Taylor happy to take Persoon rematch as new unified champ assesses her options
Michael Dorgan in New York
“The hard work paid off. I’ve got the five belts. I made history tonight.”
Those are the cold hard facts from the new undisputed lightweight champion of the world, Katie Taylor.
A two-and-a-half year journey ended at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night when the Bray woman defeated Belgium’s Delfine Persoon after a contentious majority decision.
Taylor set off on her plan for global dominance shortly after her now infamous defeat at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and 14 professional fights later, she presented her WBA, IBF, WBO and WBC straps, along with Ring Magazine’s commemorative “ring belt” to the worlds media.
“This is what I dreamed of and this is what I trained so hard for, so I’m absolutely delighted,” said a fatigued Taylor, who wore the scars of 10 attritional rounds of pulsating boxing at the post fight press conference.
Taylor had cruised to her date with destiny, dispatching all oncomers with consummate ease, losing few rounds along the way.
But she warned the final hurdle would be the sternest, Persoon would bring a new, tougher challenge, the hardest of her career – and so it proved.
The 34-year-old police officer from West Flanders was convinced she had done enough to create her own fairy-tale ending.
So too did sections of the raucous crowd, the near 21,000 seater almost full by the final bell – mesmerised by the slogfest of action which had unfolded before their eyes.
Persoon, stroppy and unorthodox, gamely attacked with abandon – often skipping into the air landing unusual overhead punches.
Often switching to southpaw she had legitimate claims to the next two rounds as Taylor found her hard to measure.
Persoon’s reach advantage became problematic too, Taylor was landing her usual combos but Persoon was able to respond with her own as well as some direct and accurate jabs.
By the fifth, Taylor was on the back foot often finding herself on the ropes but comfortable enough to give Persoon the “bring it” gesture – even as a cut appeared on her nose.
Taylor was also using some effective check hooks to counter her 34-year-old opponent, opening a gash over her right eye and standing off a bit more.
The latter rounds have always proved to be Taylor’s strongest but Persoon indicated all week a protracted contest would be to her advantage. She outlanded Taylor 55-28 over the last three although Taylor crucially took the penultimate. By now tactics had gone out the window and both champions locked horns unabashedly.
Taylor was out on her feet at the finale, chucking distress signals and for a moment looked like she was just one swing away from a knock-down.
“I was prepared for that type of fight,” said Taylor.
“There was nothing new that I saw in there – I knew she was strong, I knew she was awkward, and I knew she wouldn’t stop throwing for 10 rounds. I expected that type of fight.
“I knew it was going to be a fight where I was going to have to show a lot of heart, I knew I was going to be in the trenches at some stage and that’s exactly what happened.”
The closeness of the decision heard almost universal calls for a rematch, although the distraught Persoon was nowhere to be seen after booting from the ring.
“I’m happy to take a rematch if she wants it, but we’ll see what happens.” Said Taylor.
But when the dust settles there are other viable avenues, Persoon still lacks that star name outside of her home country though plenty will be familiar with her now.
A sequel would surely fill a gaping gap in Taylor’s September/October schedule, her manager Brian Peters maintaining for some time that seven-weight world champion Amanda Serrano would “chicken out” of an encounter with the lightweight champion.
The Puerto Rican born Brooklynite again calling Taylor out in the post-fight aftermath claiming Persoon had been robbed of victory.
“She must be sick of making a fool of herself by now. It’s getting better each time,” said Peters.
“She’d be one of the favourites, sure. But sure she doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going.
“I just don’t think she [SERRANO]wants it. Keyboard warrior. She signed a deal and what rubbish is she coming up with? She signed a three-fight deal with Matchroom, the third fight against Katie Taylor, and she’s had one fight of that deal. It’s really not that complicated.
“All talk. Look, I think one thing you can say about Katie Taylor: she doesn’t turn down any challenge.”
The prospective mouth-watering super-fight against undisputed female welterweight champion Cecilia Brækhus may be some way off yet, Taylor will be expected to defend her current collection before the governing bodies would sanction that clash.
But Peters insists the ball is firmly in team Taylor’s park when it comes to the next move.
“We’re open to anything. There are so many different factors that have to be taken into consideration. Do you look at a rematch straight away? Well, I suppose, we’re going to do whatever suits us.
“So far on this journey, we’ve done pretty well, so… It’s about our plans.”
Whatever the route Taylor chooses her eagerness to learn and improve has only been emboldened by Saturday’s humdinger.
“Its history-making stuff and the great thing about it is the best is still yet to come,” she warned.
“I still have so much to work on, so much to improve on. People still haven’t seen the best of me.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Times on June 3rd , 2019. To view the original version, click here.