NEW YORK -- In the toughest test of her young pro career, Irish star and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor unified all four women's lightweight titles on Saturday. She also may have co-authored the fight of the year in boxing, regardless of gender.
In front of a jam-packed and pro-Taylor crowd at New York's Madison Square Garden, Taylor (14-0, 6 KOs) outlasted WBC champion Delfine Persoon via majority decision in a 10-round war on the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Jr. undercard.
But to call the decision anything short of disputed would be an understatement. The 32-year-old Taylor was lucky to survive the final round as Persoon (43-2, 18 KOs) and her relentless pressure wobbled Taylor until the final bell.
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Taylor, who became the undisputed champion at 135 pounds, took home judges scores of 96-94 twice. The third judge had it 95-95 to leave an angry Persoon, a native of Belgium who hadn't lost since 2010, shaking her head and quickly exiting the ring.
"It was a very, very close fight. I felt like I won the earlier rounds and she came on strong at the end. But I feel like I did enough to win that fight. But it was very, very close and I knew it was going to be that kind of fight," Taylor said. "Persoon was a fantastic champion and she is very, very strong. It all made for a fantastic showcase for women's boxing. I knew this was going to be the biggest and hardest fight of my life. But I am great at digging deep. I am born for fights like these in the trenches. I worked so hard these past few months in training camp for this kind of fight. My coach is the mastermind behind this and I am so grateful."
Persoon's awkward and absurdly relentless style forced Taylor out of her game from the opening bell. Not only did Persoon take away Taylor's jab and body attack, she forced her into a non-stop brawl that often bordered on dirty and sloppy as both repeatedly punched on the break.
Despite referee Sparkle Lee having her hands full throughout, the action was as non-stop as it was entertaining. Persoon routinely squared up and lunged at Taylor with power shots. At times, Taylor was able to rely on her speed and technical advantages to slip and counter but the majority of the time she was stuck in fight-or-flight mode.
While neither fighter hit the canvas during the fight, both were rocked multiple times as damage accumulated on both of their faces. Persoon was cut around both eyes and saw her face covered with swelling and red blotches. Her left eye also swelled to cartoonish lengths in the final round. Taylor, meanwhile, was cut under her right eye and above her left eye. She also suffered a cut on her hairline.
Persoon outlanded Taylor, 116 to 103, according to CompuBox, and finished stronger by connecting with 55 punches over the final three rounds compared to 28 for Taylor.
After the bout, Taylor said she was wiling to do a rematch following such a savage and frantic fight.
"I am definitely happy to give Delfine a rematch. There are big fights out there for me," Taylor said. "There's Amanda Serrano and I think that fight should be next but I am really happy to fight whoever."
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