Sport’s true power on display as Katie Taylor creates harmony and history in Dublin

Amid a week of riots, Dublin came together to support the boxing icon as she avenged her first pro defeat and became an undisputed champion again. Alex Pattle was in the Irish capital to see it all unfold

Monday 27 November 2023 14:06 GMT
Katie Taylor celebrates her historic win in a rematch with Chantelle Cameron
Katie Taylor celebrates her historic win in a rematch with Chantelle Cameron (PA)

On Thursday night, and for much of Friday and Saturday, Dublin locals were holed up inside their homes as riots raged on the streets of the Irish capital. One viral image showed a bus ablaze, and for a few days it felt like the very soul of the city was burning, too. But on Saturday night, locals instead holed up inside the 3Arena, a haven from the hellish developments of the week. This was the only orchestrated violence that anyone who cares about Dublin wanted to see: Katie Taylor, a pioneer of women’s boxing, transcending sport again.

Ask any Dublin native about this week’s violent protests, which followed the stabbing of five people – including three children – on Thursday, and they would tell you how shocking the instigating incident and ensuing riots were. Some would acknowledge bubbling tensions over immigration policies in recent years, augmented by lingering frustrations over Covid lockdowns – especially among younger, unemployed locals. Even so, what transpired in Dublin was alien to the city’s citizens. The attack was tragic, the riots were shameful.

What a relief, then, for the city to be united in shock of a different hue – shock at how Taylor could give even more to boxing, and to Ireland, when it seemed she had surely given everything she had. Six months on from suffering the first loss of her professional career, 37-year-old Taylor defied the odds, her age, and Chantelle Cameron’s size and skill to gain vengeance and more undisputed gold.

Taylor, right, and Cameron engaged in a bloody battle across 10 rounds (Getty)

England’s Cameron, unbeaten and undisputed at super-lightweight, overcame Taylor with pressure and volume in May. Taylor did not need to face such a stern opponent on her Irish homecoming, and she did not need to face Cameron again on Saturday. But Taylor – undisputed at lightweight – turned the tables on the 32-year-old, this time taking Cameron’s zero and wrestling away her championship belts.

There was a feeling that defeat for Taylor could have seen her walk away from the sport she has carried on her back for more than a decade, dating back to before her Olympic gold medal win in 2012, even. But she was determined not to let that happen, and so were the 9,000 Irish souls that roared on her every punch. The noise was deafening in the 3Arena, an outpouring of emotion as much as anything else, and the sea of Irish tricolours threatened to crash over the barriers like a tidal wave when the result was declared: Katie Taylor def. Chantelle Cameron via majority decision.

It was not as though Taylor had been outspoken about the riots; in fact, she did very little talking this week, cancelling some interviews and preferring to focus on the fight of her life. Yet that gave way to this stunning performance, and these combinations of punches brought people together perhaps more effectively than any combination of words could have.

Irish fans show their support for Taylor, a boxing pioneer (Getty)

Then there was Conor McGregor, whose rhetoric on social media threatened to fan the flames of violence this week. The UFC star, once beloved on these shores but now divisive even here, eventually said he did not condone the riots, but only after calling for Thursday’s attacker to be punished with “torture and death”. Furthermore, after last week’s sentencing of Jozef Puska, who was jailed for life over the murder of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy in January 2022, McGregor had declared: “Ireland, we are at war.”

On Saturday, the only war that mattered to Dublin was Taylor’s bloody battle with Cameron. For Taylor, it was more history, as she became a two-weight world champion. For Dublin, it was harmony when the city needed it most.

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