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Lightweight champion Taylor out to prove superiority in crunch rematch with rival Persoon



Face off: Katie Taylor, Eddie Hearn and Delfine Persoon

Face off: Katie Taylor, Eddie Hearn and Delfine Persoon

Mark Robinson

Face off: Katie Taylor, Eddie Hearn and Delfine Persoon

The fight that every boxing fan wanted to see but nobody envisaged happening any time soon will unfold tonight in the opulent surroundings of Eddie Hearn's Essex estate.

Even though referee Sparkle Lee raised Katie Taylor's right hand in triumph after an epic encounter with Delfine Persoon in Madison Square Garden 15 months ago, there was sufficient doubt surrounding the decision to merit Taylor v Persoon II.

Of course, nobody could have predicted that it would be far from the maddening crowd that the two top-rated female pound-for-pound fighters in the world would engage again.

This time around, Taylor has even more to lose - although regardless of the outcome she will pick up a purse of more than $1m. Persoon will earn around $250,000.

Thanks to her majority (96-94, 96-94, 95-95) win over the Belgian police officer, Taylor is the holder of all four world lightweight titles, as well as a Ring Magazine belt presented to honour her status as the undisputed queen of the 135lb division.

Unquestionably the manner of her Madison Square Garden win irked the Bray fighter and her coach Ross Enamait. She was willing to offer Persoon a rematch straight away, but her manager Brian Peters urged caution.

Relations between the two camps in the run-up to the New York fight were fraught. The presence of a medical doctor - though perfectly legal - in the Persoon entourage that travelled to the US raised a lot of eyebrows.

There might never have been a rematch had Amanda Serrano - or probably her brother-in-law and trainer/manager Jordan Maldonado - decided that they didn't fancy the idea of taking on Taylor in the back garden of her promoter's home.

So having endured a torrid spring during which the movement in her left hand was affected by a neck hernia, a period of hospitalisation after contracting pneumonia and defeat in her first fight at the Olympic qualifier in London, Persoon took the Taylor rematch on six weeks' notice.

Meanwhile, Taylor has been in camp in Connecticut since January which raises the possibility that she could be over-cooked. She has promised to adopt a different strategy tonight.

Technically she is the better boxer. But she allowed herself to be sucked into a brawl in New York and almost paid the price as Persoon's remarkable levels of stamina saw her come close to stopping the unbeaten Taylor in the final round.

Taylor has described tonight's fight, which will be witnessed live by fewer than two dozen people, as "pure boxing". A partisan crowd will not provide her with the adrenaline rush which led to her ill-fated decision to stand in the pocket and attempt to outfight Persoon in the second half of the first contest.

Whether she is still disciplined enough to be content to simply out-box Persoon is a moot point. She has repeatedly acknowledged that she likes nothing better than to stand and fight.

Nothing but a unanimous verdict will satisfy Taylor. Provided she sticks to the game plan, she can achieve that - but don't rule out Taylor-Persoon III.

Heavyweights Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin clash in the main event.

Belfast Telegraph