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Is Katie Taylor to Turn Pro? And retain Amateur Status?

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By Michael O’Neill

Team Taylor  are examining a clause which they believe may allow the Olympic gold medallist to make up to 15 appearances  as a professional before reverting to the amateur ranks, from where she would be able to defend her title in Rio in 2016,  according to the  'Irish Examiner'

According to the Cork newspaper , the 26-year old’s representatives will be discussing the matter with  senior AIBA  world boxing officials this weekend  to establish exactly what are  the ‘ hard and fast rules’  and, if given the go-ahead to switch over and back, the newspaper understands that  Taylor could sign an agreement with  Brian Peters Promotions and remain  located in Ireland.

Peters, who is based in Dunshaughlin in Co Meath, has promoted fights involving a generation of Irish boxing’s finest professional talent, including former world champion Bernard Dunne, Andy Lee, John Duddy and Matthew Macklin and indeed Katie Taylor already appear on his Pro-Am fight bill on the night Bernard Dunne took the World title at the O2, where she gained a comprehensive win over Caroline Barry of the  United States before a sell-out 10,000 crowd in Dublin. That was a ‘one-off’ agreed by the I.A.B.A in 2010.

In previous years the  dividing line between amateur and professional boxing was 'non-negotiable' but since then the AIBA themselves have introduced  the World Series Boxing (WSB) which has allowed many Olympic medallists from countries in Asia, Europe and the  Americas  including Irish  amateurs  such as Kenny Egan ,John Joe Nevin and Willie McLaughlin   to fight as  "salaried" participants.

Indeed six Irish boxers are due to compete in the 2013 edition of the W.S.B  without headguards or vests and with professional-style scoring systems, and there are plans to introduce identical changes for the next Olympics.

There is also a real possibility of a UK-based franchise team taking part  in the next W.S.B series which would be particularly interesting to Irish boxers.

The AIBA  have themselves  previously  announced a pro tournament for 2013 which they claim will allow amateur fighters compete and yet remain eligible for the global event in Brazil, namely the APB.

It is believed that Peters has already offered Taylor  a professional contract, as indeed has Oscar De La Hoya through Golden Boy Promotions, but as we have previously reported ,the Bray boxer has restated her love for the amateur game and her desire to defend her Olympic crown in Rio.

The big question therefore  is - will the AIBA allow Taylor - or anyone else for that matter - to compete as a Pro and then revert to Amateur status in time for Rio? . That is what this meeting will consider among other matters  but on the face of it I would find it very hard to believe that the AIBA will agree. A more likely possibility as I have suggested before is that the AIBA may be willing to introduce a 'limited' (in the first year), women’s pro event similar to the  WSB and this might indeed meet the requirements of both parties in the short term.

What is quite clear is that the  AIBA - and of course the IABA also - will not want to lose Taylor to the Pro ranks. Indeed the Olympic, World, European and Irish champion  is  a key player in the future success of women’s boxing in the  Olympics and on the  world scene for at least the next four years though she herself has  recently said she feels she could remain in the sport for another ten years..

Without Taylor, the world of women's amateur  boxing and to some extent the Pro ranks - would  undoubtedly once again face a huge struggle for no one else has the same crowd pulling appeal, albeit young 17 years old  Claressa Shields (USA) , at 75 kg is showing much promise. Only this week when awarding Taylor the 2012 AIBA Elite Woman boxer of the Year award for a historic third time, the AIBA expressed the view that  “we are proud at AIBA that Katie Taylor has graced the sport of boxing and we sincerely hope that she will be there in Rio 2016 to defend her title and once again showcase women’s boxing in all its splendour.”. 

Does that sound like an organisation that would be willing to lose her services to a Pro rival or indeed even to retirement?  At this moment it seems that - despite the prolonged discussions with the IABA and with the Irish Sports Council -  Taylor holds most of  'the aces in the pack'. It is her future that is at stake and the Taylor camp will leave no stone unturned in their  desire to get the best possible deal - or deals - for her, both in the ring and commercially through sponsorships. She has recently been appointed Ambassador for Adidas sportswear.

Interesting days ahead for Katie Taylor, for the AIBA and the IABA.