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Katie Taylor defends her undisputed title in another entertaining nail-biter with Persoon

Delfine Persoon said she believed Taylor deserved her unanimous decision following another close encounter between the two rivals.

Taylor celebrates the judges' verdict at 'Matchroom Square Garden'.
Taylor celebrates the judges' verdict at 'Matchroom Square Garden'.
Image: Mark Robinson

KATIE TAYLOR HAS defended her undisputed lightweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Delfine Persoon in their long-awaited rematch at Matchroom’s Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex.

After another engaging contest which at times replicated their original classic at Madison Square Garden, New York, last June, Taylor was awarded the judges’ decision on scores of 96-94 x2 and 98-93.

The third score by judge Victor Loughlin seemed wide but while a number of pundits on the Sky Sports Box Office panel either had Persoon winning the fight narrowly or scored it a draw on their own unofficial scorecards, the Belgian herself told Sky post-fight that she respected the officials’ verdict and that “She (Taylor) deserved to win.” This writer was in agreement with the 35-year-old Flemish warrior, scoring it 96-94 in Taylor’s favour.

With a close but clear victory on the only cards that matter, Taylor improved her record to 16-0 (6KOs) and retained her WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine lightweight world titles as well as her ‘undisputed’ mantle.

“I knew it was going to be tough and I had to dig deep at some stages in the fight,” the 34-year-old Bray woman told Sky.

“But I thought I boxed better than the last time, even though I got drawn in a few times, and that’s what got me the win in the end.

“You can’t relax against Delfine, you know she’s going to come and come and keep attacking. But congratulations to her — we’ve put on two fantastic fights. What an amazing two fights for women’s boxing. We’ve definitely done our part to promote the sport.

“I thought it was a lot more convincing tonight even thought it was still a tough, rugged fight. But it’s never going to be an easy fight against Delfine — you are going to have to dig deep and show a lot of heart at some stage in the fight.”

Standing socially distanced from Taylor after their close-quarters affair, Persoon, who cried foul — justifiably, in the eyes of many — when their first encounter went Taylor’s way, said of the rematch:

This time, I respect the result. The weight was a little bit too much. After March (when she entered the Olympic qualifiers), I weighed 57 kilos (125.5lbs). But the fight was at lightweight (135lbs) so I eat, eat, eat, but I felt I did not have enough power this time to hurt her a little bit. I took a lot of weight [on] but I could not hurt her this time and if you don’t hurt her, technically, she’s good, eh? She runs around and you have to hurt her — otherwise she’s away. My respect to her: she deserves, this time, to win. I got no problem with this. She deserves to win today.

Persoon, who was marked up by Taylor’s sharper early work within minutes, also claimed that Taylor broke her nose in the second round, which naturally would have inhibited her breathing for the remaining eight — not that it showed in another relentless display by the Belgian terminator.

Taylor, too, was feeling the post-fight pain, sporting a large swelling to the right-hand side of her forehead. With the dust having barely settled on a second gruelling bout between them, the champion was asked if she fancied a third showdown with Persoon. “Give me a break, please!” Taylor laughed.

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They both earned one tonight.

katie-taylor-celebrates-winning-with-eddie-hearn-and-her-team Taylor celebrates her victory with promoter Eddie Hearn, manager Brian Peters, and trainer Ross Enamait. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

Saturday night’s eagerly anticipated sequel leaned heavily on the plot line of the original thriller: Taylor banked two or three of the earlier rounds with picture-perfect counter-punches — one of which, a first-minute left hook, caused Persoon to fall into the ropes — as well as expertly executed footwork and head movement.

Persoon was badly bruised after the opening couple of frames but, as is her wont, grew into proceedings, her forward pressure and non-stop punch output bringing her to parity, or somewhere near it, at the turn of the 10-round contest.

katie-taylor-in-action-against-delfine-persoon Taylor lands a counter left hoook. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

Again, she took Taylor into choppy waters but where in the first fight, she was able to rubber-stamp some of the middle rounds with conspicuously hurtful blows, Taylor was more tactically astute on this occasion, spoiling cleverly up close when the opportunities presented themselves, and getting on her bike rather than trading with a bit more regularity than was the case last June.

Persoon still did plenty of damage; there were rabbit-in-the-headlights moments for the champion as her physically more powerful adversary connected with her long overhand right in particular. Taylor’s calculated attacks were so often more crisp and eye-catching, but as Persoon revved her engine and the fight raced into the championship rounds, it felt as though it might still be there for the taking for either woman.

katie-taylor-in-action-against-delfine-persoon Persoon finds her mark with an overhand right. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

It was at around this stage the action became breathless, both combatants reaching into the well and pouring out whatever they could find. The ninth, though, was among Taylor’s most conclusive rounds, her quality of work again transparent amid the blur of Persoon’s efforts.

Last time out in New York, the final round in which Persoon finished by far the stronger of the pair became the lasting impression of the fight for many viewers who went on to score it in her favour and cry ‘robbery’ when two of the three judges scored it the other way. There was a similarity in how both protagonists again threw caution to the wind and emptied their respective tanks in the last two minutes of this one, but Taylor had controlled the first of those minutes and hung tougher this time around as the clock ticked towards the final bell.

That late surge, doubtless plucked from the depths of Hell, was likely enough for Taylor to pinch the round — just — and it might well have proved crucial considering two of the judges had her winning by just one of them.

katie-taylor-and-delfine-persoon-after-the-fight Persoon salutes Taylor after the fight. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

This was another contest of the highest quality, another showcase of what the women’s game — and boxing generally — can produce when the best agree to face the best. Once again, there could only have been a round in it either way. But this time around, Persoon’s tears from 2019 were replaced by applause as she heard the words ‘and still’ ring out through Eddie Hearn’s back garden.

She felt as though Taylor had done enough to retain her crown, and she was better-placed to judge it than anybody.

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