A year ago tomorrow, we saw Andy Ruiz Jr shock the world at Madison Square Garden when he upset Anthony Joshua. We recently re-watched that fight for Underdog Week at SB Nation, and the main event no doubt wound up the biggest story (by far) of that card from New York, the biggest story in all of boxing in 2019.
But there was a co-feature that night, too, featuring Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon meeting in a full lightweight unification bout. And had Ruiz and Joshua not put on a stunner, if their fight had been the one-sided wipeout most were expecting, Taylor-Persoon would have stolen the show and a lot of the headlines in the days after.
Taylor (13-0, 6 KO coming in) was a heavy favorite over Persoon (43-1, 18 KO coming in). The 32-year-old Irish superstar had the amateur pedigree and had dominated to date in pro boxing, and with respect to the 34-year-old Persoon, the Belgian WBC titleholder was seen coming in mostly as someone who had been able to be very successful in a weak field of women’s boxing, before the Olympians from 2012 and 2016 started coming into the pro ranks.
It didn’t help perception, either, that Persoon simply hadn’t had much exposure at all. Fighting pretty much exclusively in her native country, she didn’t have the dual continent exposure that Taylor had benefited from on DAZN and Sky Sports.
Simply put, we knew Taylor, knew what she was capable of — and it turned out we had underestimated Persoon.
Persoon gave Taylor all she could handle and then some in a physical, fast-paced, exciting bout that went the 10-round distance in New York. I’m not a bona fide expert on women’s boxing, admittedly; there are a lot of years and a lot of fights that went by where, frankly, it wasn’t much of a concern for most fans or media.
So while I’m not confident in saying this is the greatest women’s fight of all time, I am confident that it’s probably on the short list, and I can say from my perspective it’s the best and most intense women’s boxing match I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
In the end, I scored it for Persoon by a hair, 96-94. And the judging, which saw Taylor win a majority decision (95-95, 96-94, 96-94) certainly was questioned. An emotional Persoon left the ring in tears, having firmly believed she had just pulled a major upset and deserved to be undisputed lightweight champion. And she had a good argument for it, too.
Did the judges get it wrong? Should Persoon have left MSG as a new face for women’s pro boxing? Judge for yourself. If this is one you skipped last year because you don’t care for women’s boxing or whatever, give it a shot today. I stand by this being a terrific, high-level fight.