Katie Taylor did as expected by overcoming the resilient Jennifer Han, taking their fight by unanimous decision to retain her WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF lightweight titles at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday. Ireland’s Taylor is still unbeaten at 19-0, 6 KOs, but this won’t be one of the nights she will look back on too fondly in the years to come.
Han, a former world champion at featherweight, was entering the ring for the first time since February 2020 and for the first time outside of her hometown of El Paso since 2014. Now 38 and against arguably the top female fighter on the planet, the odds weren’t exactly stacked in her favour.
And she fought like it. The plan was to frustrate Taylor throughout and she did so. It was a tough watch for all, with the only real breakthrough coming in the eighth round when Han, now 18-4-1, 1 KO, took a trip to the canvas. However, she heard the final bell and all three judges were in agreement, scoring it 100-89 to Taylor. It is hard to argue with any other score.
Taylor was immediately on the front foot, pressing Han and getting through with some sharp left hooks. Han threw the jab, but it was lazy and Taylor landed another solid left inside. Already through just a single round and the gulf in class was already evident.
There was more urgency from Han in the second, but if anything it was to keep Taylor away. A left and some body shots got through from Taylor, as Han started to retreat into her shell. She was already content and happy, as Taylor’s timing wasn’t quite coming together just yet.
The timing did begin to come in the third and Taylor pressed forward. Han’s best tactic was to hold and smother Taylor’s work, which she was more than efficient at doing, as Taylor stepped it up a gear. Han did push forward at the end of the third, but she wasn’t convincing anyone she was doing enough to win the rounds.
However, that brief moment on the front foot carried on into the fourth and Han opened up, landing with some clean jabs. The Irish star landed with a good right hand and was tied up almost immediately. Taylor was winning the rounds but it turned into a scrappy affair.
It was becoming frustrating for Taylor and for the crowd, who’s attention was drawn elsewhere in Headingley in the fifth. Han stuck to her task and held on, whilst Taylor got through with the left. Taylor had now resorted to single shots, as she avoided getting tied up on the inside by Han.
Han took another early left hand in the sixth from Taylor, who now started to work on the inside whenever Han held her, connecting with right hands in the clinch. The shots were starting to land with more regularity now, as she kept away from Han’s grasp.
Taylor pressed on, although Han continued to land the odd jab. Han snuck through with a body shot in the seventh, whilst Taylor flashed in a left hand. Taylor was being pushed to shine on this card and it appeared as if she was starting to get through and break Han down.
Han picked and moved early in the eighth and had some success, but Taylor’s were the more telling blows. The American was marking up and she was caught with a right hand, before being put down with the follow-up left. She promptly clung on to see out the rest of the round, as Taylor had her first significant breakthrough.
Taylor started the ninth with even more intensity. Han once again held and the pair were warned to watch the heads in close. Another right from Taylor landed and she pushed on. Han threw back but Taylor was in total control and causing damage in the exchanges.
The visitor roughed up Taylor early in the final round, as the champion went after the finish. Han got through with a body shot, but was countered by a right from Taylor. Another right connected and Han pushed Taylor back to the ropes and held on as the final bell sounded.
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.