Monday, November 5, 2018

Film review: Katie Taylor opens up on her boxing journey

Photo: Katie Taylor
Sports documentaries can be a mixed bag. You don’t know how honest the person is going to be. You don’t know if this is just another promo. But when the doco is about Katie Taylor you just go. And get ready to watch her dismantling one sexist piece of discrimination against women in boxing after another.

Named simply “Katie” the doco shows her journey her from a determined little girl right up to early 2018 and her pro career.

Everyone knows there would be no women’s boxing in the Olympics without Katie’s determination and skills; essentially shaming AIBA into allowing women to compete. But many of us including myself have forgotten she also battled as a little girl to get into Irish boxing rings.

I interviewed Deirdre Gogarty a few years ago when she returned to Ireland from America – she was the first Irish woman boxer but left Ireland in despair because the sport was illegal. A hero to Katie Taylor, she lit the way for what you see in this documentary.

Footage of the young Katie shows her hair shoved up into the helmet and tidied away so judges would think she was a little boy. A reminder of just how ingrained sexism was in Irish boxing.

A few reels later we see her in 2007 putting on those infamous boxing exhibitions for AIBA as part of her women-in-the-Olympics campaign. Yes, even though they run the women’s world championships AIBA had to have special bouts to convince them the standard was high enough to slot women’s divisions into the Olympics. Mind-blowing.

This doco misses out on her fight against AIBA’s skirts suggestion – remember that? They were going to force female athletes to wear skirts in the boxing ring. Katie and other well-known names made their feelings very clear, and they compromised on making it optional. 

The spine-tingling moments from London take prime position. I was there on the first day for the women’s boxing; I cried then and I don’t mind admitting I cried again in the cinema. It was a moment of recognition made all the sweeter for Irish fighters by Katie’s triumph. I’ll never forget the noise when she won.

Of course what most Irish people want from this doco is the real story of what happened between Katie and her dad/ long-time coach Pete. It’s not all here, but there is more honesty, more tears and more revealed than has been before.

I was curious to note each member of the Taylor family is named in the credits, but not Pete so I guess he either refused or wasn’t asked. She made a clear statement in June when a man was shot at Pete’s gym saying that she has nothing to do with him, and even hit out at the media for using her name in the coverage. How you could ever write a story about him without mentioning his most famous child is hard to imagine but that’s a story for another day.

Religion is very much downplayed in the film which was surprising. I’ve always understood God to be a huge influence on Katie. But except for a few moving scenes showing her praying before bouts, and shots of Biblical quotes on her T-shirts, her faith is almost absent. 

Overall though I left the cinema feeling I’d learned something more about her, understood the drive and ambition a little bit more. It can be hard for athletes to analyse sport and their drive while competing, it’s often only clear in the years after retiring when there is distance and space to think.

It would be interesting to revisit Katie with this same team in ten years and see what comes out. In the meantime, let’s just watch her fight on – how many more barriers can she dismantle?

Find out more about " Katie" on Katie Taylor

When Sonia O' Sullivan met Katie Taylor 

My visit to London2012 and the buzz of seeing Katie Taylor, Mary Kom go for gold 


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