The setup of Matchroom’s Fight Camp, situated in Eddie Hearn’s actual backyard, succeeded in making crowdless boxing feel like an event of magnitude. When sun set in Brentwood, the lighting, the fire, the lasers and the ring set up with a hauntingly lit mansion in the background mase the grounds look like the final scene of an action movie.
On Saturday, Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon provided the kind of action befitting such a setting.
While the night ended with Alexander Povetkin’s stunning come-from-behind knockout over Dillian Whyte, a clip that is immensely shareable on social media and will in all likelihood earn Knockout of the Year honors, it shouldn’t be forgotten that a half hour prior, Taylor and Persoon likely provided the best fight seen in a boxing ring this year.
Taylor and Persoon had plenty to live up to after their grueling and controversial brawl at Madison Square Garden last June. The two combined to land just shy of 200 power punches in 20 minutes, and the effects were gruesome, with both women bloodied and Persoon in particular sporting a hideous knot. The scorecards in favor of Taylor were anything but universally agreed upon, even amongst the pro-Taylor crowd in the arena that night, warranting a rematch once both women got through their interim bouts.
The second time around, both women turned up the intensity even more. Taylor took the initiative more often than in the first fight, meeting Persoon on the entry with stiff jabs and left hooks, opening up welts reminiscent of the first bout, but underneath both of her opponent’s eyes by the end of the third round. But as relentless as Persoon seemed last June, somehow she appeared even more intense this time around, sometimes managing to throw six, seven, eight punches after getting blasted with crisp shots by Taylor.
The two women couldn’t be more opposite in their approach, but more similar in their desire. Taylor is a refined practitioner, one of the finest and most influential women’s amateur boxers ever. Persoon is crude and rugged, and none of what she does would necessarily be taught by a boxing coach, because it simply couldn’t be—her brand of volume punching and pressure can only be applied by a special athlete. But when it comes to toughness, Taylor and Persoon are cut from the same cloth. Persoon might be labeled the action warrior and rightfully get the accolades for her durability, but even she had to admit after her 20th round with Taylor that the Irish hero isn’t just a technical wizard—if she was, she never would have been able to win this type of fight.
“I didn’t feel like I had enough power to hurt her this time. I tried to get my weight up but I could not hurt her this time,” said Persoon after the bout. “And if you don’t hurt her, it’s technical and she’s good at moving around. You have to hurt her otherwise she gets away. The power was not enough. I’ve got no problem with this decision and my respect she deserves.”
Unlike the first bout, there was no controversy about the unanimous decision going Taylor’s way, but there were nonetheless some eye rolls at Victor Loughlin’s 98-93 scorecard, which did not at all reflect the competitiveness of the fight. In fact, it actually does a disservice to Taylor, who left this bout as lumped up as Persoon was in their previous fight, and still came out on top.
"It’s always going to be a tough fight against someone like that and you’re going to have to dig deep and show a lot of heart at some stage during the fight," said Taylor in a post-fight interview. "You can’t relax at all in there against someone like that. She’s going to come and come and come. Even though I am hitting her with clean shots, she is just on the attack all the time. That’s why it is such a tough fight against someone like Delfine. But congratulations on two fantastic fights. They were an amazing two fights for women’s boxing.”
Both of the incredible Taylor-Persoon fights were overshadowed by heavyweight shockers that immediately followed them—Povetkin’s home run uppercut this time around, and Andy Ruiz’s miracle win over Anthony Joshua last time. However, this second fight in particular deserves to be kept in the front of everyone’s minds—particularly those of the writers and analysts with the power to vote on year-end awards.
Taylor-Persoon II shouldn’t just be the frontrunner for Fight of the Year in women’s boxing, it should be the frontrunner for Fight of the Year in boxing period.
It should also be noted that the cries for better fights and for the best to fight the best during this pandemic era of boxing are only left unanswered if one doesn’t value women’s boxing. Because in the past few weeks alone have given us a Fight of the Year frontrunner between two of the three best lightweights in the world, a hotly contested historic welterweight title change between Cecilia Braekhus and Jessica McCaskill, a world title war between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas and a true prospect battle between Shannon Courtenay and Rachel Ball.
The best have been fighting the best and they’re giving us great fights—they just happen to be women, and it’s high time they be given equal appreciation and billing. Particularly, in the case of Taylor and Persoon, on the year-end ballots.