‘SHE fights like a man’.
That’s a compliment, I think, to Katie Taylor, Olympic medallist and world champion boxer. And it’s one that has popped up again and again this week.
Because, of course, we expect our female boxers to be dainty little diggers, checking their make-up at the bell.
We don’t expect them to fire flurries of punches and withstand heavy bodyblows.
And we’re not used to seeing them in a boxing ring, usually the preserve of swaggering and staggering men.
Katie Taylor fights like a man? She fights a better technical bout that most professional male boxers.
And she certainly fights better than most men I’ve see in action.
She’s proved herself as a world champion four times over, and her London performances are the icing on the cake.
And yet some folk continue to patronise the Wicklow woman.
Again and again, at the age of 26, she’s the Irish ‘girl’. Have you heard Paddy Barnes described as the Irish ‘boy’?
More than once there’s been a reference to her father Pete as Katie’s ‘daddy’. Ah, bless, a daddy watching his little girl trying her best. It’s heartwarming, isn’t it?
This cutesie crap is, of course, a million miles away from the reality of the professional training grind, the hours of mentoring and prep that the two Taylors put in, the clinical focus that’s yielded a slew of world championships and put Taylor on an Olympic podium.
But keep an ear out for it this evening – I guarantee it will slip into coverage of the gold medal bout.
But why is there this reaction among a minority of spectators?
Perhaps it’s Katie’s appearance.
We don’t expect champion boxers to be well-spoken, photogenic women from Bray.
Perhaps it’s her youthful looks.
But, at 26, Katie has already been boxing for 14 years, longer than many professional careers. Before that she lined out for local soccer teams. Maybe she played “like a boy” then?
Perhaps some people patronise Katie Taylor and her fellow female boxers because we’re just not used to seeing female boxing at the Olympics. The 2012 Games are the first time the sport’s featured, after all.
Whatever the reason it’s high time that people drop the cliches, the “isn’t she great for a girl” rubbish and applaud Katie Taylor the athlete, the winning Olympian.
Katie Taylor doesn’t fight like a man. She doesn’t fight like a woman either. She fights like Katie Taylor.
And few other boxers can do that.
This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, August 9, 2012