FOR an elite athlete who has achieved pretty much everything as both an amateur and professional, and accomplished every one of her goals, it can only be considered a glaring omission that Katie Taylor has yet to box as a pro in her native Ireland. This, ideally, would have been one of the first boxes ticked, either on her pro debut or later, when fighting for her first world title. Instead, for whatever reason she has had to wait some seven and a half years for the opportunity. Instead, it is only now, when the fight is pitched as both a homecoming and potentially her last, Katie Taylor boxes in Dublin, Ireland before her adoring public.

Perhaps, in the end, it will be worth the wait. Certainly, in deciding to fight England’s Chantelle Cameron on this special occasion, Taylor has resisted the temptation to have a homecoming fight in the traditional sense; that is, an easy touch permissible on account of a guaranteed turnout. By letting someone like Cameron step in for the original opponent, Amanda Serrano, Taylor has, quite refreshingly, again signalled her ambition and given herself the chance to make even more history. Should she win on Saturday (May 20), she will become a two-weight undisputed world champion.

Clearly, then, despite winding down and teasing the possibility of retirement, Taylor, 22-0 (6), still believes she has work to do. Not content with just winning world titles at lightweight, the division in which she has competed since turning pro in 2016, she now has her sights set on Cameron, the champion at super-lightweight. Theirs is, in many ways, the archetypal battle between youth and experience, with Taylor, at 36, five years Cameron’s senior and a lot more seasoned, both as a world champion and a boxer, full stop. As such, it promises to be either a changing of the guard or, given the backdrop, the crowning moment in a legendary champion’s illustrious career.

All will be revealed in due course. For now, though, credit must go to Cameron, 17-0 (8), for stepping in when Serrano, an opponent Taylor knows well, declared herself unable to make the May 20 date in Dublin. Seemingly, despite holding all the belts and therefore being able to call shots of her own, Cameron sensibly arrived at the decision that Taylor in Ireland was as lucrative an opportunity as she was ever likely to receive. True, it shouldn’t take a genius to come to that conclusion, but, even so, Cameron’s reign as super-lightweight champion has so far been short and some, those more patient, may have wanted this fight to happen later in the year or even next year, assuming Taylor is still going.

Ultimately, it might have been that, the fear of Taylor no longer being the queen of women’s boxing, which persuaded Cameron to pounce while the opportunity knocked. After all, without Taylor as its flag bearer, women’s boxing, though it currently thrives, will be nowhere near as interesting – in terms of drawing massive crowds, both at the gate and on television – or financially rewarding for those involved. The truth is, Taylor, a hero in Ireland since her amateur days, has set the bar outrageously high for her peers, not only in an achievement sense but also in the sense that she has garnered popularity without having to flaunt herself on social media or lower herself to engage in half-hearted trash talk. Rather, Taylor, whose approach has been old-school since day one, has just gone about her business, facilitated of course by the fact that she never had to actively chase or court an audience, for she already had one in place when turning pro.

Something of an anomaly, then, Taylor will find, in Cameron, a kindred spirit of sorts. Like Taylor, Cameron tends to be not much of a talker, nor someone who merely wants to use boxing as a vehicle to becoming famous or collecting followers on social media. Similarly old-school in that sense, and also well-schooled technically, Cameron’s march to super-lightweight world titles has been relatively low-key compared to the rise of other women in the sport. Her title win, for instance, took place in Abu Dhabi last November and was a fight that played out in relative silence, with few interested in it even back home. It was a shame, too, because the fight against Jessica McCaskill meant an awful lot, both to Cameron and to the division itself. Moreover, the performance she produced on the night made a mockery of McCaskill’s reign, such was the challenger’s dominance. Round after round, Cameron was able to highlight the limitations in the American’s reckless style and had an easy time of it in the end, albeit the scorecards handed in by three judges would suggest otherwise (97-93, 96-94, 96-94).

Had it taken place anywhere else, it would have been a performance and a win rightly celebrated. However, because it happened in Abu Dhabi, and because the fight itself never really sparked into life, Cameron was left winning a variety of world titles against a big name in the women’s game to little or no fanfare. Maybe, on reflection, it was that reality that also convinced her to chase Taylor and accept the fight when it was offered to her. Maybe, having seen the other side of world title action in the women’s game, she is now yearning for the chance to fight in front of a passionate sold-out crowd in a fight that carries its meaning and feeling at ground level and not simply at boardroom level.

