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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 22 April 2021

Taylor open to Persoon rematch after undisputed title classic

‘I probably just stood there with her a bit too much, but that’s the way it goes, that’s my nature; I do love a good tear-up.’

Katie Taylor in action against Delfine Persoon.
Katie Taylor in action against Delfine Persoon.
Image: Matchroom Boxing/Ed Mulholland/INPHO

Gavan Casey reports from New York

WELL, WHO COULD have seen that coming?

Katie Taylor could have, and did.

The concept of having an undisputed champion within a division is fairly ronseal and yet, in a twist, Taylor’s status as the unequivocal lightweight ruler will be hotly disputed in some quarters, not least Belgium to where Delfine Persoon will return without her WBC world title. And the other four.

Persoon’s green strap, Taylor’s WBA, IBF and WBO belts and the Ring Magazine title will instead all head for Ireland on Monday — Taylor’s flight home on Sunday night was cancelled due to ‘technical difficulties’ — next to a woman who feels she is their rightful owner.

It’s hard to remember a female boxing encounter quite like theirs, not purely the excitement but the electricity in the crowd as we finally saw Taylor pushed to the pin of her professional collar.

There were even some boos hidden among the wave of acclamation which coursed its way through Madison Square Garden after the 32-year-old was crowned queen at 135 pounds.

Katie Taylor is declared the winner Katie Taylor celebrates becoming Ireland's first undisputed champion of the modern era. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Melina Pizano/INPHO

Back at her hotel post-fight, Taylor bore all the facial hallmarks of somebody who had experienced her own technical difficulties in a career-toughest fight, the bruises to her face, swelling around her eyes and stitches to her forehead rendering her almost unrecognisable.

She was quiet — more so than usual, even — but as she brushed her hand over her new collection of waist wear, there was a smile.

“It’s incredible actually, just looking at all these five belts,” Taylor gushed. “This is what I dreamed of and this is what I trained so hard for, so I’m absolutely delighted.

“It’s history-making stuff and the great thing about it is the best is still yet to come. I still have so much to work on, so much to improve on. People still haven’t seen the best of me.

It was a very, very close fight. We knew it was going to be a close fight. That’s what happens when the best fight the best. There has to be a winner and a loser, and I definitely feel like I did enough to win the fight.

“And I’m happy to take a rematch if she wants it”, added the 14-0(6KOs) champion, “but we’ll see what happens.

“We knew she was the type of fighter that she was going to be hard to look well against. I don’t think any fighter looks good against Delfine Persoon or that type of opponent. She’s awkward, she’s strong.

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.

At the start of the 10th and final round round, a crowd which by that point had probably reached something in the region of 13,000 rose to meet both combatants off their stools. The noise was thunderous, from a place guttural.

It was a watershed moment for the female code at The World’s Most Famous Arena, all but signalling the impending extinction of those who ‘don’t really agree’ with what Taylor and Persoon produced between the ropes on Pennsylvania Avenue; these two warriors had bore their souls, and gender had long since gone out the window for anyone whose prejudice had made it as far as MSG.

The 10th round took things to a higher plane still, Taylor out on her feet and taken to the brink but firing back on fumes as Persoon attempted to attain boxing immortality.

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Delfine Persoon lands a punch on Katie Taylor Taylor met her match in Delfine Persoon. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Taylor admitted that she had “probably at some stage, in a couple of [amateur] fights” taken similar heat, but added that “it’s definitely a lot more evident in pro boxing with more rounds and longer fights.

“But this is exactly what I trained for over these last few months, she added. “I knew it was going to be a 10-round battle and I knew it was going to be a very, very close fight.

I probably just stood there with her a bit too much, but that’s the way it goes; that’s my personality, that’s my nature; I do love a good tear-up. It was an exciting fight, it was a great fight. And what a showcase for women’s boxing in there tonight.

“We’d no doubt we won it,” added the Irishwoman’s manager, Brian Peters. “Didn’t I say it to you, Katie? I thought she won [rounds] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, round 9, and even potentially one of the others. It was definitely 6-4, 7-3 in my eyes.”
Asked if he’d explore the possibility of a rematch, the Meath man replied: “We’d certainly look at it but we have our own plans, which involve fighting in New York again. And unfortunately a Belgian won’t really sell tickets in New York, so we’ll looking for someone a bit more local.

“But yeah, of course, we could always do a rematch.

“Who knows? 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…”

That journey might well lead to a women’s superfight, and potential New York headliner, with Puerto Rican-Brooklynite Amanda Serrano before Persoon gets her sequel.

Serrano, a seven-weight world champion with whom Taylor shares a tempestuous relationship at best, was quick to cry robbery on Persoon’s behalf on Twitter, calling for her co-promoters Eddie Hearn and Lou DiBella to put their heads together and create a showdown between her and her Irish nemesis.

“Well, of course she is,” Taylor laughed when it was put to her that Serrano was having her say on Twitter. “I mean, does that surprise anyone?”

Added Peters: “She must be sick of making a fool of herself by now. It’s getting better each time. She’d be one of the favourites [to be Taylor's next opponent], sure, but sure she doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going. She signed a contract and took one fight of a three-fight deal, and I don’t know what… [she’s doing].

“All talk. Look, I think one thing you can say about Katie Taylor: she doesn’t turn down any challenge.

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.

Katie Taylor celebrates at the final bell Taylor celebrates at the final bell. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Taylor admitted she was “surprised and quite humbled” by the reception she received at Friday’s weigh-in in particular, and that while she deduced from such a noise that the atmosphere on fight night was going to be special, she “definitely didn’t expect it to be so loud” as she walked towards the squared circle.

“It was spine-tingling stuff. It really was amazing.”

She then paused briefly, a moment of quiet reflection after a manic night. Looking down at her belts, old and new, the 32-year-old added:

You know, to fight at Madison Square Garden for the undisputed title, and to have all that support, all the crowd there on my side… It was absolutely amazing.

As for her ringwalk song, U2′s ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ which evoked quite the singalong at MSG: “We won’t have to play that tune again!” smiled Peters, who was designated DJ on this occasion in the absence of Taylor giving a hoot.

And while she can bask in the glory of sealing her first major professional milestone for some time yet, the Irish sporting icon already has an eye on what comes next.

“The plan now is to be involved in big fights, to defend all these titles, and to stay on top for a very, very long time,” she says in a steelier fashion than all that was uttered before.

I’m definitely not slowing down. I still have as much passion as I’ve ever had for the sport. This is a dream job for me to be waking up and training every day, to get away for these big fights… I’m really so grateful.

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