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Beating Persoon in undisputed showdown 'would be equal to winning Olympic gold', says Taylor

The Bray woman set up the long-awaited clash for all four belts with a sizzling win over Rose Volante in Philadelphia.

Promoter Eddie Hearn says Delfine Persoon's team have already agreed a deal in principle to face Katie Taylor, and will receive the contract on Monday.
Promoter Eddie Hearn says Delfine Persoon's team have already agreed a deal in principle to face Katie Taylor, and will receive the contract on Monday.

Gavan Casey reports from Philadelphia

KATIE TAYLOR WORE the scars of battle backstage after a night in which she took a major step towards fulfilling her pro-career ambition of becoming the undisputed lightweight world champion. And you should see the other girl.

The Bray woman took her licks in a gruelling encounter but as soon as she smelled blood against Rose Volante, she pounced, inflicting upon the Brazilian a first-ever defeat and relieving her of the WBO title, Taylor adding it to her collection which already included its IBF and WBA equivalents.

She is the first-ever Irish fighter in the four-belt era to hold three major straps simultaneously.

The 32-year-old fought mean, eventually battering Volante into submission in the ninth round of their world-title unification clash in Philadelphia, in turn setting up a long-awaited undisputed world-title showdown with long-reigning WBC queen Delfine Persoon on 1 June over the road in New York.

The Philly audience — about a third of them Irish — nearly lifted the lid off the city’s Liacouras Center as referee Benjy Esteves put Volante out of her misery.

Katie Taylor in action against Rose Volante Katie Taylor drops Rose Volante with a left hand. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Taylor revelled in her moment, giving it large with a thumping of the chest and a few ‘come ons’ which were drowned out by her accompanying orchestra. An hour or so later, though, she sits quietly, flanked by trainer Ross Enamait, manager Brian Peters and promoter Eddie Hearn, not especially arsed by all the fuss.

Relieved.

“That was a great stepping stone for me tonight,” Taylor says.

There’s been a lot of talk about these ‘big fights’ for the last few months, but I knew I had to get over this fight tonight. There was a lot of pressure on me tonight as well. To actually overcome that pressure, those nerves, is perfect preparation for those kinds of fights.

“There’s always nerves ahead of every single fight, but I did realise the importance of this fight, and how big this fight was, to actually get the bigger fights down the line.

“I knew all along she was going to come to fight. She’s a very, very proud champion, an undefeated champion, so she was everything I expected tonight. She came to fight, and that got the best out of me as well.

“It was exactly what I expected, really. I knew she was going to come out aggressive like that. She definitely had a bit of pop in her right hand early on, for sure.

I knew she was going to put pressure on me right from the start, but I think a lot of these girls underestimate my own strength up close. I can mix it with anyone in there. I love fighting up close. And she definitely couldn’t handle the body shots when I started going down there, and that’s what got her out in the end.

“It was the icing on the cake to actually get the stoppage,” Taylor adds. “I knew she was on her way out. Sometimes it is very, very hard to stop these opponents at this level. It was a very, very tough fight. She took a lot of punishment.

It was a funny kind of stoppage — she just kind of turned her back and walked back to the corner. Then, the ref just waved it off. I was obviously delighted — I was like, ‘Thank God! I can relax now.’

Katie Taylor celebrates Three down, one belt to go. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

She’ll relax for a week. Taylor heads for Bray on Saturday to spend some precious spare time with her family, as she tends to when she has it.

But this particular trip home has an extra significance for the unified lightweight world champion, and not merely because she has a shiny new belt to show for her toils on Friday night.

“I actually can’t wait to meet my new niece, she was just born a few days ago. Cory Genesis Taylor is her name. It’s a cool name!”

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A boxer’s name, perhaps.

“Yeah, I think so as well, actually,” Taylor laughs. “It’s a real superstar’s name!”

But after a week at home, it’ll be back to business in Connecticut. And despite the facial bruising and the countless aches and pains, Taylor reckons there’s no fear of her dream night needing to be moved to the other side of summer.

“The 1st of June is perfect for me,” she says, nodding towards promoter Hearn as if to reassure him that she’s prepared for the short turnaround. “The road to undisputed is still on — Delfine Persoon is the one I want next, and the Anthony Joshua undercard would be absolutely perfect.

It’s exactly what I want. When I first sat down with Eddie [Hearn] and Brian [Peters] a few years ago, I said I wanted to become the undisputed champion. That’s always been my goal since I have turned pro. That would be absolutely historic. That would be equal to winning the Olympic gold medal for me, I think.

“That’s always going to be a tough fight. She’s a long-reigning champion. That’s going to be a very, very physical fight. It’s going to be a cracking fight.

“She just punches non-stop, I guess. She has a high work rate. It’s definitely going to be hard to look good against those types of opponents, but that’s definitely the fight I want.”

Katie Taylor in action against Rose Volante Volante was a threat during the early stages of Friday night's fight. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Hearn has no fear that the physical tax paid by Taylor during Friday night’s humdinger will prove too costly for a June showdown with Persoon at Madison Square Garden.

The Belgian herself has proved costly — somewhere well north of $200,000 per The42′s understanding — but her team has verbally agreed to face Taylor for all the marbles. All going well, the fight should be announced within the next fortnight.

“I don’t want to jinx it but we have a deal in principle,” says Hearn. “Her team have definitely shown an interest and given us an in-principle deal to fight on 1 June.

I wanted to just get tonight out of the way, because I didn’t want to start signing contracts until we got through tonight. But they’ll get one on Monday, and if they’re true to their word — which I believe they will be — then it will be announced in the next two weeks.

“Persoon is the fight which is available, and when you’ve got a chance to make an undisputed fight like that, you really have to jump. There’s no perfect time for everybody. It just comes together. And there seems to be a chance to do that fight on 1 June, and it’s never looked like it was possible before.

I think that Persoon — not just with the money, but with the ‘undisputed’ tag, with Madison Square Garden — it’s hard for her, really, to turn down that opportunity.

Katie Taylor Taylor receives instructions from trainer Ross Enamait as manager Brian Peters keeps an eye on Volante's corner. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

The Matchroom chief muses that Persoon is a tougher fight than Amanda Serrano or Cecilia Braekhus. Taylor nods, leans into the mic and replies earnestly: “Same here.”

Seven-weight world champion Serrano, Hearn says, is officially contracted to face Taylor later this year as part of her deal with Matchroom and broadcasters DAZN, but will first herself return to the ring in May or June.

Taylor and Serrano, between whom there is no love lost, will make for the biggest women’s boxing match of all time.

Asked if he sees it being a bill-topper — Taylor’s first in the States — Hearn replies:

“Yeah, I do. I actually do. In New York.”

It’s just as well she got over those nerves.

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