Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. Not ideal, for your first visit to the United Kingdom. A bit too Snatch.
On December 13th, Jessica McCaskill will step into the cacophony of noise that awaits her in Bethnal Green’s York Hall. Her thoughts?
She couldn’t care less.
“I have not been to London. I don’t expect to be able to enjoy it so I’ll just come back for a holiday. Fights are all business for me. I’m glad to get my name out around the world. Being in the US might not have been the same.”
Being raised in Southern Illinois had given McCaskill a taste of sports. A taste of playing sports. However, you know as well as I do, you can’t play boxing. Discovering the Sweet Science almost a decade ago, she had been unable to shake the bug.
McCaskill, a University graduate, is half latina and half African-American. Her childhood had been guided by one parent, a mark of respect when looking at her achievements. On December 13th, she fights for a World title on foreign soil and I wondered how this match-up had come about?
“My manager/coach Rick Ramos got this fight. After hearing of her when she started her pro career, the match seemed like a good fight. Coach has been hashtagging #McCaskillvsTaylor for about a year now. After conversations between the two camps over the last few months it’s finally a done deal. As we approach the fight it’s business as usual. Training and staying focused.”
I was keen to understand McCaskill or CasKilla’s main aim in the sport. Longevity? Titles? Money? There was something more at stake as she boarded the plane to Heathrow.
“I want to revive female boxing. I want to jolt the sport altogether. I want kids to be inspired.”
Lacking the amateur heroine status of Katie Taylor, Jessica has had to hustle for acclaim. She is something of a knockout artist with a ratio of 60%, thus far. This is her first tilt at a World championship, however it’s not only McCaskill herself that knows the bouts importance.
“I grew up in a single parent home with three older boys. Everyone I’m close to knows how important my boxing career is. They understand when I can’t go out etc.”
I got the impression this title wasn’t just for her. It wasn’t just for Illinois or her immediate family. It was for the everyday woman, taking up the sport for any number of reasons; fitness, happiness, intrigue or aggression. She was doing it for them. McCaskill was primed and focused when we spoke, but would it be enough?
Carrying the pride of her nation, Katie Taylor had marched to a World title with a handful of bouts. An Olympic gold medalist and multiple World amateur medalist, the fanfare plays for the brawler from Bray. Not the unknown quantity, graduated from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. For her, the crowd will hiss and boo, probably undeservingly. McCaskill is unmoved.
“She’s just another opponent and I plan on fighting my fight! I’ve always been in the gym. I gave boxing a try in 2008. Ever since, I’ve never wanted to give it up!”
To add context for a betting man or woman, Taylor is 1/100 on to win by any means. Compared to McCaskill at 16/1, it is almost a foregone conclusion with the bookmakers. Why bother? A fair question for the casual fan.
The passion of Ken Norton and Gerald McLellan flows through the veins of Illinois’ next World title challenger. The dedication, undeniable. Jessica McCaskill is prepared to go to war on British soil. She will bring her best-self. It is only a matter of weeks until we discover whether that will be enough, though it is worth remembering that heart sometimes does prevail.
Written by Craig Scott