IT WAS 2011 when a starstruck novice amateur called Chantelle Cameron faced then three-time world amateur champion Katie Taylor.
The phenom from Bray, Ireland, of course, won the bout and within a year added an Olympic gold medal to the cabinet. She would also claim a further two world amateur crowns before turning over.
But 12 years is a long time in boxing and much has changed since the night Taylor beat Cameron. When the pair exchange punches for the second time this weekend, it is a closer to even-money fight between two women who hold all the available hardware in their respective weight classes.
“I’ve been aware of Chantelle since way back in those amateur days when we shared the ring,” Taylor recalls to Boxing News. “So that’s a long, long time.
“I’ve been aware over the last few years that this could be a potential fight. It’s great that the fight got over the line.”
Taylor had hoped to secure a rematch with Amanda Serrano at Croke Park for this, her first fight in Ireland as a professional. But when it emerged that the venue was deemed too expensive by her promoter Eddie Hearn and that Serrano was no longer available, they had to find a plan B.
Cameron, fresh from beating Jessica McCaskill to solidify her position as the No.1 at 140lbs, was the obvious but risky move with a packed out 3Arena, Dublin, chosen as the host venue for the encounter.
“It would obviously have been absolutely phenomenal if the fight did happen at Croke Park, that most iconic arena,” she adds. “I’m very hopeful that a fight there will happen but right now I’m just delighted to be fighting back home regardless of the arena I’m fighting in.
“I feel grateful to be in this position, to take big-time boxing home to Ireland for the first time in a long time. The support I get from people back home has been phenomenal, ever since my amateur days really.”
In truth, Taylor could have sold out the 10,000-seater 3Arena five times over regardless of her opponent this time and many fans were disappointed that a deal for Croke, which could seat more than 80,000 was not agreed. Even so, the 36-year-old should be applauded for taking such a risky assignment for her homecoming.
“I think it could be the hardest fight of my career,” she admits. “A lot of people are saying this is a tougher fight than Amanda Serrano so this is going to be a huge fight with two undisputed champions getting together to share the ring. It’s only going to be an epic fight really. She’s big, she’s strong, she has a good engine and a good jab. It’s going to be a very difficult fight but I will be ready and prepared for whatever comes my way.
“I’m so excited that it is actually happening and I have the chance to become a two-weight undisputed champion in front of my own fans. It’s a huge megafight. We could have picked an easier fight for my homecoming but that’s not what I’m about.
“I love a challenge and I want to be involved in the biggest fights possible. Undisputed champion versus undisputed champion, it just doesn’t get any bigger than this. I just can’t wait to produce a great performance in my first fight back home as a pro. There was definitely a time where I was thinking it was never going to happen but here we are.”
Despite her dominance over the course of her career, which has resulted in her position as world lightweight champion, Taylor has emerged as one of the most exciting fighters in the sport after memorable nip-and-tuck humdingers with Delfine Persoon, Natasha Jonas and Serrano, among others. This showdown with Cameron looks like another classic waiting to happen.
“People love watching these classic fights,” she says. “Chantelle definitely has the style to make this another epic fight – it could be another Fight of the Year contender.
“But I don’t like being in them actually. I’d much rather be in one-sided fights but there you go.”
With no opportunities to box in Ireland thus far, Taylor has campaigned mainly in England while seven of her 22 fights took place on the east Coast of America, in the same time zone as her Connecticut training base.
News of her return home has caused an explosion of interest and the clamour for tickets and hotel rooms in Dublin has been profound. But, tucked away in New England, Taylor has barely noticed.
“I wouldn’t say it feels any different this time,” she says. “It’s just business as usual for me.
“I know this is a huge event and it could be the biggest night of my career so far but on a day-to-day basis I’m just getting up and putting the work in, the same as normal, preparing for a big night. I’m here in Connecticut preparing for a big challenge so nothing is different compared to other fights.
“I have a fight to focus on so I don’t think too much about all the other stuff. I’m in my own little bubble so I don’t know what’s going on in the outside world for the most part. I’m here to focus on getting victory on fight night.”
It has also been ‘business as usual’ on the diet front despite moving up to 140lbs for this one in only her second fight at this weight. In November 2019, Taylor boxed Christine Linardatou in Manchester and claimed a unanimous points decision and belief that she can handle business as a light-welterweight.
The 22-0 (6) 36-year-old adds: “I thought that was a great performance against a quality opponent as well. I don’t think it’s an issue stepping up a few pounds and it won’t make much of a difference for me. I feel very well equipped at 140 and it’s not going to be a problem.
“It doesn’t really make a difference to me. We are doing pretty much the same thing we have always done. I guess I can enjoy my food a little bit more during this training camp, I don’t have to make a big cut.
“But the most important thing in any training camp is the actual boxing part. I think a lot of people spend too much time doing strength and conditioning or whatever. It’s important to be strong but nothing can compare to your actual boxing training.
“I feel ready, I feel strong. It’s going to be a tough challenge but I can’t wait to step up and come away as a two-weight undisputed champion.”