Friday 17 August 2018

'I want all the belts by the end of this year' - Classy Katie Taylor sets ambitious target after dominant New York win

Katie Taylor celebrates following her WBA and IBF World Lightweight unification bout with Victoria Bustos
Katie Taylor celebrates following her WBA and IBF World Lightweight unification bout with Victoria Bustos

Sean McGoldrick in New York

KATIE Taylor is the unified lightweight champion of the world. She ended the five-year reign of Argentinian Victoria Noelia Bustos as the IBF belt holder in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in the early hours of this morning.

The 31-year-old unbeaten Bray boxer is now halfway towards fulfilling her dream of becoming the undisputed queen of the 135lb division having secured the WBA version of the title in Cardiff last October.

So, just 20 months after turning professional, and in only her ninth fight in the paid ranks, she has now secured two world professional titles to go along with the five she won as an amateur, as well as her 2012 Olympic gold medal.

And she wants the lot by the end of the year.

"I'm there to fight anyone, any of the champions, I want all the belts by the end of this year for sure," she told Sky Sports.

"I have said it before, I am so lucky to have so many great champions in my division. There are some great fights out there to be made."

Taylor completely dominated the ten round contest, though Bustos deserves credit for her bravery. Despite being totally outclassed she stayed upright and didn't take a standing count.

But Taylor was outstanding as reflected in the three judges' cards with all three judges giving the contest to Taylor on two scores of 99-91 and one of 98-92.

"I'm thrilled to unify the titles. It's a dream come true. It was a great fight and she was a brave opponent," said Taylor

While the 18,000 seater arena had plenty of empty seats, the Irish fans made their presence felt as their heroine made her way to the ring for the third last bout of the evening as the haunting voice of the late Dolores O'Riordan rang out over the PA.

The Argentinian was the more experienced fighter in the pro game; she was making the sixth defence of her IBF title whereas Taylor was defending her WBA belt for only the second time. Ole, Ole, Ole was already ringing out as the female referee gave their final instructions.

The favourite went to work in the opening minute trapping Bustos on the ropes though retreating immediately after landing her shots, though she was caught with one decent right. Taylor again landed the cleaner shots in the second as Bustos struggled to lay a glove on Taylor unless in the close exchanges.

Bustos just couldn't get on target with her jab as Taylor fought her from the outside but the Argentinian was more potent when they got closer and Katie caught her opponent with an eye-catching left-right combination just before the end of the third.

Taylor was the more aggressive fighter and landed far more scoring punches in the fourth as the contest continued along a familiar pattern.

As we reached the halfway point Taylor was the dominant fighter as Bustos struggled to compete with the speed of her opponent's punches, but as expected the Argentinian fighter was brave and resilient.

Taylor totally dominated the sixth round landing 18 punches compared to just four for Bustos who looked in trouble in the closing 30 seconds but she clung on.

The fans chanted 'There is only one Katie Taylor' as she continued to dominate against a tiring opponent who came forward and was caught by a barrage of Taylor punches in the last ten seconds of the round.

It was becoming embarrassingly one-sided as Taylor pummeled her opponent at close range - Bustos deserves a lot of credit for staying upright. The pace dropped slightly at the start of the penultimate round as if Taylor was searching for the one big shot to end it. She caught Bustos with a ferocious right on the flush on the chin but again the underdog stayed up.

Bustos' face was marked but she had no cuts and stood up to Taylor for the final two minutes. She is unlikely to forget her night in the Brooklyn Centre for a long time. She finally unleashed a couple of decent shots in a last throw of the dice in the final thirty seconds only for Taylor to respond in kind.

The boxers embraced at the end and Bustos saluted the crowed but there was only one winner.

It's a measure of her achievement that she is only one of seven professional women boxers who have held unified titles across the 18 weight divisions in the sport.

Norwegian welterweight Cecila Braekhus, the only undisputed world champion and world super middleweight champion and double Olympic gold medallist Claressa Shields – who was ringside for the contest – are arguably the only other female pro fighters whose profile matches Katie's.

Taylor's ambition is to emulate Braekhus' achievement and secure all four belts – preferably before the end of the year. But the task she faces becomes more problematic from now on.

Her next opponent could be Brazilian Rose Volante, who became the WBO world champion last December. Though 35, she is a relative novice having only made her professional debut in 2014. But she is unbeaten in 13 fights, though she has never fought outside her native country.

But by far the biggest obstacle to Taylor's ambitions to complete the unification of the lightweight division, is WBC belt holder Delfine Persoon.

The 33-year-old Belgian, who is a railway policewomen, has only lost once in a career spanning 40 fights. Even though only one of her fights has taken place outside Belgium, she is a formidable opponent even for a boxer of Taylor's calibre.

However, a clash against Persoon doesn't particularly appeal to Taylor's promoter Eddie Hearn or her Irish manager Brian Peters, not least because despite her success the Belgian remains virtually unknown and has no record of selling tickets or being a big draw on TV.

Instead, they would much prefer to see Taylor take on Brooklyn-based Amanda Serrano, who hasn't just a formidable record of 34 wins from 36 contests but is the only boxer – either male or female from Puerto Rica – to win five world titles at different weights.

She was the WBO's lightweight title holder in 2013 and is a big favourite in Brooklyn – four of her last six fights were in the Barclays Center. Recently, she switched to an MMA franchise but a Taylor v Serrano showdown has the potential to be a top of the bill fight at the venue in 2019 or as a chief support to the eventual showdown between heavyweight champions, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.

Conveniently, Joshua and Taylor are both managed by Hearn's Matchroom organisation while Lou DiBella – who first mooted the possibility of a Taylor/Serrano showdown when the former made her debut in the Barclays Center last summer – has a pivotal role in the careers of both Wilder and Serrano.

For the moment, though, Katie Taylor is the Queen of Brooklyn boxing but she will be back in her native Bray next week to saviour her latest triumph because even greater challenges lie ahead.

Earlier on the 'Straight Outta Brooklyn' show, Monaghan native Larry Fryers was outclassed by Russian Nikolay Buzolin in a welterweight contest over six rounds. Fryers looked in trouble in the first round when he was forced to take a standing count but the bell saved him.

It wasn't until the third round that he began to make any impact, but just when it seemed he might go the distance he was caught flush on the jaw by a lethal left-right combination from Buzolin and the referee immediately intervened to end the contest. So Fryers drops to 6-1.

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