive, is never quite found in the feature though her Christian faith and unflinching desire to provide exemplar to those young girls who could be inspired to follow in her wake are portrayed with dexterity as the two leading suspects.
Highlights of her two boxing careers are diligently captured and the narrative never wanders too close to cliche, as boxing films are inevitably tempted to. This is an exploration of Katie Taylor the ‘person’, not merely a navigation of her pugilistic career. However, for those less familiar or sceptical about her fighting ability there is sufficient evidence presented to appease the naysayers and to make believers of those who doubt. Katie Taylor is a dangerous fighter. And an entertaining one too.
Images of the crowds drawn to her homecoming parade relay her significance to the people of Ireland, and add to the pioneering role she has played in the validation of women’s boxing in both the Amateur and Professional codes. Her shy, introverted persona remains gently preserved despite her life in the public gaze and whilst no one line from the film could ever entirely summarise her, or provide the conclusion the film may be expected to, I felt Katie’s own words were the most telling about how best she may be defined.
“My success in the ring doesn’t mean as much to me as my integrity. That’s the most important thing to me.”
On that otherwise turgid night back in November 2017, she would stand, by coincidence, a chair’s depth away and looked directly at me moments after her debut victory and just minutes after she had first strode to the ring, her face then expressionless. Chillingly so. My own bashfulness stole any words I may have ventured. I could only summon a nod of approval.
Her demeanour and performance left an impression deeper than the nod may have suggested.
Try and see the film. I believe you will be similarly affected.