On the evidence we have so far, she’s ready for it, too. At 31, though younger than Taylor, she is mature enough to handle the pressure of an occasion like this. Not only that, Cameron is also 17 fights into her pro career, so hardly a novice. What’s more, six of her last seven fights have gone the full 10-round distance, which should stand her in good stead when going up against Taylor, someone who appears to have mastered the art of coming on strong just when it is needed in a 10-round fight.

That is something Taylor has managed to do in each of her last eight fights, all of which have gone 10 rounds. Ever since edging Delfine Persoon in 2019, in fact, Taylor has huffed and puffed and gutted it out against some of the best lightweights in the world. Some were beaten out of sight, with there no need for debate, whereas others, like Persoon, like Natasha Jonas, and like Amanda Serrano, have come away from fighting Taylor thinking they were unlucky not to get the decision.

True or not, what was clear in those fights was how masterful Taylor is at both doing just enough to get herself over the line and responding to adversity, whether that’s when getting hurt by a shot, as we saw against Serrano, or losing consecutive rounds, as we saw her do against all three at times. Rather than panic in those high-pressure moments, the response of most, Taylor would instead call upon all her experience and technical ability to regain control. Soon enough, it then becomes a habit, something we have all come to expect. One wonders, too, if her opponents, even as they take the initiative in fights against her and have what you would describe as good spells, have started to fear her inevitable retort, or at least anticipate it. It would in some ways be foolish of them not to think in those terms. After all, while she might not be at her athletic peak anymore, there is no doubt Taylor is fighting harder than ever to stave off retirement and prolong her stay in a sport she loves so dearly. You can see this desperation in her eyes as she prepares to win back rounds she has lost. You can also see it in the hunger she has to still be challenged at this stage of her career.

A challenge is what she will receive from Cameron, the champion, on Saturday night. It won’t be a challenge in the sense Taylor has grown accustomed to receiving, with her usually in the role of champion, but it will this time be a different sort of challenge, one maybe tougher than most. Because, on Saturday, Taylor will be tasked with holding it all together on a night high on emotion; a night a long time coming. To the feverish sounds of her home support, she must once again go to the well and hope to find it still full, or at least full enough for her to win her 23rd straight pro fight. Fraught with tension, as well as the unknown, there will forever be a fear that one day the well will run dry and that Taylor, having visited it so many times in recent years, will finally discover the feeling of one more challenge being too much for her.

It’s the job of Cameron, of course, to ensure that’s exactly what she experiences this weekend. Taller than Taylor by three inches, and with a three-inch advantage in reach, Cameron would appear, on the face of it, physically capable of exerting pressure on the home favourite and making her feel every one of her 36 years. She also carries with her the ignorance and arrogance of an unbeaten fighter, oblivious to how it feels to be defeated and therefore unlikely to be scared of it happening to her, even when in the presence of arguably the best female boxer in the world. Such fearlessness, combined with her stature, should help Cameron on the night. Help her settle. Help her manage her nerves. Help her attack Taylor with the ferocity she knows Taylor herself will be only too happy to match. But whether in the end size, freshness and fearlessness will be enough to win the fight for Cameron remains to be seen.

Until we sense otherwise, Taylor still carries her knack for problem solving. And if all she needs at this juncture in her career is a little extra push to get her to the final bell and see that her hand is raised, there can be no better provider of that push than a sold-out Irish crowd, all of whom have been waiting for her return for far too long now. It could be enough, in an extremely tight fight, for Taylor to again celebrate a 10-round decision, this time of the Irish kind; the kind some, including Cameron, will leave Dublin calling “lucky”.

Finding a place on the Dublin undercard is a 12-round welterweight fight between Kildare’s Dennis Hogan, 31-4-1 (7), and James Metcalf, 24-2 (15). Like Taylor, these two, despite their Irish links, will be fighting in Ireland for the first time in their pro careers, with the Australian-based Hogan usually found competing Down Under or in America and Metcalfe, known as “Kid Shamrock” and based in Liverpool, doing his best work either in the UK or Spain, where last year he shocked home favourite Kerman Lejarraga over 10 rounds.