Gary Carr/INPHO Katie Taylor and Chantelle Cameron will meet in the middle on Saturday night.
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Taylor v Cameron: Who wins and why?
A victory for the Irishwoman this Saturday would trump London 2012 and MSG 2022 as the most impressive of her entire career.

IT MIGHT READ like a strange thing to say about a boxing match but the winning and losing of Saturday night’s bout in Dublin could be in Katie Taylor’s legs.

Taylor has in the past won at least two world-title bouts with a torn calf. She declines to name those fights out of respect for her vanquished opponents but, if you’ve never torn your calf, just know this: to be able to walk to the jacks would be an achievement, and so to be able to successfully box 10 rounds at a world-class level is almost ostentatious.

Taylor still struggles with calf niggles the way an almost-37-year-old athlete will always struggle with something.

But the undisputed lightweight champion [22-0, 6KOs], who will climb up a division to challenge her English light-welterweight equivalent Chantelle Cameron [17-0, 8KOs] in a long-awaited homecoming bout this weekend, will need to pedal — and pedal quickly — if she is to become a two-weight monarch at the 3Arena.

The bookies see Taylor as about a 4/7 favourite and Cameron the 7/5 outsider, but one wonders the extent to which those odds have been influenced by Saturday’s location.

This is a fight which favours the visiting champion in more ways than it doesn’t.

Cameron is now a fully fledged light-welterweight whereas, even when she’s out of office, Taylor walks around only a couple of pounds above the division’s limit.

Taylor sees the fact that she has to cut virtually no weight as an advantage but in reality, what will count for more is what happens when both fighters step down from the scales on Friday: Cameron will rehydrate to carry with her a 10-plus-pound weight advantage into the ring the following night.

Cameron also boasts height and reach advantages of three inches over her challenger and, as well as being naturally bigger by every relevant metric, the recently-turned-32-year-old has far fewer miles on the clock on either side of the ropes.

Her opponents testify that she hits hard even up at light-welter, where Taylor has fought only once before.

That was in Manchester in November 2019 when Taylor got on her bike to navigate a points win over Christina Linardatou and pick up a belt at 140. It was a tricky evening’s work well handled, albeit Linardatou is only two thirds the fighter that Cameron is.

Taylor’s seven fights back down at lightweight in the intervening years have included three wearying wars: her successful rematch with Delfine Persoon in August 2020, a thrilling win over Natasha Jonas in May 2021, and her landmark come-from-behind triumph against Amanda Serrano last April. Nights like those tend to show up on the odometer before long.

What they proved, though, is that even while some athletic aspects of her brilliance have slightly deteriorated, what continues to separate Taylor from her peers is the almost alien force of will that she has been able to conjure from her gut since she first laced up a pair of gloves 25-odd years ago.

As Taylor’s friend and longtime sparring partner Kali Reis, who vacated two of the belts for which Taylor will challenge this weekend, told The 42 on Sunday: “Katie has established herself in deep waters. I know first-hand that she has a second, third, fourth wind and she has a very rare level of willpower. Like, ‘Are you willing to die in that ring?’ And it sounds so cliché but I that know she is. I know that look.”

Taylor had never before been plunged into such depths as those in which she found herself in round five against Amanda Serrano last April. In the most astonishing display of her entire boxing career, not only did she rally, but she finished stronger than Serrano to seize a narrow but fair victory and preserve her rulership of the lightweight division.

But if Taylor goes overboard this Saturday, the suspicion is that Cameron — bigger and stronger than Serrano — will hold her under.

That’s why it’s imperative that Taylor’s legs hold up against Northampton’s ‘Il Capo’: she must remain a moving target for every second of their 10 rounds and avoid becoming trapped in tight spots in which Cameron will be able do significant damage.

On her day, Taylor remains a better pure boxer than Cameron and, in reality, every other competitor in the female professional sport. The Irishwoman certainly boasts the better hand-speed of the two, even if she’s not quite as rapid as she once was.

Taylor’s other significant advantage over Cameron is that she will almost certainly be indifferent to the magnitude of the occasion at the 3Arena on Saturday night. She has shouldered similar weights of pressure, she has fought in similarly feral atmospheres and, in reality, she has been preparing for major ‘finals’ since she won her first European Championship gold medal in Tønsberg, Norway, literally half her life ago.

Cameron was a good amateur but her CV from the unpaid ranks is comparably modest, its highlight being silver at the 2010 EU Championships. She was eliminated by Taylor at the semi-final stage of the same competition the following year — her second best finish at a major championship — but as far as its relevance to this Saturday night, that bout should be left in the dust: the Englishwoman was a relative rookie on the international stage whereas Taylor was already a three-time world champion.

As a professional, Cameron has obviously become an undisputed world champion in her own right but her journey towards the 140-pound throne has been comparably straightforward. She won the final two of her four belts last November against her best opponent to date, Jessica McCaskill, whom Taylor also beat at a far more formative stage of her own pro career in 2017.

Cameron has never experienced a night like Taylor did at the Excel Arena at the London Olympics in 2012, or at Madison Square Garden last year, or even at a few stops in between. And facing Katie Taylor in Dublin ranks right up there among the most hostile possible away trips in professional boxing currently.

As such, challenger Taylor must attempt to make up for her deficits in physical strength by harnessing the occasion to apply psychological pressure on the champion.

For as long as is possible, she must use her still-superior footwork to make Cameron chase shadows. She must suppress her incorrigible appetite for a tear-up and instead launch fleeting raids before getting the hell out of dodge. She must bank the early rounds and acquaint Cameron with the idea that, for the first time as a pro, a fight might be slipping away from her. And Taylor must then ensure that she’s close enough to the shoreline to reach safety when the storm clouds inevitably loom.

Even these ‘musts’ are big ‘ifs’, because Cameron herself is no lumbering robot and while there isn’t yet evidence on her to suggest that she’s as mentally impregnable as Taylor, there also exists no evidence that she isn’t.

Cameron would accept that she will probably lose a chess match to Taylor, so her plan will be to play checkers: jump Taylor from the start, drain the home fighter’s energy both in the clinch and with a sustained assault to the body, and finish over the top of her in a way that Amanda Serrano couldn’t.

It’s often said within boxing that ‘speed kills’. In this sport’s equivalent to rock-paper-scissors, though, size has traditionally beaten speed where applicable.

By that logic, this writer makes Cameron a slight favourite to puncture the Dublin atmosphere and retain her belts on Saturday night.

Taylor, though, has never truly been wed to logic, as is illustrated by her decision to personally call for this fight in the first place.

A triumph at the 3Arena would trump London 2012 and MSG 2022 as the greatest of her glittering career.

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