“The perfect end to a perfect year,” was how Katie Taylor described her Fairytale on Seventh Avenue as she successfully retained her IBF and WBA World Lightweight titles at a sold out Madison Square Garden last Saturday night.
By Michael Dorgan in New York
The five-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist defeated Finland’s Eva Wahlstrom by unanimous decision in what was an outstanding advertisement for women’s boxing.
Both fighters displayed inspirational courage, skill, and tenacity in a memorable contest — the Bray native finishing the 10, two-minute rounds on a 100-90 tally on all three judges’ scorecards.
Billed as her toughest professional fight to date, Taylor was simply sensational, out-landing Wahlstrom almost two to one in the shots count and is now the only Irish boxer to defend world titles in the “world’s most famous arena” — extending her professional undefeated streak to 12 in the process.
“I said from the beginning this is going to be a great showcase for the sport, it was one of the best fights in women’s boxing, it was fantastic,” said the champion immediately afterward.
Taylor nonchalantly approached the ring in a plain black robe, intermittently banging her gloves to the soothing opening verse of The Pogues classic ‘Fairytale of New York’.
By the time she entered the ring the sombre mood in ‘The Garden’ was transformed by the rapturous crowd now on their feet singing along to the chorus.
Taylor’s ringside attire donned fewer gold trimmings than usual, her stunning display of rapid-fire combination punches throughout the contest doing the sparkling instead.
The Irish fighter set her usual fast tempo from the opening bell, a strong right followed by a powerful hit to the chest had the crowd chanting “olé olé”.
Wahlstrom, the current WBC super-featherweight world champion, came into the contest with an unbeaten 23-fight professional record and tried valiantly to engage Taylor but was quickly overpowered by the Irish woman’s repertoire.
The tattooed and braided 38-year old came out aggressively in the second round but was quickly knocked back a peg by Taylor, who pummelled the Finn with impressive midsection combos.
By round four both fighters opened up, the crowd embracing what was developing into a top-class contest as Wahlstrom became more offensive — but in doing so allowed a sharp Taylor to land a four-shot combo to the head.
Taylor began punishing Wahlstrom a lot more by the fifth, her feet appearing wobbly as she backed away from a thunderous right hand.
However, Wahlstrom refocused in the sixth and threw some strong jabs herself, but Taylor’s flurry of punches went on.
Wahlstrom went for broke in the eighth, but she was met with a three-punch combo from Taylor to the body and then the head.
Taylor looked for the finisher in round 9 but Wahlstrom was intelligent enough to engage her opponent leading to one of the night’s highlights — a breathtaking multitude of high octane punches to Wahlstrom’s midsection which had fans gasping and commentators comparing Taylor to Sugar Ray Leonard.
At the final bell, Wahlstrom instantly embraced Taylor — a show of mutual respect for the former amateur foes — and she lost little in defeat but it was Katie’s’ night to shine.
“I think it was good going up and down from body to head and I thought it was a solid performance overall. I took my time at the start.
“I opened things up and a good solid performance against an undefeated performer,” said Taylor.
“It was such a privilege to fight here in Madison Square Garden in front of so many Irish people, so thank you so much for the support.”
“The difference between this and the Serrano fight was that tonight she stepped on the gas,” said promoter Eddie Hearn.
“She threw like 30 body punches consecutively; I mean the crowd were going mad; she’s a star.
The win sets Taylor up for a blockbuster 2019 where she hopes to win all four belts in the division, beginning with a likely clash against Brazil’s WBO World lightweight champion Rose Volante, in Philadelphia next March.
There’s also the much-touted clash with Amanda Serrano in the pipeline.
“The goal is to be the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
“Obviously one of the biggest fighters out there is Amanda Serrano, and that’s a huge, huge fight,” said Hearn.
In Boston last October, it was Conor McGregor lining up outside Taylor’s dressing room to offer congratulations. Last Saturday, it was World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, such is Taylor’s global appeal and the strides she is making in the sport.
“Katie’s changing the game,” said manager Brian Peters afterward.
“You see Anthony Joshua, Julio Caesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonards and you know that’s what’s going to change the game and Katie’s changing the game, and little by little it’s changing and certainly 2019 will be even bigger.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on December 17, 2018. To see the original version, click here