Katie Taylor has a smile that shines brighter than the world championship belts that drape all over her, but you can quickly cut through it to find her vicious side.
“I don’t think you can call any tough fight a ‘robbery’ or a ‘bad decision’ or a ‘disgraceful decision’.
“Those remarks are a disgrace in themselves, really.”
This is the undisputed lightweight champion, unbeaten and not far off perfect throughout a glory-laden amateur and pro career, yet she is forced to defend the judges who scored her most recent fight in her favour.
Her scrap with then-WBC titleholder Delfine Persoon in New York was one of the best women’s boxing matches you could ever see.
Taylor’s hardest fight was against Persoon
Persoon was badly damaged by Taylor
Taylor, the red-hot favourite and defending IBF, WBA and WBO champion was pushed backwards regularly but badly damaged her Belgian opponent. Taylor won via majority decision and, naturally, some people believe Persoon deserved the verdict.
Does that take the shine away from a fight which earned Taylor every major title in her division?
“It doesn’t actually, no,” she said at a Sky VIP event in Dublin.
“The judges are there for a reason. It was a close fight but I came out as the undisputed champion, and I felt that it was well deserved.
“It was a tough battle regardless of whether people think I won or she won.”
The competitiveness and spikiness has emerged out of Taylor, as she defends herself (arguably against the notion that she should simply breeze past every opponent).
“I knew it would be the hardest fight of my career. I knew it would be very physical and I prepared. I knew I would have to show heart and dig deep.
“People didn’t realise how good Persoon actually was.”
Ireland’s Taylor amassed five amateur world titles, the 2012 Olympic gold and five pro world titles inside 14 fights. The hunt for a rival who could elevate her onto another level may end with the discovery of Persoon, who was 43-1 before bumping into Taylor.
“I’d be very happy to have a rival,” says Taylor who references Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales’ legendary trilogy.
“That’s exactly what women’s sport needs. There will be more interest in the rematch than the original fight. It was great for business but I don’t want to be involved in too many of those fights.
“It was a fight of the year contender.
“The rematch is inevitable but, at the same time, I want to move up in weight and become a multiple-weight undisputed champion. That’s history, right there!”
The young girl who was introduced to boxing by her father, who became her trainer, and driven by her Catholicism has redefined boxing by what she has accomplished as a woman in a man’s world.
She might have been at this summer’s Women’s World Cup if things panned out differently – she has 11 caps for Ireland’s football team.
Taylor isn’t alone as a female boxing pioneer and there remain pretenders to her throne.
“The obvious one is Amanda Serrano,” she says.
Puerto Rico’s Serrano is a hybrid boxer, wrestler and MMA fighter who has lost just once in 38 fights. Taylor has already beaten Serrano’s older sister, Cindy.
“[Amanda Serrano] is one of the biggest fights out there. People have spoken about that fight for years.
“She’s very good – a seven-weight world champion, a southpaw, and she’s explosive. That’s an exciting fight.”
Taylor reveals plans for her next fight
What’s next? Maybe the Persoon rematch but other challenges were mentioned. Cecilia Braekhus, like Taylor, is undisputed in her division. Or she could move up a division to challenge for titles belonging to Jessica McCaskill, who she has beaten once already. UFC fighter Holly Holm, who famously toppled Ronda Rousey, is a 38-fight boxing veteran and was also name-checked.
But Taylor’s influence reaches further than the here and now.
“It’s not unusual anymore to have a women’s fight on a card. Boundaries have been broken down over the past few years – not just by myself, but also by Nicola Adams, Claressa Shields and so many fighters that came before us, as well, like Jane Couch.”
The smile is back when Taylor beams with pride. But the spikiness, always inside of her, is what makes her special.