Katie Taylor returned to the scene of her professional debut as she gave a largely faultless display to retain her undisputed world lightweight title with a landslide points win over Karen Carabajal.
Six years on from her debut, things have certainly worked out for Taylor. She did have one return to Wembley Arena during lockdown, but the famous fighting venue, where Marvin Hagler won his world title among others, was full of spectators again this night and they were mostly here for her.
Carabajal was unbeaten in 19 fights, but as routine a defence as Taylor could have had She had not been in the ring with anyone approaching Taylor’s talent. At 32, she was about to find out if she had it or not.
The gulf in class was evident in the opening seconds. Taylor landed her left jab, she moved in to land the left hook, Carabajal threw punches that fell well short. Carabajal brought toughness, a decent right hand and she had a size advantage over Taylor, but she could not cope with the Irishwoman’s handspeed. She made Taylor work hard at times, but never threatened to win.
The Argentinian came forward throwing in the second and did land the right, although Taylor’s shots had more spite and accuracy.
Carabajal was less busy in the third and Taylor was content to box at distance, pot-shotting one excellent right hand.
In the fourth, Taylor trapped Carabajal in a corner and began unloading, but copped two left hands in the melee and the Argentinian was back on the front foot in the fifth round, although Taylor tended to draw her in before landing in flurries.
Taylor loaded up on big rights in the sixth round as she tried to find a crack in Carabajal’s resistance, but the action slowed in the seventh as Carabajal seemed to notice she got hit less if she threw fewer punches.
In the eighth and ninth rounds, Taylor got close as she looked to engage and bullied Carabajal around the ring. The Argentinian finished the ninth with a cut beside her right eye.
Carabajal gave it a go in the last round, but she was stung by two rights and forced to hold.
The decision wasn’t quite a shutout. Victor Loughlin had it 100-91, while Karoline Poetz went 98-91 and Bence Kovacs 98-92.
A rematch with Amanda Serrano is the main aim for 2023, although the desire to stage it outdoors at Croke Park in Dublin means she is likely to have a fight before then, with Chantelle Cameron, if she can beat former Taylor opponent Jessica McCaskill next week in Abu Dhabi, being talked up as a possible opponent.
"It has to be Ireland next," Eddie Hearn said. "Whoever it is, wherever it is, it has to be Ireland. It is time to give Ireland the sporting night they will never forget."
Some thought Taylor’s best days were behind her when she failed to win a second Olympic gold in Rio in 2016. At 36, there are plenty of big days ahead.
In the swing fight, Maisey Rose Courtney made just about the perfect professional debut as she pounded out a four-round decision over Judit Hachbold, of Hungary, at flyweight.
Hachbold was game but nailed repeatedly by Courtney’s right hand. Courtney had great footwork and even switched at times in the last round, so comfortable was she. Referee Marcus McDonnell scored it 40-36.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.