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'It's been hanging over my head over the last year' - Taylor sets out to avenge her own victory

Ahead of her eagerly anticipated rematch with Delfine Persoon on Saturday, Katie Taylor says she is ‘looking forward to shutting up everyone that has criticised me’.

Katie Taylor gearing up for her first fight with Delfine Persoon last June.
Katie Taylor gearing up for her first fight with Delfine Persoon last June.

FOR THE BONES of a decade, Katie Taylor spent countless weeks holed up in hotels in the back arses of nowhere before journeying to near-empty arenas in order to punch people and win something shiny for her troubles.

So, aside from the thousands who will tune in, and the cheque worth hundreds of thousands that she’ll receive whether she wins, loses or draws this Saturday night, it’s business as usual. Well, almost.

“I’m not used to being in prison for a week!” she laughs on a Zoom call from the Essex Holiday Inn in which she, Delfine Persoon and all of the other Fight Camp participants are staying before they step through the middle ropes in Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom HQ backyard. “I’m usually allowed to leave the hotel and go for a walk, so it definitely has been a different experience but I’m soaking it all in and enjoying the week.”

She has been watching Netflix to pass the time, she says, but as for what she has thrown on specifically, Taylor [15-0, 6KOs] can’t quite recall off the top of her head. Nothing great, anyway.

You can understand how she would find it difficult to invest much emotional energy in movies considering she’s three days out from her own sequel which, should she emerge with her arm raised, will go along way toward defining her legacy as a prizefighter and, should she get beaten, will define it completely in the eyes of so many industry critics.

katie-taylor Katie Taylor arrives in Brentwood, Essex ahead of her rematch with rival Delfine Persoon, which will take place in the garden of Matchroom Boxing HQ with no fans present this Saturday night. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

Taylor famously doesn’t pay great heed to external noise but she lives and breathes and occasionally even tweets, so she’s scarcely impervious to it, either.

Ireland during her all-time great amateur career was a bubble in which not a bad word tended to be uttered about one of the nation’s sporting greats, but the Bray woman’s venture into professional boxing has exposed her to the muck that most of us sift through on our phones on a daily basis; there are swathes of boxing fans worldwide who, by dint of her controversial victory over Persoon [44-2, 18KOs] at Madison Square Garden last June and, equally pertinently, her association with Hearn, believe Taylor to be merely another hype job, a promoter’s darling in whose favour the odds will perpetually be stacked. And you need not delve too far into the bowels of social media to discover that they let her know — or try to let the world know — in their droves.

So, even though the 34-year-old subsequently moved up in weight briefly to become a two-division champion against Christina Linardatou in Manchester last November, it was Persoon (35) and their inevitable re-run back down at lightweight which have followed boxing’s most disputed undisputed champion like a cloud for just over 14 months.

The task on Saturday night is enormous but the mission overview is straightforward: Taylor must avenge her own victory.

“The first fight was too close for my liking,” she admits.

It’s been hanging over my head over the last year, so I was delighted when the rematch was nailed down. I’m looking forward to putting on a more dominant performance and shutting up everyone that has criticised me over the last year.

“I wouldn’t say I resent anyone [for claiming I lost the original fight]: everyone’s entitled to their own opinion after each fight. But yeah, I don’t want to leave any question marks after this one. I guess I have a bee in my bonnet. In every single fight, I want to win convincingly and I want to do that on Saturday night.

“I’m honestly a very composed person and I don’t take much notice of what people are saying for the most part. Regardless of what Delfine says or what anyone else says, I am sitting here as the undisputed champion and nobody can take that away from me. I’m always the quiet one in the lead-up to these fights and I don’t feel the need to bite back or shout back. I’ll do my talking in the ring.

“I think this was the fight that everybody wanted to see, as well.

Everyone wanted to see the rematch and if I had fought anyone else, everyone would be talking about the Persoon rematch anyway. So, once I get this fight out of the way I can just put it behind me and move on.

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katie-taylor-and-delfine-persoon Taylor and Persoon trade. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Before Taylor can drive on, she has naturally had to check her rear-view mirror. The ringside judges at MSG awarded her the original contest on a majority decision (96-94 x2, 95-95) — the narrowest possible margin for victory — but the former Olympic champion says she has never precisely scored her first undisputed-title scrap, a rough-and-tumble thriller which brought a 15,000-strong crowd to its feet in New York and immediately earned classic status, not even specifically within a female-code context.

Taylor has instead used her rewatches in an effort to iron out the glitches in her makeup which could so easily have proven her downfall and seen all five belts leave for Belgium.

Persoon, meanwhile, upon several replays, says she and her team, as well as a few others close to her, have scored it fairly concretely as finishing six rounds to four — or 96-94 — in her favour, and so perhaps the armchair judges who had the Flemish warrior winning by a landslide last summer could do with giving it a second glance themselves.

“I definitely couldn’t have given her more than five rounds (a draw)”, Taylor says, “so for people to say it was a disgraceful decision or it was a robbery is a disgrace in itself.

“I felt like I deserved to win the fight even though it was very close. I wanted this rematch. At the end of the day, I want to be involved in the biggest fights and the fights that people are interested in. This is a huge fight for me and for Persoon. It’s a huge fight for the sport.”

katie-taylor-is-declared-the-winner Persoon is aghast as Taylor is determined the victor. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Melina Pizano/INPHO

“I think I’m going to be a completely different fighter,” adds the champion, skirting around the topic of tactics while remaining reticent to divulge too much.

“I think people are going to see a completely different performance and a completely different fight from my perspective.

I got drawn into a bit of a fight in the first one and sometimes that happens. I’m definitely going to be a bit more disciplined in this fight. I’m going to be ready for whatever Persoon throws at me.

“I’m not going to talk too much about my mistakes”, she laughs, “but I definitely need to box smarter on Saturday night and I’m looking forward to producing a career-best performance.”

She says she’ll need it. She’s right.

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