Wednesday 21 August 2019

Sean McGoldrick meets Delfine Persoon: 'Katie Taylor is guaranteed a rematch if I beat her'

Delfine Persoon during the public work-out at the Brookfield Place, New York yesterday.
Nick Potts/PA Wire
Delfine Persoon during the public work-out at the Brookfield Place, New York yesterday. Nick Potts/PA Wire

Sean McGoldrick

KATIE Taylor will get a rematch against Delfine Persoon if the Belgian defies the odds and beats the Bray fighter in their unification lightweight showdown in Madison Square Garden next weekend.

Persoon confirmed that the contract for the eagerly awaited clash gives the Bray pugilist a rematch if she loses.

Unless the contest ends in a draw, the winner will go home with the IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC belts as well as a new Ring Magazine belt being presented for the first time.

“But there is no rematch for me if I lose,” she admitted in a wide-ranging interview in the home of her coach Filiep Tampere, a former professional fighter.

His career was cut short when he was 25 after he suffered a detached retina in only his ninth professional fight.

There are reminders of his enduring passion for boxing all over his living room.

Sean McGoldrick pictured with Delfine Persoon
Sean McGoldrick pictured with Delfine Persoon

A striking portrait of Muhammad Ali takes pride of place. It was painted by Jean-Pierre Coopman, better known in the boxing world as the Lion of Flanders, who lasted five rounds against Ali when they clashed in a World heavyweight title fight in San Juan in the US in 1976. During his short-lived pro career Tampere was trained by Coopman.

Since turning professional in 2009 when she was 24, Persoon – a full-time member of the Federal branch of the Belgian police – has fought on 44 occasions.

Her only loss came 18 months after her debut when she paid the price for disobeying medical advice.

She took on another Belgian Zelda Terkin, who had been disqualified in the second round of their original clash.

The rematch was fixed for a month later, but Persoon fell ill the night before the fight. She ended up in hospital suffering from dehydration.

“I wasn’t able to keep any food down but I kept thinking of the people who had bought tickets to see the fight.

“I didn’t want to let my family, friends and colleague down so I signed myself out of hospital and went direct to the venue to do a warm-up.”

She was stopped in the fifth round but has never lost since. Her breakthrough pro win was achieved in 2012 just after Katie Taylor had won a gold medal at the London Olympics.

Persoon stopped Australian Erin McGowan, who had won all but one of her 14 pro fights, to secure her first international belt.

Next Saturday she will be fighting abroad for only the second time in her career. But according to her trainer Filiep Tampere there is a straightforward explanation for being a home-country fighter.

“The only time we were asked to fight outside Belgium was in 2015 when she defended her title in Switzerland. Nobody else asked us to fight outside the country since until the fight with Katie Taylor was agreed,” he said.

Professional boxing is not a lucrative sport in Belgium. “Boxers do not turn professional to make money here.  Professional boxing has to be your passion, not your job,” said Delfine.

She works overtime in her job in order to accumulate leave time to prepare for big fights while local sponsors enable Tampere – who is employed as a welder in the New Holland Combine Harvester factory – to take time off work to train her.

He is used to defying the odds.  After being forced to quit pro-boxing, he became a successful show-jumper and he later rebuilt his life after being seriously injured in a motorcycle accident.

Plotting the downfall of Katie Taylor is the biggest challenge of his coaching career. But he says he has been planning for the showdown between the pair for the last two years.

“A fight against her was always our long-term plan,” he insists.

Back in 1976 when Jean-Pierre Coopman challenged the legendary Muhammad Ali for the World heavyweight belt the champagne was reportedly delivered to his dressing room before the fight.

Rest assured Persoon will be a lot more focused this weekend when she faces Taylor. This will be no ordinary contest.

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