Tommy Martin: Katie Taylor is smart enough to handle the Conor McGregor question

It was Katie Taylor’s lot to have her redemption night associated with Conor McGregor, even if only tangentially
Tommy Martin: Katie Taylor is smart enough to handle the Conor McGregor question

Conor McGregor with Katie Taylor. Pic Credit ©INPHO/Gary Carr

While Katie Taylor only won her rematch with Chantelle Cameron on a majority decision, the verdict on Conor McGregor in the minds of decent Irish people must surely now be unanimous.

If one of the three judges marking Taylor’s triumph in the 3Arena considered the contest too close to call, no one observing McGregor’s online behaviour last week could doubt that the one-time UFC superstar had left what remained of his reputation in a heap on the canvas.

McGregor’s social media commentary on the events surrounding Thursday’s stabbing in Dublin and the outbreak of rioting and violence that followed has attracted the attention of the Gardaí. “Ireland, we are at war” went one post on X. Another claimed, “You reap what you sow” as Dublin burned.

A more considered missive said, “Do not let any irish property be took over unannounced. Evaporate said property. It’s a war.” 

Authorities must investigate whether the posts amount to incitement to violence or simply crimes against the English language.

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McGregor has appointed himself propagandist-in-chief of Ireland’s proto-fascist vanguard, firing off rabble-rousing anti-immigration posts to his appreciative audience of knuckle-draggers, the type of marginal loon brigade who’ve been howling their appreciation at such ludicrous windbags since Mussolini was a boy.

He has since parroted far-right talking points that seek to hijack genuine social problems and tragic events, like the murder of Aisling Murphy and Thursday’s horrendous stabbing, and fit them into their angry racist fantasies as if they are in possession of a coherent plan of action for society’s ills and not just addled with the most toxic brand of male narcissism.

The vast majority of the population whose interests McGregor claims to represent, if they once admired his achievements in the fields of prizefighting and self-promotion, now see him for what he is. One TD described him this week as a “gobdaw,” which seems on the flattering side.

It was Taylor’s lot to have her redemption night associated with McGregor, even if only tangentially. He sponsored both of Taylor’s Dublin bouts in 2023, his Irish stout brand emblazoned on the ring on Saturday night as she delivered arguably her greatest performance yet. McGregor appears to have an ongoing commercial relationship with Taylor’s promoter, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom company – though the MMA fighter was not ringside this time, Ed Sheeran providing an altogether gentler ginger presence.

Hearn, prominent in the media in the 48 hours before the first bell, had to be at his light-footed best in order to distance the occasion from the Oswald Mosley of the octagon. When asked by a journalist in Taylor’s post-fight press conference about the relationship with McGregor, Hearn came over all morally superior – one of his funniest poses – at the notion that poor Katie’s moment should be sullied by legitimate questions about his business relationships.

For many people, Hearn made a fair point. It’s a curious thing that Ireland’s two most celebrated modern fighters occupy opposite positions in the public hearts. If McGregor is the dark, shameful id, all belligerence and braggadocio, the type of qualities we feel it right to suppress, then Taylor is a sort of warrior angel, someone who embodies the prized virtues of humility, perseverance and courage; a living saint.

Like a saint, there is an otherness about Katie. Her brand of Christianity is not one shared by most people on this island, if they have any at all. Many consider it a bit weird. She lives an ascetic life of self-denial – family, faith and fighting her touchstones. Her miracle is her self-actualisation, top gun of a game she created herself, where little existed before but derision and discrimination; like Brigid throwing her cloak onto the ground and it covering as far as the eye can see.

She doesn’t do the chat show circuit, nor will she be appearing in panto. Other than a predilection for chocolate, we know little of her inner desires or loves, other than those that have demonstrably driven her extraordinary sporting life.

As such, there is much about the way that Katie is perceived that is a projection, as if we need somebody to look up to who is pure and good and above the tawdry fray of modern life. Hence why we shouldn’t talk about yer man in front of her.

But this, of course, infantilises Katie Taylor, who is a fiercely smart woman in her late thirties with a wicked sense of humour and the ability to navigate the toughest business there is with barely a stumble. It was she who had the iron will to cut her own father out of her set-up when personal issues meant they could no longer work together. It was she who reached out to Eddie Hearn in the now-famous DM in which she suggested that, with his help, she could do for professional women’s boxing what she had already done in the amateur game.

Katie is no fool. She didn’t ask the pastor in her local church to steer her fledgling pro career. She went to the best in the business, the charismatic cockernee geezer from central casting who gets deals done. For all her beliefs, she’d have been well aware that when Eddie Hearn says he does everything by the book, he doesn’t mean the Book. She knows enough about boxing to know that our budding Crumlin Goebbels, with his eighteen prior convictions, is a choirboy compared to some of the characters lurking around the game.

In his famous line about the death of the Welsh boxer Johnny Owen from injuries sustained in the ring, Hugh McIlvanney said that it was the taciturn fighter’s “tragedy that he found himself articulate in such a dangerous language.” It was Katie Taylor’s misfortune that the business by which she would choose to change the world was a grubby one, but it is far from a tragedy – and no half-baked, nativist nonsense spouted online can taint her achievements, or her monumental legacy.

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