Despite popular opinion and absent any trace of egotism or delusion, Katie Tylor believes that she legitimately earned the narrow decision in her first fight with Delfine Persoon, the hotly-anticipated lightweight unification bout held last June at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Andy Ruiz’s shocking upset of Anthony Joshua. The widespread criticism, much of it hostile in nature and directed toward her as opposed to the scorekeepers, burrowed its way into Katie’s brain and made itself at home in her psyche, making her mockingly aware that the perceived robbery in New York City was an unsightly stain on her pugilistic legacy.
The only way to set things straight in the collective consciousness, Taylor knew, was to gain immediate and irrefutable satisfaction in a return match with the scorned Belgian. The very next day after her disputed majority decision win, she went to work on Eddie Hearn with this very concept in mind. Her promoter, however, had other plans. So too did the pandemic which would not long after put Katie’s plans on the backburner, and life as we knew it in a skewed and antiquated perspective.
First, five months after the unforgettably wild night at the Garden, Taylor would become a two-weight titleholder courtesy of a hard-fought points win over WBO super-lightweight world champion Christina Linardatou. This was followed by the lengthy and contentious negotiations between Hearn and Lou DiBella in an ultimately fruitless attempt to finalize the super-fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano in the midst of a global pandemic. A handful of would-be contenders to replace Serrano were entered into consideration, but to Taylor there was just one name that mattered. For her, like Ahab’s obsession with the white whale or the manner in which the albatross taunted and haunted the Ancient Mariner’s every waking hour, it had to be Delfine Persoon. Last night, as the chief support bout in the
the final card of Matchroom Boxing’s Fight Camp summer series, Katie finally silenced her inner demons and public critics. Most of them, anyway.
The rough and tumble Persoon had used her exquisite ring savvy and enviable stamina to dictate the pace of the first fight, luring Taylor, a technically brilliant stick-and-move boxer, into a prolonged, close-quarters slugfest. Unafraid of engaging in heated exchanges of fisticuffs, sometimes to the dismay of her trainer Ross Enamait, Taylor was adamant when speaking to the press about the rematch that she was intent on making adjustments to get back to executing her preferred fighting style, sneaking inside often enough to let her hands go from a variety of angles before using her trademark fancy footwork to establish a comfortable distance from which to avoid danger in the form of incoming counterattacks. The questions remained, would this strategy be feasible, much less successful? How long could Katie reasonably expect to perplex and frustrate a seasoned and aggressive adversary like Persoon? The answers to those questions, in order, are yes and not terribly long.
Katie staggered Persoon mere moments into the fight, pivoting out of the corner she had been backed into and firing off a right/left combination which was delivered with lightning speed and pinpoint accuracy. Working behind a stiff jab, Taylor then landed a left hook on the advancing Persoon and looked to be taking control of the proceedings from the outset. This one-sided dominance would be short-lived as Delfine began to smother Taylor in the middle rounds, leaving little breathing room between the two warriors. Persoon alternated between looping shots and shorter, crisper combinations while Taylor’s gameplan became focused more and more on abusing her opponent’s midsection before pushing off and letting loose with a blast to the jawline of her attacker. Halfway through the fight, it was increasingly difficult to ascertain who held the advantage to that point or predict who, if either, would begin to gain the upper hand and pull away with the contest.
The war was taking a visible toll on both women, Persoon’s face a mass of purplish welts and crosshatched abrasions while a lump formed on Katie’s forehead above the right eye. If Delfine was just as relentless as in their last dustup, there was a little less belligerence behind her offense and Taylor was better able to get her volleys in and skip out of harm’s way with more effectiveness this time around. This is in no way to suggest that the defending champion had an easy night of it. No one, least of all Katie, was operating under the misapprehension that this would be the case. Persoon did all she could to manhandle Taylor and turn a dignified back and forth into a back alley brawl wherein artistry and finesse have no business.
Both fighters stood toe to toe and eyeball to eyeball in the closing stanza, emptying their arsenals in the hope of having their hand raised once the twenty minutes of ceaseless hostilities had concluded. Having returned to her corner after the final bell, Persoon’s body language was very telling. Delfine leaned on the top rope and hung her head, wearing an expression of discontented resignation. Sure enough, when the still-close but this time unanimous decision was read aloud in favor of Katie Taylor (98-93, 96-94, 96-94), Delfine applauded the verdict. Whereas there were hurt feelings and tears of frustration at the Garden last June, last night there was a handshake and hug at center ring in Eddie Hearn’s backyard.
“This time I respect the result,” said Persoon during the post-fight interviews, admitting that she lacked the power to hurt Katie sufficiently, in addition to having broken her nose in the second round. “It’s my respect she deserves this time to win. I’ve got no problem.”
“Give me a break, please. Give me a break,” laughed Katie Taylor when both fighters were asked whether they would be agreeable to another ten-round gettogether. Persoon, in response, declared her intent to compete at the less physically demanding super-featherweight limit when she returns to the ring.
Cecilia Braekhus had been mentioned as a potential lucrative mega-bout for Taylor prior to last weekend when the long-reigning Norwegian welterweight world champion was unseated in astonishing fashion by Jessica McCaskill in Tulsa, Oklahoma. McCaskill, expected to be no more than victim number twenty-six for Braekhus who was looking to break Joe Louis’ record for successful title defenses, is a vastly improved fighter from when she dropped a wide decision to Katie Taylor in December 2017. Indeed, she immediately embarked upon a title belt scavenger hunt, claiming both the WBC and WBA world super-lightweight championships by outpointing Erica Annabella Farias (whom she also successfully defended against in a rematch) and Anahi Ester Sanchez, respectively, before adding Braekhus’ welterweight straps to her collection last Saturday.
Most fans and pundits are naturally jumping to the conclusion that a second scrap between Taylor and McCaskill is as inevitable as it would be history-making now that they are both undisputed world champions who also happen to hold pieces of titles in an additional division. Will Braekhus desire a rematch or be content to have passed the torch to McCaskill? What does Eddie Hearn have up his sleeve in terms of what lies ahead for Taylor, be it the on again/off again quarrel with Amanda Serrano, or a defense against any one of Katie’s mandatory challengers, or a crossover bout involving Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, or Amanda Nunes as was already hinted at?
Get out your magic 8-ball and give it a good shake. That’s about as reliable as you’re likely to get trying to predict what transpires next.
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