TV View: Ireland’s jewel Katie Taylor delivers on nervy night in New York
Unified champion earns tight decision before Andy Ruiz leaves Sky with egg on their faces
Katie Taylor celebrates her victory over Delfine Persoon at Madison Square Garden. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty
When he gets a little excitable, Adam Smith’s boxing commentating weighs in at around 96 decibels, so when things are already stressful enough, he’d do nothing for your nerves. Especially ones on the verge of being shredded during Saturday’s final round at Madison Square Garden.
“ARE ALL THE BELTS GOING BACK TO BELGIUM?!?!”
“WILL IRISH EYES NOT BE SMILING?!?!”
This was not helpful, not least because the Sky Sports Box Office people had assured us pre-fight that there’d be nothing to worry about, convincing us that Delfine Persoon wouldn’t lay as much as a glove on our Katie.
“It’s a done deal as far as I’m concerned,” Johnny Nelson had said, “Taylor’s got far too much for her.” Tony Bellew agreed, even going so far as to say that “Katie’s every bit as good as us men”, the ultimate compliment.
If Persoon had been listening to the chat you’d couldn’t have blamed her if she refused to leave her dressing room, but leave it she did, looking for all the world like an advertising hoarding as she entered the ring, her main sponsor a manufacturer of combine harvesters and the like. And then there was our woman, resplendent in purple, appropriately enough for the Queen of the Ring, the only logo on her kit a menacing one: ‘KT.’
“THE SPARKLING SPORTING JEWEL FROM THE EMERALD ISLE,” Adam bellowed, “SO SWEET OUTSIDE THE RING, SO SAVAGE INSIDE IT!”
And she’d a savage start too, but thereafter it was not the procession we had been promised, it being possible that our hosts had seen as much of Persoon in advance of Saturday night as we had ourselves (never, like). Once the blood began to flow, eyes began swelling up and the Oles filled the air, some of us took refuge behind the couch, Paulie Malignaggi making us afraid to come out when, with seconds to go, he advised that we prepare for the worst: “Persoon’s won this fight, guys.”
Adam didn’t exactly raise the optimism levels by revealing that everyone sitting around him at ringside, Carl Frampton and David Haye among them, had either given the fight to Persoon or called it a draw. “NO ONE HAS KATIE TAYLOR WINNING IT!!!!!”
So, let’s just say, when Katie was declared undisputed lightweight champion of the world the decision wasn’t entirely undisputed, Bellew the only one who was chilled enough about it. “It was a really close fight, I wouldn’t say it’s robbery by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. Carl Froch? “Persoon was robbed.”
Bellew stood his ground, though, even suggesting that if a slightly different scoring system had been used, then there’d be no arguments at all. “Look at the state of Persoon’s face at the end of the fight, if it was to go on faces there’s only one winner. But obviously it doesn’t go on faces.”
It doesn’t indeed, but if it went on eggy faces then Sky would have won the night having come close enough to giggling when considering the prospects of Andy Ruiz Jr beating Anthony Joshua. Before the weigh-in, Bellew was tipping AJ to win between the fourth and eighth rounds. After it? “First or second.” Paulie Malignaggi tried to warn them - “do NOT judge this guy by his rotund figure” - but they were having none of it, much of the chat focussing on who would be AJ’s likely opponent after he saw off Ruiz.
When there was a delay in AJ emerging from his dressing room, Matt Macklin told us not to worry, “they’re not going to start without him”, but the general impression was that AJ not turning up would be Ruiz’s only chance of victory on the night, and even then the contest would probably go the distance.
AJ finally appeared and Adam was perfectly calm about it. “ONE OF BRITAIN’S BIGGEST SPORTING SUPERSTARS AIMS TO CONQUER AMERICA AND BECOME A GLOBAL ICON!!!!” And when he floored Ruiz in the third, it was done and dusted.
Hold. Your. Horses. Or “OH MY WORD!!!!!”, as Adam put it when AJ hit the canvas, and when he hit it again, Adam, in the neutral corner, was left howling “WHERE’S THE BELL?!?!”
He was barely able to speak come the events in the seventh round when Ruiz did the inconceivable and pressed pause on AJ’s plans to become a global icon, leaving it to Matt to find the words: “YOU. JUST. COULD. NOT. MAKE. THIS. UP.” You couldn’t either, “a beautiful abomination,” as promoter Eddie Hearn called it.
“The sky’s the limit, baby,” said a beaming Ruiz, the fella laden with belts, before inserting himself in hot water: “If it wasn’t for my Dad, I wouldn’t be here!” When he gets home, you’d fear, his Ma will succeed where AJ failed: deck him.