Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill vs. Ireland’s Katie Taylor
By David A. Avila
Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill chased and chased Ireland’s Katie Taylor on social media and now she gets her wish.
“Finally,” says McCaskill in a subdued tone.
After months of social media challenges McCaskill (5-1, 3 Kos) gets her wish to fight Ireland’s Katie Taylor (7-0, 4 Kos) for the WBA lightweight world title at York Hall on Wednesday Dec. 13, in London, England.
McCaskill is a go-getter kind of woman. When she wants something she goes and gets it, but not loudly.
After watching Taylor’s meteoric rise as a pro following a heralded amateur career that included two Olympics, the Chicago fighter immediately wanted to face her in the boxing ring.
McCaskill’s team launched a social media barrage of challenges via Twitter.com to the Irish Olympic gold medalist that stretched out for months.
“Yes, I guess she has been calling me out for the last few months. She never left me alone for the last two months,” said Taylor, 31, who defeated Ana Esther Sanchez for the WBA title in October.
When Taylor accepted the challenge the Chicago team let out a collective breath.
Both female fighters are fierce inside the boxing ring. But outside, there is a calmness in their tone whenever they speak as if not to waste energy.
They are very similar.
Taylor has dominated female boxing as an amateur racking up world titles and an Olympic gold medal and winning a pro world title in less than a year. When she talks it’s almost apologetically.
McCaskill fights with a fierce hunger like she is racing against time. But outside she’s a businesswoman comfortable with the protocols of banks and investment firms. She speaks with a quiet eloquence and the hint of a crooked smile.
Taylor has built a worldwide reputation as one of the best newcomers to pro boxing. McCaskill has quietly fought in America’s heartland but just itching to prove herself.
While watching television McCaskill saw a pair of women trade blows in a world title fight.
“I was watching the TV and thought I could do this,” said McCaskill.
It was around 2008 when McCaskill first saw a female boxing match on television and watching them trade blows sparked a sudden interest.
“I remember Freddie Roach had a female fighter,” said McCaskill of watching Ana Julaton perform on television. “She dominated but I still felt a little underwhelmed.”
After watching the fight she decided to look for a boxing gym and learn more about the sweet science of boxing.
Born in New Mexico from a Mexican father and an African-American mother, she ended up in St. Louis where she began her amateur boxing career. Eventually because of her job in investment banking she moved to Chicago.
That’s where she met Rick Ramos her manager and trainer in a boxing gym called Body Shot Boxing Club. He recognized her boxing abilities and together they launched a pro career that began in 2015.
Ireland’s Taylor wasted little time since becoming a professional. While some Olympians faced opposition with limited records Taylor blitzed through veterans like Viviane Obenauf and Milena Koleva who each had more than 10 pro fights.
On Oct. 28, she challenged Argentina’s Sanchez and busted a body shot in the second round that crumbled the champion to her knees. Somehow the Argentine fighter survived until the final bell, but lost almost every round.
Immediately after winning the world title Taylor’s team decided to accept McCaskill’s challenge and made the call.
“I only had a few days off after the last fight. But that’s exactly what I want,” said Taylor, who lives in Bray, Ireland and whose father also boxed.
Though barely enjoying the adulation of holding a world title Taylor is already seeking more trinkets to add to her wardrobe. As an amateur she captured the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics but was unsuccessful in 2016 Rio Olympics.
Amateur boxing differs from pro boxing which is more bent on hurting an opponent not out-touching the opposition. As a professional Taylor has an all-attack style based on overwhelming the opponent.
McCaskill has studied Taylor.
“I look at her fights and her opponents and I’m not impressed. As far as an opponent on my level I don’t think they’ve fought someone,” McCaskill told the British press in her usual subdued tone.
When Taylor was told of McCaskill’s words the Irish fighter barely blinked an eye and responded softly “I’ve been in with some of the best boxers in the world and sparring. We’re well prepared.”
While Taylor has more than 100 amateur matches under her belt, McCaskill has less than three dozen. But prizefighting is quite different with smaller gloves and no head gear. The punches are stronger and more painful.
McCaskill believes prizefighting is her game.
“Anybody who comes in the ring with me I want to test what they’ve got. I want to test their speed I want to test their chin. I want to see if they can take my body shots,” said McCaskill, 33, calmly to the British press. “I’ve got big hands, they’re made for something.”
Taylor takes no one lightly.
“She definitely has advantages she is totally strong. She is an exciting fighter and she is coming here to win. Which is great,” said Taylor almost philosophically. “I’m looking forward to this opportunity as well. It’s going to be a good fight.”
McCaskill wants fans to know she is not there to run and hide.
“I don’t think it’s going to go the whole 10 rounds. We’re both going to be pretty much scrapping,” said McCaskill with polite confidence. “I think the crowd is going to be shocked. My plan is to take the belt.”
When asked how she plans to take down the champion the calm Chicago fighter pauses to reflect on the possibilities.
“I feel like my style is whatever I need it to be. I’m not even sure if I look the same each fight,” McCaskill explains. “I simply want to fight the best.
London is calling.