Katie moves a step closer to unification
Bray boxer to face Persoon in June
Wicklow boxing wonder Katie Taylor returned home on Monday morning having edged clinically closer to becoming a unified World champion.
Following her thumping victory over Rose Volante in Philadelphia last weekend, Bray's Katie now holds three belts and is about to embark on a 10-week training camp in preparation for the fight that holds the key to world domination against Belgium's Delfine Persoon and provided there are no last-minute hitches for Taylor or Persoon, one of them will become the fourth undisputed active World champion on June 1 in Madison Square Garden.
Katie's return home for a short break was as low-key as any boxer at the top of their game has ever had in this country.
Her Aer Lingus flight EI 114 from Philadelphia touched down at Dublin Airport at 6am on Monday to little or no hullaballoo or welcome home.
Where other boxers or soccer players or Olympians would have received heroes welcomes, Bray's boxing star was just like any other passenger on that flight except for the fact that she remains on course to be one of the finest and most successful sports people to ever compete in the colours of Ireland.
It's not something that would overly bother Katie Taylor. Her focus is on the boxing, nothing else.
'I knew all along she was going to come to fight,' said a visibly bruised Taylor after her crunching encounter with Volante.
'She's a very, very proud champion, an undefeated champion, so she was everything I expected tonight. She came to fight, and that got the best out of me as well.'
There is no doubting the fact that this was one of Katie's best performances as a professional boxer. Her seemingly endless deluge of rapid combinations and crippling body shots held off the warrior approach of Volante who came looking to hurt the Wicklow woman.
Volante came out fighting from the start, forcing Katie into the corner but the Bray woman soon had the measure of 'The Queen' and she dropped the Sao Paul native with a walloping right hook.
The referee got to seven before Volante was back up on her feet and credit to her she engaged with Taylor immediately.
The huge crowd could sense that the destiny of the title was Bray bound by round four as Taylor looked in total control but Volante was rallying ferociously with huge energy and gusto.
However, it was Taylor's work to the body that unlocked the defence of the brave Volante and the Irish supporters could be heard singing 'olé, olé by the end of the seventh.
An accidental clash of heads was what ultimately caused the stoppage in round nine, an ending that Taylor saw was a 'funny' one.
'It was a funny kind of stoppage, she just kind of turned her back and walked back to the corner,' said a delighted Katie.
'Then, the ref just waved it off. I was obviously delighted. I was like, 'Thank God! I can relax now'.'
'I knew she was on her way out. Sometimes it is very, very hard to stop these opponents at this level. It was a very, very tough fight. She took a lot of punishment.
'It was the icing on the cake to actually get the stoppage. I knew she was going to put pressure on me right from the start, but I think a lot of these girls underestimate my own strength up close. I can mix it with anyone in there. I love fighting up close. And she definitely couldn't handle the body shots when I started going down there, and that's what got her out in the end.'
Taylor will now return to Madison Square Garden in a bid to realise her dream of unifying the division on the Anthony Joshua v Jarrell Miller card.
'That's always been my goal since I have turned pro. That would be absolutely historic.
'That would be equal to winning the Olympic gold medal for me,' said Taylor.
That deal is set to be announced within the next fortnight, but Taylor's star is shining so brightly stateside that she may headline her own New York City card in the autumn. Puerto Rican-born Amanda Serrano, a world champion in seven different weight divisions, the likely opponent.
All going well the year could close out with Taylor facing undisputed welterweight champion Cecelia Braekhus in what would be the first clash between two undisputed champions in modern times, male or female.
But next up for Katie is the big one, the clash with Persoon on June 1. Persoon has been around the block so many times that she has the potential and experience to trouble the Bray woman.
Persoon, who came to boxing via judo and turned professional at 24, has won all but one of her 44 professional bouts and that loss came in the early stages of her career, in 2010.
She has boxed 286 championship rounds to Taylor's 94 but whether or not she has ever faced anyone with the dedication and the genius that Katie Taylor possesses very much remains to be seen.