Katie Taylor made history by unifying all four world lightweight titles with a thrilling, points victory over Delfine Persoon at Madison Square Garden.
In her 14th fight as a professional, the Irish fighter added the WBC title to those she already held from the IBF, WBA and WBO to become only the seventh fighter of the four-belt era to become an undisputed world champion, as well as only the third woman.
Two judges scored the bout 96-94 in the 32-year-old’s favour, with the third making it 95-95 to leave the Belgian Persoon in tears and shaking her head as she left the arena.
“It was a very, very close fight,” Taylor said. “I felt like I won the earlier rounds and she came on strong at the end. But I feel like I did enough to win that fight. Persoon was a fantastic champion and she is very, very strong.
“It all made for a fantastic showcase for women’s boxing. I knew this was going to be the biggest and hardest fight of my life. But I am great at digging deep. I am born for fights like these in the trenches. I worked so hard these past few months in training camp for this kind of fight. My coach is the mastermind behind this and I am so grateful.”
The key to her victory was perhaps demonstrated as early as the opening round when the rivals – fighting at a remarkably high pace throughout their two-minute rounds – immediately began to trade as the classier Taylor landed with a quick combination that Persoon struggled to resist.
Their furious exchanges not only continued, and suggested Persoon was stronger and desperate to physically impose herself on her more decorated opponent, but gave the Belgian her greatest chance of success, allowing her to hurt Taylor with occasional big right hands.
In the fifth, Taylor then invited Persoon to continue to trade, but it was at that point that victory threatened to become more routine as her opponent tired having struggled to secure the knockout and increasingly lost her form.
As Taylor’s pace slowed, she slipped to the canvas amid an assault in the ninth. She took another right and naively fought back instead of protecting herself. In reaching the final bell, again under attack, her demeanour suggested she believed she had lost, but she was confirmed as the undisputed lightweight champion.
“I am definitely happy to give Delfine a rematch,” Taylor said. “There are big fights out there for me. There’s Amanda Serrano and I think that fight should be next but I am really happy to fight whoever.”