Katie Taylor won’t have it easy in first defence of world title

World champion expected to beat Jessica McCaskill, but must be cautious

 

(Katie Taylor v Jessica McCaskill – WBA lightweight World Championship –York Hall, Bethnal Green, Live Sky Sports 9.45pm)

Katie Taylor’s professional record has tended to be misleading.

Her amateur record has been prolific and one that will hardly be equalled (six Europeans titles, five World title s and an Olympic title).

But it’s still early days for her in the world of professional boxing. So far the trajectory is firmly upward and already she has become WBA world lightweight champion.

The bald facts are that the Irish Olympic gold medallist has had seven unbeaten fights and her opponent this evening in Bethnal Green’s famous York Hall, Jessica McCaskill, has had six with one defeat.

There the boxing comparisons come to an end. The first challenger for Taylor’s lightweight strap, McCaskill, who never had an amateur career, is two years older than the 31-year-old Taylor, is ranked fourth in the world by Boxing Rec out of 130 fighters and is the top lightweight in America.

The “heavyweight” lightweights in women’s boxing reside in Argentina and Belgium, not the US, so in this instance the tag of number one in America does not carry the full freight that position normally commands.

But Taylor after a year as a professional is ranked the number two lightweight in the world and second only to the top fighter in the division, Delfine Persoon, whose professional record stands out on its own.

The Belgian has lost just one of 39 professional fights. Since that 2010 defeat by Zelda Tekin in Germany, the 32-year-old has won 30 straight bouts. But Persoon, her record and ranking is a task for further down the road.

It was kept quiet that Taylor was ill with a virus going into her title-winning bout against Anahi Sanchez six weeks ago in Cardiff. Manager Brian Peters had considered calling off the fight but on the insistence of Taylor and her team it went ahead.

Flawed, she came out of the fight with a shiner, shipped a few other pops and allowed Sanchez to recover from a second round body shot that had her on the canvas, which McCaskill has seized upon as Taylor mistakes.

‘No excuses’

That said Taylor came in almost one pound under the 135lbs limit yesterday in London’s Courthouse, avoiding the last-minute drama of her world title bout with Sanchez in October.

The Argentinian fighter came in over the limit and was embarrassingly stripped of the belt. Chicago native McCaskill weighed in at a lighter 132.6 pounds, easily making the weight.

“Katie Taylor took too many shots in that fight at the Millennium Stadium when she won her world title,” said promoter Eddie Hearn at the weigh-in. “She wasn’t 100 per cent in camp. She is now, no excuses.”

The orthodox McCaskill has never fought outside of the Chicago area and her first three fights were against opponents making their debut. It was during that opening period she lost her only bout to Katonya Fisher in 2016.

McCaskill’s own description of her style is that she began as a brawler but that has been refined by coach and manager Rock Ramos. Over 10 rounds she will need some refinement, although it’s the brawling where Taylor needs caution.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be in this position,” said Taylor at the weigh-in. “The fight last time for my pro title was probably the best fight of my career. It’s been a great year for me.

“I’m definitely a more professional fighter now than I have ever been. I am learning all the time. I’ve only seven pro fights and I believe every fight for me is a learning curve as well, especially in the last fight. I definitely learned a lot in that fight.”

McCaskill – ring name ‘McCaskilla’ – will bring a similar skill set tonight as Sanchez did. It may not be enough though.

“She’s tough, she’s strong and she’s here to win,” said Taylor. “It makes for an exciting fight but I feel like I’m prepared.”

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