Katie Taylor is the undisputed lightweight champion of the world following epic victory over Delfine Persoon
KATIE Taylor is the undisputed queen of the lightweight division in world boxing.
She delivered on her drive for five in Madison Square Garden, the spiritual home of professional boxing, winning the green coloured WBC belt to add to the WBA, IBF and WBO ones she has already secured since turning professional less than four years ago.
But it was a desperately close call, with many observers, including a sizeable section of the crowd, believing that the 34-year-old Belgian police inspector had shaded a terrific contest.
Ultimately it came down to the three ringside judges. One official scored the fight 95-95 (as did this writer) but the two other judges gave the fight to the favourite Taylor on a 96-94 scorecard. Essentially it meant Taylor had won six of the ten rounds on their card.
Persoon threw more punches but Taylor was more accurate and this, plus her excellent start – she was probably 5-1 ahead at one stage in terms of rounds - influenced the judges' decision.
Taylor certainly did better in the earlier exchanges and was well ahead at the halfway point of the fight. Indeed, much to the annoyance of her trainer Ross Enamait, she invited Persoon forward in the fifth round.
"I probably should have boxed more on the outside," she acknowledged afterwards. "It was a tight fight but I thought I did enough in the earlier rounds to shade it," said Taylor, who offered Persoon a rematch. However, her management team is unlikely to be nearly as enthusiastic about facing the 34-year-old again.
By the time the TV interview was conducted, the Belgian was back in her dressing room. She stormed from the ring together with her coach Filiep Tampere shaking her head and in tears.
She was relentless in pursuit of Taylor in the second half of the fight and though she had gashes near both eyes, she exerted enormous pressure on Taylor whose body language at the end of the eighth round was that of a champion in trouble.
Ultimately though, she did land the last couple of shots in a fight which was afforded a standing ovation by the crowd, though sections of the audience booed the verdict. It was certainly the first time in her professional career that Taylor looked in real danger of losing, but every professional fighter rides their lucky occasionally.
Taylor also collected a specially commissioned Ring Magazine belt to mark her achievement in becoming the lineal champion of the 135lb division, joining Claressa Shields – who was ringside supporting her – and Cecilia Braekhus as the the only current undisputed world champions in women's boxing.
She is the first Irish boxer to hold the four belts simultaneously since the four-belt world championship era was ushered in.
Unlike the majority of the male world champions, she can't be accused of dodging specific opponents and it's not her fault either that we have the ludicrous situation that there are four world champions in each weight division in women's boxing.
Now, rightfully, there is only one and the reality is that Taylor is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete who deserves every honour which comes her way. She mightn't talk the talk but she most certainly walks the walk, though this – her first win via a majority decision – will count as being fortunate.
Apart from the mooted fights against Amanda Serrano and Cecilia Braekhus to come later this year as well as the anticipate mandatory challenges, her next medium-term target is likely to be the super-lightweight division in which two of the belts are currently held by an old foe Jessica McCaskill.
A rematch between this pair, particularly if the American banker managed to become the undisputed champion in the weight division, would be a top-of-the-bill million-dollar showdown.
For the next few weeks all the talk will be about a rematch between Taylor and Persoon and in truth she deserves one. Whether it happens will be outside the power of both fighters.