Although a feature for some time, especially after her two rubbers against Belgium’s Delphine Persoon, the most underestimated chunk of the Katie Taylor skill set is not the trilogy of hand speed, movement and combinations but inner warrior. It’s probably the most essential piece of kit a boxer can have.
Taylor’s 96-95, 96-95, 96-94 unanimous points win over the Liverpool southpaw was a clutch fight, Natasha Jonas arriving with the whole fearless orchestra she brought to the Excel Arena, when the two met in the London docklands in 2012.
Taylor had spoken before the match about Jonas as a different fighter to the one she defeated at the Olympics on her way to the gold medal. Really, there wasn’t a lot of difference, Jonas is a more professional player now but with the same go forward aggression.
She came to fight with attitude and brought the fight to Taylor, close enough for the 34-year-old to have to shift gears in the closing phase after she admitted to starting slowly. But that Taylor was able to do, showing that in a needs-must moment in a tight situation she can kick on from the bend to win going down the home straight.
Given the way scoring sometimes goes, it’s an important point of difference. It showed Taylor’s awareness that she needed to change tempo in the final round and while some of it was fight reaction to a threatening opponent, in her amateur days her father Pete repeatedly preached to try and win by a visible margin as subjective judges will always let you down.
The last memory Taylor left in the minds of the judges in the Manchester Arena was despite exhaustion setting in she was pushing Jonas back in the 10th round after rounds six, seven and eight in which the two drew the best from each other with scoring shots.
Taylor, her footwork both getting her into position for scoring and turning her out of trouble, none the less shipped a lot of blows from a fighter who had come up five pounds and out of retirement to take the fight. On the strength of the effort from Jonas, another meeting with Taylor’s undisputed lightweight belts again on the line is a strong possibility.
In what was Taylor’s 12th world title fight, two of the judges gave her the decision by just one round with the third giving the reigning champion a two-round cushion. It was that close and gripping and well inside the designation zone of being a mini classic.
“What a fight,” said Taylor afterwards in the now familiar backdrop of Eddie Hearn’s mansion in Essex set up as a Covid-free fighting arena.
“Every time me and Tasha have fought, it’s been like that. Thankfully, I came out of it with a great win. I dug deep in the end and won the championship rounds though I started slowly. We said all week that it could have been a headline act and the fight showed why.”
It will probably be a feature of all of Taylor’s fight going forward that her opponents will be both tough and brave like Jonas and to preserve her place at the top of the division she will again be called to find a way in heavy traffic as she looks towards a 19th successive professional win in her next bout.
The Americans are still on the cards with the pick of them, Puerto Rican-born Amanda Serrano, beginning to feel like one of those endless verbal sparring matches that catch public imagination but never get made.
In the coming months, however, the pandemic may determine from what country Taylor’s next opponent will come although she remains based in Connecticut
While Taylor stole most of the boxing limelight, it was also a successful weekend for Belfast professional Michael Conlan who pushed his career forward on Friday night.
Conlan won the WBO international super-bantamweight title with a majority 2-0 win over Romania’s Ionut Baluta after a 12-round battle in London’s York Hall. The victory, rusty by his standard, extended the Belfast boxer’s unbeaten run to 15-0. Officials scored the fight 117-112 to Conlan, 115-114 to Conlan, while the third official scored it a 114-114 draw.