By Jake Donovan
On the heels of Claressa Shields laying claim to the World (lineal) middleweight championship, an undisputed lightweight queen is now on the verge of being crowned.
The oft-rumored showdown between Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Belgium’s Delfine Persoon is now a done deal, with the two due to collide for all the lightweight marbles on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York City
“This is it – this is everything, the absolute pinnacle of the sport,” said Eddie Hearn, Taylor’s promoter. “The dream is on, the undisputed championship and I can’t wait to see this fight on June 1.”
The World lightweight championship will be featured in supporting capacity to Anthony Joshua’s stateside debut. The unbeaten, unified heavyweight titlist will take on brash, undefeated Brooklyn-bred contender Jarrell Miller, with the show to stream live on DAZN.
The platform has carried Taylor’s last three fights, including her most recent ring adventure—a 9th round stoppage of Rose Volante in their three-belt lightweight unification bout this past March in Philadelphia. Now it will carry the most significant fight of a young career already chock-full of big moments and with plenty more to come, especially with a victory on June 1.
“It’s great that she has finally signed for the fight and I’m delighted that Eddie has been able to make it,” said Taylor (13-0, 6KOs) who makes the seventh defense of at least one major lightweight title. “After my fight last month I went back home for a week but then it was straight back to Connecticut to start the hard work in training camp for this fight.
“When I turned professional my first goal was to win a World title but then my next priority was to become undisputed champion so obviously this fight gives me the opportunity to do that so it’s massive for my career.”
Interestingly, Persoon (43-1, 18KOs)— who is coming off of a 9th round knockout of Melissa St. Vil this past March in Belgium—and her team held a press conference Monday in Belgium to declare the fight as official, signing her offered contract at the public session.
The session was initially declared as premature, but has since transitioned from advanced talks to signed and sealed.
“This is a very unique opportunity for me and I’m thankful we’ve got the fight made,” said Persoon, who makes the sixth defense of her World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight title, the lone belt for which Taylor has yet to compete as a pro.
“I did not have the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games and now I get the chance to compete with the Olympic champion in Katie Taylor. I expect this will be a very tough and honest fight, and that the best boxer may win this title fight – and I expect that to be me.”
One hurdle which has since been cleared saw Persoon under investigation by the Flemish Anti-Doping Tribunal for having missed a random drug test last October. The long-reigning lightweight titlist—who also doubles as a full-time police officer back home—actually submitted to testing, but was unable to provide a sample at the time of her visit from the anti-doping agency.
Because of her work commitment and an inability to reschedule a session within the allotted time frame, it went down as a missed test. Such an instance is considered a violation of the anti-doping policy, but not nearly carrying as much weight as an athlete who tests positive.
The fact that Persoon has twice fought since then is indication of such, but is now moot as she was cleared of any wrongdoing in an April 11 ruling by the Flemish court. The good news was celebrated by the 34-year old announcing to her local fans a signed and sealed date with Taylor, which will serve as her first career fight in the U.S.
For Taylor, it will mark her sixth career fight, all coming within her last nine ring starts.
“Whether it’s been in Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia or at Madison Square Garden I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve had at those fights,” Taylor told BoxingScene.com of her stateside tour.
Her latest U.S. appearance marked her seventh title fight win, with all but one coming against opponents who’d either held titles or would go on to win one.
Taylor—a two-time Olympian for Ireland who captured a Gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics—now has a chance to become undisputed lightweight champion, It’s remained a goal of hers in a 2019 campaign which she hopes will also include at least one superfight against the likes of seven-division titlist Amanda Serrano or World welterweight queen Cecilia Braekhus—all in that order.
“I would take Amanda Serrano or Cecilia Braekhus but I really want that last belt,” Taylor admits, wanting to build on her own legacy before negotiating fights with either superstar. “Those fights are so much bigger if I come in with all four (lightweight) belts.”
The winner will join Braekhus and Shields as the lone three female fighters in history to become undisputed champions. Braekhus (35-0, 9KOs) has held every major title at welterweight since Sept. ’13 and earned the lineal championship in a Feb. ’17 win over Klara Svensson. Shields—the lone U.S. boxer in history to win consecutive Olympic Gold medals—became the World middleweight queen following her near-flawless win over previously unbeaten Christina Hammer in their four-belt unification fight last weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox