Destiny calling for Katie Taylor on a huge night at the Garden
If Taylor can claim Delfine Persoon’s WBC belt she will unify the lightweight division
Katie Taylor with Saturday night’s opponent Delfine Persoon. Photograph: Jeff Fusco/Inpho
A date with destiny and a chance to etch a place amongst boxing’s greats is what awaits Katie Taylor at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The Bray woman bids to realise an obsessive dream two and a half years in the making - becoming the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
Already armed with the WBA, IBF and WBO straps, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist looks to add the final piece to the four belt quaternity - Delfine Persoon’s WBC strap.
If successful she will become Ireland’s first unified world champion in the modern era, and the world’s seventh, male or female.
Such is the significance of the occasion, the winner will also walk away with “Ring Magazine’s” commemorative “ring belt” - the first time it will be presented in the division.
“This journey has been incredible over the last few years”, says Taylor, who will compete inside boxing’s mecca for just the second time in her career - the clash featuring on the undercard to Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Andy Ruiz Jr.
“This is a fight I have always wanted. To be fighting for the undisputed title in Madison Square Garden is absolutely phenomenal.”
“Ever since I did turn pro, I wanted to become the undisputed champion, I wanted to make history and create a legacy in this sport and I am so close to it now.”
It has been a slow, methodical process by team Taylor, expertly piloted by manager Brian Peters.
“We’ve had to let Katie build her profile globally and I think we’ve done that, says Peters.
“You can see that with the likes of the DAZN so eager to promote her and she’s been very well received in America.”
“There are so many things that can go wrong in the pro game and Katie has had to learn the ropes as well, but she’s so eager to learn.”
It’s also the reason why the unavoidable “toughest ever challenge” cliché has accompanied most of Taylor’s 13 previous opponents.
But Persoon will rank as Taylor’s toughest and roughest by a considerable margin.
Streetwise both inside and outside the ring, the Belgium police officer has tasted defeat just once in 43 professional bouts.
And with 18 KOs along the way, the 34-year-old will be unafraid to bring the fight to Taylor.
When she punches her opponents, they didn’t want to punch back,” says a quietly confident Persoon.
“But this time she will meet an opponent who is not scared to punch back.”
“I think I am a little bit harder and I think I punch a little bit harder than she does.
I think she has her strengths, she’s faster than me and technically, tactically I think she is also a little bit better than me. But I think I’m the hardest fighter and the most physical fighter between us.
Persoon will have a slight height and upper body strength advantage over the Irish woman and is expected to go the full ten, two minute round distance.
“Over three rounds I know that it would be very difficult to win against her. But it’s 10 rounds. That means I’ve got the time to make this a hard fight. I think I already faced some hard opponents but she hasn’t yet had an opponent who is very, very hard.”
“Delfine is a formidable challenge” said the Connecticut based Taylor.
“I’ve watched clips of her and she’s very tall and awkward, she punches non-stop for the ten rounds and I think it’s going to be a very physical fight.
“I’m well prepared for this challenge, and to have a great performance.
“This is when boxing is at its best: champion versus a champion and these are the kinds of fights I need to participate in to take the sport to higher levels for all of us. I understand how big this is. This is why I box.
“This is definitely the biggest night of my career and I can’t wait for it.”
A minor spat between the camps over hotel residencies has added some further spice to the contest but it will all be a distant memory come the late hours, there will be history books to fill by then.
The fight is available to watch on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and Ireland as well as the over-the-top streaming service DAZN in North America. Taylor has been told she is expected in the ring at around 8:30 local time, 1:30 Irish time.