Katie Taylor retained her undisputed world lightweight titles after a unanimous points decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon, in a gruelling affair in Essex.
Taylor and Persoon — as they did in their first fight at the Madison Square Gardens last year — went back and forth for 10 rounds with the judges eventually ruling the contest in Taylor’s favour 98-93, 96-94 and 96-94.
Last year, when the pair met, eyebrows were raised for the first time in Katie Taylor’s career as her hand was held aloft in victory following an all-out war with Persoon. Some, including Persoon, were convinced the Belgian had done enough but Taylor was declared the winner on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
This time around, as Taylor promised she was more convincing. The relentless Persoon kept coming forward and at times dragged Taylor into a dog fight but Taylor boxed smarter and landed the more eye-catching shots.
After the fight, Persoon showed great humility and grace as she accepted the loss, even though she may have felt aggrieved. Persoon had joy in the middle rounds as she walked through Taylor’s shots and was the more aggressive.
“This time I respect the result,” said the 35-year old Persoon.
“For me this time, the weight was a little bit too much. I weighed 57kg, so then I eat, eat, eat, but I feel I don’t have the power this time to hurt her.
“If you don’t hurt her, it’s technical and she is good. She runs around and you have to hurt her or she is away. She deserves this time to win, no problem.”
However, like in the first fight, it came down to a story of quality versus quantity. To some, it may have appeared that Persoon was winning the fight due to her come-forward style but the majority of her punches failed to connect and didn’t have any force behind them.
The persistent Persoon has incredible heart, stamina and grit but for all the punches and shots she threw, she failed to land a high percentage of her shots. Taylor on the other hand, who at times found it difficult to push Persoon back, Taylor used her superior boxing skills and head movement to land more and her clean left hooks on the exit from the inside were significant strikes.
It was however by no means a runaway victory for Katie Taylor, and eyebrows will be raised over one of the judges, Victor Loughlin, who made Taylor an overwhelming winner, 98-93.
“It was never going to be an easy fight against Delfine, she is relentless,” Taylor said.
“I knew I would have to dig deep at some point during the fight but I thought I boxed a lot better than last time and stuck to my boxing, even though I got drawn in a few times. For the most part I stuck to my boxing this time and that’s what got me the win.
“You can’t relax in there at all against someone like Delfine, she is going to come and come and come. Even though I am hitting her with clean shots, she is going to attack all the time.
“What an amazing two fights for women’s boxing. I think it was a lot more convincing tonight, even though it was never going to be an easy fight.”
Having been dragged into a brawl the first time they met, Taylor was determined not to let the same thing happen again. Early on, just like in the first fight, Taylor made her mark. She was using the ring and her footwork to create angles and land straight shots. Persoon tried to close the distance, got through with an overhand right and bundled the Irish boxer to the floor in a clinch, but seldom found Taylor in range.
Early in the second round, Persoon who is a policewoman in her home country, developed a large swelling under her right eye. She complained about a clash of heads, but Taylor was not slowing down and as Persoon tried to hold, Taylor landed well to the body.
Persoon went into all-out attack mode at the start of the third round, landing two clubbing rights, although Taylor maintained her discipline and got away from trouble. The fourth was more of the same, the Belgian planting her feet and attempting to maul Taylor by throwing non-stop with both hands but the majority of the time was failing to land any clean strikes. Taylor was reading her better now, though, as she slipped the shots and caught Persoon square on with a pair of crunching rights. Persoon did catch Taylor with an over-hand which left the Bray woman with a huge swelling on her forehead.
There were signs in the fifth that the storm from Persoon was starting to blow out, although she was still out-throwing Taylor. When the space did open up for Taylor and she was able to create angles, her superior boxing skills shone. Persoon was right back to her most ferocious in the sixth and she just walked Taylor down and while Taylor landed two good left hooks, Persoon was trying to land plenty of punches of her own. Whilst the majority missed she still was the more aggressor.
Persoon started to slow again in the eighth, but Taylor was showing signs of tiredness too after being under so much pressure and Persoon landed a good right cross as Taylor backed away. The final two rounds Taylor recovered and went back to basics. Weaving in and out of danger and boxing smart.
The Belgian seemed to be fighting in slow motion in the last, as Taylor landed two big left hooks and then a hefty right. Nothing would dissuade Persoon, though, who neglected defence to keep throwing. Persoon again turned things around her way, but Taylor finished strongly, as Persoon slipped to her knees and got up, the pair were still swapping punches before Ian John-Lewis, the referee, could intervene. One of the most breath-taking rounds you will ever see.
In the end, after a nervy wait, Taylor was declared the winner. The Taylor-Persoon fights will have to go down as one of the best ever in both the male and female history. It is often said that styles make fights and these two have certainly put women’s boxing on the map.
The class and quality of these two fighters is unquestionable. Both exciting and thrilling, these two boxers would have any boxing fan on the edge of their seat.
There was a bit of a gaffe on Sky Sports prior to the fight as presenter Anna Woodhouse labelled Katie Taylor as a ‘Team GB’ teammate of the men’s Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua.