Katie Taylor loses for first time in professional career in homecoming fight

Home fans stunned as fighter defeated in 3Arena by Chantelle Cameron

Just where people think Katie Taylor has arrived at in her boxing is often different to what Taylor and her team believe. She has not dominated at the top for more than 15 years as both an amateur and professional without acting beyond convention.

In a television interview immediately after her 95-95, 96-94, 96-94 defeat in her challenge for the undisputed superlight weight titles, which her opponent Chantelle Cameron possessed, Taylor’s mood was that she would be looking forward to the rematch.

Those words of getting back in the ring were among the last things she said in public on Saturday night after dramatically suffering the first defeat of her professional career in her homecoming bout.

A clause in the contract says her prerogative is a rematch and her promoter Eddie Hearn as much as echoed that sentiment when the 3Arena had emptied.


“The biggest fight in women’s boxing now is Taylor-Cameron two,” said Hearn, who promotes both fighters. “There is a clause in place but… you’ll see the fight again in my opinion. But tonight, it’s about a great performance from Chantelle Cameron.”

Hearn was right, it wasn’t a night for contract nitty gritty, but for the ushering in of a fighter such as Cameron, who has shattered the aura of an invincible Taylor, at least in the 140-pound division. Taylor remains the undisputed lightweight world champion at 135 pounds, but Cameron, over 10 gruelling rounds, has shown a winning pathway for others.

In Taylor’s first defeat since her last bout as an amateur at the 2016 Olympic Games against Finland’s Mira Potkonen, her allure as unbeatable is finally broken. Afterwards in the sullen Dublin hall, there were not too many voices pleading that, after a valiant effort, the judges had got it wrong.

Taylor’s kindest judge scored the bout a draw, while the other two had Cameron winning six rounds and Taylor four for the majority decision.

It was typical of Taylor’s ambition that she had originally called out Cameron, a known difficult opponent

Although the partisan 8,000 crowd were stunned into silence by the result, except for some booing, it was Cameron who withstood the pressure and hostile environment with a driven go-forward agenda that barely slowed throughout the 10x2 minute rounds.

It was typical of Taylor’s ambition that she had originally called out Cameron, a known difficult opponent. All week, that disparity between men’s and women’s boxing had been explored – the women portrayed as fighting the best in their weight division range, while the top male boxers studiously avoided each other.

The scene was stage-managed for the challenger as Cameron waited in the ring for a long period with Taylor walking the long gangway into the arena as music and songs were pumped out including The Fields of Athenry. Maybe somewhere in Dublin, Ronan O’Gara was listening.

All too often, Taylor was unable to use her elusiveness and spin out of danger

But Cameron remained serene and relaxed before she was able to expose Taylor to consistent and unrelenting pressure. In the past, especially against Delfine Persoon and Amanda Serrano, Taylor was able to move from danger with her balance and foot speed, but it wasn’t always there on Saturday.

“Yeah, Katie definitely had the speed. I was the bigger girl,” said Cameron.

In the opening rounds, Cameron set out her stall to come forward, close the ring and force Taylor to fight in confined spaces. All too often, Taylor was unable to use her elusiveness and spin out of danger.

In the opening three rounds, that was the narrative – one of Cameron stalking the ring looking for openings and closing off angles, with Taylor releasing her eye-catching combinations – that brought howls from the partisan crowd.

The question for the judges was whether Taylor was doing that frequently enough, or if Cameron, with a tempo that only slowed in the final rounds, was tagging her opponent more often that Taylor was scoring on her.

In the middle rounds Taylor gained more purchase and was landing cleanly, but she had begun to stop moving. Her willingness to stand and trade punches is not her greatest strength, and Cameron was never looking anything other than strong.

In the closing rounds there was no visible Taylor upswing nor final sting to catch the eye of the judges

But for all Taylor’s good work, there was little she could do to effectively slow Cameron or halt her flow and ability to land scoring shots.

“Early on we were totally in control, I felt, for the first four or five rounds, maybe dropped the fifth round, I think it was. I just said keep doing what you are doing. Katie came back really well in those middle rounds, seven, eight, and closed the gap a little bit,” said Cameron’s coach Jamie Moore.

“But the only reason she did that was because Chantelle sort of allowed her to do it. I actually thought she [Taylor] would start quicker. In hindsight, she was trying to conserve herself for those later rounds and I think she knew Chantelle was going to come late, so she tried to conserve it for late and dropped the other rounds for doing so.”

In the closing rounds there was no visible Taylor upswing nor final sting to catch the eye of the judges, with the sheer persistence of Cameron and her ability to hit the challenger onto the ropes and land solid blows artisan – but highly effective.

At the end, Cameron was hoisted on to her coach’s shoulders. They had sensed the outcome. Taylor, bruised and hurt in what most in the stadium had hoped would be a night of coronation, remains the undisputed lightweight world champion. But a new name, Cameron, has emerged as a threat to that too.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times