Fight Camp IV preview: Taylor meets Persoon in blockbuster rematch

Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon rematch this Saturday night in Matchroom Boxing’s final Fight Camp show in a clash for the undisputed world lightweight title that could well steal the limelight from the headline heavyweight tussle between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin.

Taylor-Persoon 2 is not only a potentially thrilling fight but a contest with wider symbolic value for the rapidly developing female fight game.

Indeed, in years to come, 2020 may not only be remembered as the year of Covid-19, but also as the year when women’s professional boxing truly came of age and entered a golden era.

While the majority of the world’s top male boxers are yet to lace ‘em up in the post-pandemic era and many of the contests we have seen have underwhelmed, we have already witnessed three memorable female contests this summer – the stirring draw between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas, Jessica McCaskill’s stunning upset of pound for pound queen Cecilia Braekhus and Rachel Ball’s narrow and dramatic victory against Shannon Courtenay.

Terri Harper’s bout with Tasha Jonas was one of several standout female contests this summer.

As far as male boxing goes, the talk and hyperbole surrounding the promise of ’50-50 contests’ and ‘no easy fights’ has largely been mere bluster – in contrast the ladies have delivered drama, upsets and suspense in spades.

And now comes what could be the year’s best female fight of them all – the eagerly awaited rematch between Irish icon Taylor and her bitter rival, Belgium’s Persoon. The duo first met in June 2019 at Madison Square Garden, Taylor wining a hotly disputed majority decision that left much of the crowd – and Persoon – distinctly unimpressed.

In the days after the fight, I spoke to Persoon, who had already watched the contest back several times on video and argued: “The first round I think was won by Katie. The second and third by me, the fourth maybe Taylor, and the fifth for me. The sixth for Taylor, seven and eight for me, nine for Taylor and 10 for me.

“If you look at the fight and are honest, that’s what you’ll see.” Interestingly enough, Persoon’s scorecard tallied exactly with my own – 6 rounds to 4 in her favour. 

Frustratingly, for a while, a rematch between the two ladies looked unlikely. Taylor moved up to super lightweight in November, defeating Christina Linardatou for the WBO crown to become a two-weight world titlist, and then prepared for a planned contest against seven-division titlist Amanda Serrano back at lightweight. 

Persoon, meanwhile, marked time with a points win against Nigeria’s Helen Joseph and a disappointing defeat in the first round of an Olympic qualification tournament against Greece’s Nikoleta Peta. However, when the mooted Taylor-Serrano contest collapsed, and to the credit of everyone involved, Persoon got the call to step in.

Now that she has got the rematch she craves, can the Belgian get the win that she is convinced she deserved last time?

Persoon (right) felt that she’d done enough to beat Taylor in New York.

As the ‘away fighter’ against a ‘house’ favourite with a formidable reputation, the odds are stacked against the Belgian, but this is something she is used to. Persoon is Flemish, a Germanic ethnic group who comprise about 60% of the Belgian population but have traditionally had to battle hard to counteract the institutional dominance of the French-speaking elite in the country.

Persoon also has a deficit of top-level experience compared to Taylor. True, she has fought 46 times as a pro (44-2, 18 KOs) compared to Taylor’s 15 paid fights (15-0, 6 KOs), but the Irishwoman has engaged in a far greater range of high quality bouts and high stakes events, largely because of her formidable amateur career.

Taylor has been in and around boxing for most of her life, having first laced up a pair of gloves at the age of 11. Subsequently she enjoyed an incredibly garlanded amateur career, including five World championship gold medals, five European championship triumphs and Olympic gold in 2012 in London.

In contrast, Persoon – who also works as a policewoman in her homeland – initially focused on judo, only transitioning to boxing when she was 22 before turning over in 2009. 

Taylor may possess better technique and greater skill than the Belgian, but in their first fight Persoon’s ability to apply constant pressure discomfited the champion, who ill advisedly attempted to fight fire with fire, rather than box and move.

Taylor will surely not make the same mistake again and it is widely thought she will approach the rematch with a tactical approach that seeks to utilise her superior footwork and upper body movement in order to prevent Persoon from achieving the same attacking success she enjoyed last time around.

If Persoon can maintain the sort of intensity that she demonstrated last year, then her aggression could win the day. However, she will need to keep her emotions in check. Having already been denied once via contentious scorecards that will be hard.

The Belgian has admitted that “a war would be good for me”, which seems to be a tacit admission that there is only one way she can win. Taylor, on the other hand, has more strings to her bow and more potential routes to victory.

As a result, my final pick tallies with bookmakers Betfred who currently rate Taylor the 3/10 favourite and Persoon a 3-1 outsider. I believe Taylor will box a smarter fight and prove more elusive this time around. In doing so she can frustrate Persoon’s attacks and box her way to a close but clear points victory.