Entrancing portrait of exemplary sporting ambassador

Entrancing portrait of exemplary sporting ambassador Katie Taylor with her father and former coach, Peter.
Katie
 (12A)

Why does the woman who put Irish boxing on the international map receive relatively little attention from the media? Is it because she doesn’t disgrace herself enough in public like Conor McGregor? Or, more ominously, because she tends to mention the dreaded ‘G’ word, i.e. God – society’s latest taboo  – in interviews?

Imagine what would happen if a relative of McGregor’s was almost murdered. We’d never hear the end of it. But when it happened to Katie Taylor’s father it didn’t receive any more attention than if he was just another victim of a criminal ‘hit’ in a country already  overladen with them.

This engrossing documentary shows her endearing personality in almost every frame. She doesn’t seem to have a bad bone in her body and her network of family and friends are equally affectionate.

Ross Whitaker made it before her father was wounded. Another man was killed instead of him  but he was said to be the intended target. Today he’s jobless and homeless. The absence of these events will, for some, deprive the film of drama. I thought it was better without them. It means the focus is firmly on Katie.

Focus

Her life is covered from her early years when women’s boxing didn’t exist here. She never wanted a Barbie doll for a gift. It was always a  “boy toy”. She excelled at soccer – a dream goal she scored as a youth is shown – before she decided to focus on boxing. When she did, a “borderline unhealthy” obsession with it took over.

Her father was her mentor then. When he left her mother for another woman their relationship fell apart. She felt like she’d lost her right arm.

She took all before her as an amateur. For a time it seemed like she wasn’t capable of losing a fight. When she did – at the Olympic Games in Rio – the expression on her face suggested someone had just died.

After her father went out of her life she went to a coach in Connecticut to get her career back on track. Slowly but surely he returned her to her former greatness.

The footage of her in the ring is pulsatingly graphic. You feel every punch she throws – and takes – as if it’s happening to you. With that two-fisted style she turns from her customary samurai-like calm into a “thunderbolt”.

This, she jokes, is her nickname. There are a lot of jokes when Katie is about. Laughter comes as naturally to her as breathing to the rest of us. When she crinkles her eyes up she steals your heart away.

I once wrote a letter to her asking if she’d be interested in me writing her biography. Alas, the job was gone. I received a very gracious letter attesting to that fact. It’s nothing less than what I would have expected.

Like a lot of people who beat their opponents up for a living, she’s a very gentle lady at base.

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