There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love lost between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon. Ever since Taylor’s hand was raised at Madison Square Garden in June last year when they contested the undisputed world lightweight title, the Belgian has felt she was hard done. It has left both with a point to prove when they meet again in Eddie Hearn’s old garden in Essex on Saturday night.
Part of the anger at losing a majority points decision in their first fight was the feeling that Persoon was just a bit-part player in the Katie Taylor story, chewed up and used, with no hope of a rematch. No surprise then when she got the call to replace Amanda Serrano, the part-time police officer said yes. If she wasn’t aware of Persoon’s talents before their first fight, Taylor certainly is now.
“I wouldn't say I now consider her more dangerous as she's out for revenge,” Taylor said. “The first time I fought her I knew she was a fantastic fighter, I knew it would be my most difficult fight.
“There was going to be a rematch just because it was a close fight. I am involved in this because I want to be in the big fights. I knew this rematch would be inevitable. When Serrano did pull out and Persoon was available we were delighted about it. I'm so excited for it.”
Taylor has never really allowed herself to be dragged into any controversy about the scoring first time round.
“The last fight was very close and I guess I do have a bee in my bonnet for every single fight,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to leave any question marks over any fight and I'm looking forward to sorting that out on Saturday night.
“I don’t I resent anyone for their opinion on the fight but I don’t want to leave any question marks. Everyone has an opinion after the fight, there will be differences of opinion.
“I’m a very composed person. I don't take notice of what people are saying. I’m sitting here as the undisputed champion no matter what she says. I’m a quiet person. I don’t feel the need to bite back or shout back. I’ll do my talking in the ring.”
It has been seven months since Taylor has been home. Seven months without seeing her family seven months in camp. She was preparing for a May date with Serrano at her Connecticut training base when the coronavirus lockdown occurred. She stayed in the United States and kept training.
“Burn out is not a concern,” she said. “We train smart. I train differently six months out than I do. I do take a few days off here and there. I’m never in fear I will overtrain.
“For me, motivation wise the venue is not going to make any difference. I’ve fought big amateur fights in front of only a few fans. Regardless if there are ten people in there or 10,000, I’m always going to be up for it. I don’t see that as a problem for me.”
Taylor said she was surprised by Persoon’s decision to box in the European Olympic qualifiers in March, although her stay in the tournament was over after one bout as she could not cope with the speed of Nikoleta Peta. Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winner and a five-time world amateur champion, knows all too well what it takes to win in the amateur game.
“I don't know what her mindset was going into the qualifiers,” Taylor said. “I didn’t think it was a great choice for her to step down from the professional side of boxing. What works for her as a pro won’t work for her in the amateur game.
“I didn't believe she would be successful. They are different sports. I thought it was a strange choice for her to go back to an amateur fighter.”
Not that Taylor thought Persoon’s failure would give her any more respect for the Irish boxer’s achievements.
“I wouldn’t say so,” she said. “She's not the type of person to have respect!”
The conversation about who is the world’s best female boxer got a bit narrower this week. The surprise end of Ceclia Braekhus’s 11-year-reign as world welterweight champion left Taylor, Claressa Shields and Serrano as the leading candidates. A decisive win over Persoon will not settle that debate, but it will go some way to cementing Taylor’s claims.
“I wouldn’t say I’m thinking beyond Saturday night,” Taylor said. “I’m open to fighting anyone.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. 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.