"Would Katie Taylor even sell-out Croke Park though?"
This has been a large discussion over the past 24 hours since the news broke that the hopes of Katie Taylor's dream fight in Ireland's largest stadium, Croke Park seem to be just that, a dream, for now.
Taylor now looks set to fight in Dublin's 3Arena on May 20th according to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, although it seems nothing is set in stone as of yet.
The maximum capacity for the 3Arena is set at about 13,000 which is undoubtedly far too small for an international star of her size.
Early last year, Taylor and Serrano headlined Madison Square Garden with the Bray native retaining her lightweight world title. The pair fought in front of a sold out stadium of around 20,000 people.
Now take it that this would be Taylor's first professional fight in Ireland, and she has had 22 fights, 22 wins, and that it is potentially a rematch with an incredibly competitive athlete in Serrano, a stadium is without question the only setting for such an event.
Irish people are proud and and if one of their own, one of their best, were to perform on home soil for the first time, I have no doubt that people would be interested and that our largest stadium would be at full capacity for a night of history.
Looking at crowd turnout in Ireland in recent years for various large scale events, Pope Francis attracted a crowd of 152,000 people when he came to visit Ireland in Phoenix Park in 2018, with people travelling from all over the country to see him. In 2022, Garth Brooks sold out 5 nights at Croke Park with a capacity of 82,300 people a night. To say there would not be that level of demand for arguably Ireland's most successful athlete is in my opinion, farsical.
5% of ticket holders for Gareth Brooks were also estimated to come from outside of Ireland. With many Irish people living abroad in the countries nearby such as the United Kingdom, it is not irrational to think some may also make the quick journey to Dublin for this historical night as well.
Katie Taylor was listed as the only boxer, male or female, on a list of the 50 most marketable athletes on the planet in 2022 and her worldwide popularity is unquestionable.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour, Hearn gave his side of why Croke Park is a non-runner: “The cost of hire, the cost of everything involved with the event is three times nearly more than staging it at Wembley Stadium"
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) February 2, 2023
Croke Park's stadium director Peter McKenna has refuted claims by Matchroom boxing promoter Eddie Hearn that the extortionate costs associated with renting Croke Park for a Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano rematch at GAA headquarters was the reason for not being able to come to an agreement.
McKenna outlined that issues surrounding who would pay the security bill were the real bone of contention.
“So our rent was coming in around €400,000. I think the rent for Wembley is about £250,000-£300,000 (€281,000-€337,000). The real issue here is about security costs that which we felt the promoter should carry."
“And having gone through this with statutory services and our own team, we looked at the risk analysis on the event and we felt that the amount of security that you’d need would be at the top level.”
The Aviva Stadium is unavailable as it is set to host both the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup rugby finals on the same weekend as the proposed bout.
“It’s going to go to the 3Arena and I think that’s a far smaller, they’ve got 9,000. They’ve done some really, really good boxing events in the past so it will suit it very well. There are going to be challenges that weekend, no doubt, in the city because the Heineken Cup final is on so you will be stretching the Gardaí across a whole series of events. They are very, very good at what they do, genuinely very, very good at what they do but I mean that’s something that needs to be thought about as well.”
McKenna insisted that Croke Park were extremely excited about potentially hosting the two weight World Champion and Olympic gold medal winner, doing everything in their remit to reduce costs for the event in order to make it happen.
“The costs quoted are far less than we’d normally charge because we would have loved to have had Katie Taylor. The eyes of the world would be on us. We’re never shy in bringing world class events like the Special Olympics here.”
Amanda Serrano will fight Erika Cruz this Saturday for the world featherweight title, with the result determining the rematch with Taylor going ahead.
Hearn also pointed towards a potential third fight in September between the two stars of the lightweight division.
“Now we’ll be in a big arena in Dublin, subject to Serrano winning and subject to tying up a deal, and then hopefully in September we revisit Croke Park,” Hearn told Helwani.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time I promised Katie Taylor we’d be in Ireland for her next fight, it will be the most sensational atmosphere wherever we are, but we’ll see what happens on Saturday night."
Speaking after her last fight against Argentinian boxer Karen Carbajal, Taylor spoke passionately about her dream to fight on home soil, at GAA headquarters.
“We want the fight at Croke Park, 80,000 people,”
“Every single person here will want to be there. It will be the biggest event in women’s boxing history.”
Whether or not it happens in Croke Park or not this year is still in doubt as at the end of the day it comes down to business in the world of professional boxing. However, there is no doubt that Taylor would sell out a stadium in Ireland and 13,000 people in the 3Arena is simply too small a venue for the international superstar.