KATIE TAYLOR emerged from a pulsating 10-rounder with Belguim’s Delfine Persoon at New York’s Madison Square Garden as the seventh fighter in boxing history to unify all four sanctioning body titles. More noteworthy, though, was the excitement on show as Taylor and Persoon put women’s boxing on the map like never before.
Taylor, 14-0 (6), had been a picture of determination throughout fight week and without that focus, that desire and intensity, there is no way she would have survived 10 rounds against the relentless, awkward Persoon.
At the end of the contest Taylor was exhausted, out on her stumbling feet, only to instinctively fire back to punctuate a great fight that will live long in the memory of those who witnessed it.
“It was a very close fight but I felt I’d done enough to win it,” Taylor said afterwards, nursing swelling over her right eye. “I was the superior fighter and maybe I should have boxed more on the outside. I knew it was going to be hard, but I thank the crowd for the support.”
Persoon, with freakish stamina, gave this her all and could have won it on a different night in front of different judges. She stormed from the ring at the end of the 10 rounds in tears after hearing that two officials favoured new undisputed lightweight champion Taylor 96-94 (the other had it 95-95). What effort she put forth, and what a fight it was.
The crowd turned up the volume the moment they set eyes on Taylor as she made her way to the ring, but Taylor didn’t have it all her own way in the opening round. Darting in and out and firing combinations brought danger as Persoon – four inches taller – had some success by closing the distance and firing one-twos. A right hand seemed to sting Taylor as the opening round drew to a close.
Persoon scored again with the right hand in the second, her straight punches through the middle proving difficult for Taylor to defend against. One shot rocked Taylor’s head back yet it only enlivened her supporters further as chants of ‘Katie! Katie!’ boomed through the famous arena.
Into the third and Taylor’s classier work was impressive yet Persoon’s completely unorthodox style was causing Katie problems. In the fourth the Irish fighter even had to hold on as a right hand thundered through her guard and into her chin. Things got worse in the fifth. Persoon couldn’t miss yet Taylor – bleeding from the top of her forehead – invited the Belgian in closer. The underdog obliged, whacking back Taylor’s head again.
Persoon’s insistence on diving in, feet all over the place, meant the pair clashed heads and by the seventh, the Belgian’s eyes were a mess. Taylor continued to throw the better punches in close yet Persoon’s sheer activity made it appear close before a huge eighth had the Bray fighter looking unsteady.
Taylor regained control at the start of the ninth. A perfect left hook clattered off Persoon who smiled in appreciation. By the end of the session the two were exchanging frantically as the crowd fed off the excitement and generated an electric atmosphere.
In the 10th they went again, once more drawing on energy tanks that must have been close to empty. Taylor was caught with punch after punch, at one point looking like she was going to fall from a left hook, before she summoned one last effort to hear the final bell.