KATIE TAYLOR has come through her toughest test to retain her status as world lightweight champion with victory in a bruising rematch with Delfine Persoon.
The Irish champion produced one of the gutsiest performances of her career to date to survive a late onslaught from her Belgian opponent.
While it was Taylor who impressed during the early stages of the fight, Delfine was able to crank up the pressure in the later rounds in what proved an extraordinarily close fight.
The judges ultimately scored it in the Bray-born fighter’s favour, with Taylor winning 98-93 96-94 96-94.
It was a repeat of the result witnessed 14 months earlier when Persoon narrowly lost on points in a hotly contested result.
The former policewoman was left angry and tearful at the decision back then, but took it with good grace this time around, congratulating Taylor on victory.
“I respect the result,” she said.
“I feel like I didn't have enough power to hurt her this time. I cannot hurt her this time and if you don't hurt her, she's technical and good.”
Count ‘em! #AndStill@KatieTaylor retains the gold 98-93, 96-94, 96-94...
👑 Ring Magazine
Undisputed Lightweight Champion 🙌#FightCamp #TaylorPersoon2 #FightCamp4 pic.twitter.com/Venx6At8ZC
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) August 22, 2020
Held in the unusual surroundings of promoter Eddie Hearn’s back garden in Essex, the fight may not have had the atmosphere of their previous encounter at Maddison Square Garden in New York, but it proved no less of a thrilling contest.
It was Taylor who took the early initiative, boxing cleverly and landing a few early punches that left Delfine with a visible cut under her right eye as well as a bloodied nose.
But the Belgian fought back, moving to constantly smother Taylor and punching relentlessly at close quarters in an approach that left the 34-year-old nursing a huge bruise on her forehead.
Taylor, to her credit, retained her composure and continued to land punches, including several clean hits as the fight entered the final stretch.
Yet the sheer work rate of Delfine, including a few notable big hits, ensure the bout stayed on a knife-edge until the very end, concluding with a frantic final round that saw Taylor land several well-picked punches.
— Pearse Doherty (@PearseDoherty) August 22, 2020
While few would have argued with a draw, Taylor will take great strength from coming through this latest test and two gruelling fights with a worthy opponent.
Speaking after the fight, Taylor was full of praise for her opponent.
“I knew it would be a tough night. I knew I had to dig deep but I thought I boxed better than last time. I got drawn in a few times but I got there in the end.
“You can't relax against someone like that. She comes and comes and comes. Congratulations to her for two fantastic fights. We promoted the sport well.”
An Olympic champion and two-weight world champion with all four titles at 135lbs in her possession, if Taylor’s status as an Irish boxing legend wasn’t already secured, it undoubtedly is now.
The Covid-19 pandemic might leave Taylor facing an uncertain future, with lucrative live boxing events on hold for the time being, but for now she’s happy to celebrate and bask in the glory of one of her greatest victories yet.