herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Taylor on the right side of scales

Katie Taylor with her opponent Delfine Peerson (r) and her promoter Eddie Hearn (c) at the weigh-in before this weekend’s unification bout at Madison Square Garden
Katie Taylor with her opponent Delfine Peerson (r) and her promoter Eddie Hearn (c) at the weigh-in before this weekend’s unification bout at Madison Square Garden

Three-belt world champion Katie Taylor and the defending WBC lightweight title holder Delfine Persoon have successfully weighed in ahead of their unification showdown in Madison Square Garden in the early hours of Sunday morning (live on Sky Sport Box Office, approximately 1.30am).

Taylor tipped the scales at 134.6lb while Persoon was nearly five pounds under the 135 limit at 130.6lb. It suggests that the Belgian fighter didn't quite get her weight management right and it could impact on her strength in the fight.

Taylor received a rapturous reception from the audience in the arena when she appeared on stage.

Even though there had been a much-publicised spat between the camps earlier over the decision of Matchroom to seek alternative accommodation for the Delfine entourage after it was discovered she had been been booked into the same hotel as Katie Taylor and her team, there was no visible sign of tension between the fighters during their face-off.

Indeed, it was obvious that both respect each other deeply.

This is only Persoon's second fight outside of her native Belgium but there is a straight forward explanation for being a home-country fighter, according to her trainer/manager Filiep Tampere.

"The only time we were asked to fight outside Belgium was in 2015 when she defended her title in Switzerland. Nobody else asked us to fight outside the country since until the fight with Katie Taylor was agreed."

Persoon will earn the biggest purse of his career - probably in excess of $150,000.

But the 34-year Federal police inspector has never been in the sport for financial gain. "Boxers do not turn professional to make money in Belgium. Professional boxing has to be your passion, not your job," she said.

Supporter

As usual, Taylor's chief supporter in the arena on fight night will be her mother Bridget.

None of Delfine's family were able to travel across the Atlantic as her father Luc celebrates his 65th birthday on Sunday.

A party to mark his retirement had been planned for months and as he has a twin brother it was decided to go ahead with the celebration despite Delfine's date with sporting destiny in the MSG on the previous night.

Taylor's promoter believes she's denied herself the chance to become one of the world's most famous female athletes to instead become one of its most successful.

Victory would make her only the seventh fighter of the four-belt era to become an undisputed world champion, and the third woman. But her promoter Eddie Hearn believes she could have had the profile given to Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Maria Sharapova and others.

Taylor is perhaps Ireland's most successful active athlete and the world's finest female fighter.

After IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, she is expected to be the most passionately supported fighter on tonight's bill, but Hearn said: "She could be a bigger star but it's endearing (she doesn't try to be).

"That's part of her qualities and her attraction; she's this quiet little girl who hides away and lives like a monk to achieve what she wants to achieve.

"She could be like the Ronda Rouseys of this world, but she's not interested in talking rubbish and cheap publicity stunts, and that's one of the reasons we love her. If she did, she could fill this place on her own.

"She's turned down sponsorship deals and turned down media opportunities, but I admire that because that's what she's about.

"She's my favourite fighter, because I've never met anyone more driven and single-minded. She'll do exactly what she wants to do; her whole life revolves around boxing and she won't do anything that gets in the way of her boxing, or her training.

"The atmosphere in the arena will be phenomenal. When she fights now the numbers are huge; she's selling tickets; everyone in Ireland's watching. We're underestimating the draw of Katie Taylor; every time she's boxed in America she's stolen the show, and she may well do it again on Saturday."

As an outstanding amateur, Taylor won five world titles, six European titles and Olympic gold at London 2012, but even amid that success she believes only when she has become an undisputed professional champion will she have reached the "pinnacle" of her sport.

"For her to say this is the biggest moment of her career shows you how important it is," Hearn added. "Hopefully, she gets the win.

"She's still got to win on Saturday, but if she does she's pound-for-pound the number one in women's boxing, and the pound-for-pound best (I'll have worked with); blend them all in, she's top five pound-for-pound, combining men and women."

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