Katie Taylor became the new undisputed world super-lightweight champion after she defeated Chantelle Cameron on points in an epic, unforgettable fight on Saturday night in Dublin. In the process, Taylor found the sweetest form of redemption as she avenged her narrow loss on a majority decision to Cameron in their first fight six months ago. This time Taylor was awarded the justified decision by margins of 98-92 and 96-94 while the third judge scored it as a 95-95 draw.
Taylor also retains her status as the world lightweight champion and she is now in the unprecedented position of being the undisputed queen of two weight divisions at the same time. In insisting that this rematch should be held again in the division above her natural weight, she conceded a lot to Cameron, who is much bigger and stronger – as well as being five years younger. But Taylor is a truly remarkable fighter and she deserved to win this searing contest.
In a darkened and raucous arena Taylor walked to the ring before Cameron which accentuated the fact that, for the first time in her career, she climbed between the ropes as the underdog. But the rapturous reception she received from a fiercely partisan crowd, as swathes of green light finally lit up her entrance, was a reminder to Cameron of how cherished Taylor is in Ireland – where she is still the country’s most popular sporting figure.
Taylor came out fast, working behind a slick jab as she landed the early and sharp pinches – only for Cameron to suddenly throw a hard jab. Taylor stumbled backwards and fell to the canvas. The referee immediately ruled it a slip but Cameron’s ramrod jab seemed to have shaken Taylor.
Cameron was aggressive in round two, as she set about trying to rough up Taylor in bruising exchanges. But Taylor clipped Cameron with a crisp jab as the two-minute round was fought at a furious lick. The pace was as relentless in the third round and Taylor’s quick hands produced some effective combinations before there was a nasty and accidental clash of heads which opened up a deep gash on Cameron’s forehead.
Twenty seconds into the fourth, the referee summoned the doctor to the ring apron so that he could examine Cameron’s wound. He allowed her to continue but, as blood oozed from Cameron’s cut, Taylor fought brilliantly off the back foot, nailing her rival repeatedly. Cameron was struggling to land her own jab as her forehead was marked by a smear of red.
But Cameron still looked full of purpose in round five and she poured on the pressure, forcing Taylor back against the ropes. But Taylor’s blistering hand speed, and ringcraft, remained undented. She was clearly winning a tough but highly skilled contest as they moved into the second half of the fight. Taylor’s jab again dominated the sixth round but Cameron fought hard and she still looked determined, as well as cut and bruised.
The seventh was a ferocious round, full of courage and skill. Cameron’s punches were as hard as they were percussive but Taylor shaded the round. She was looking fatigued, however, and, rather than boxing at a distance, Taylor was dragged into trench warfare in the eighth. A dramatic fight gathered in intensity in the penultimate round. As the crowd chanted “Katie…Katie…Katie…”, and blood ran down Cameron’s face, both fighters showed incredible reserves of desire and will.
As they came out for the last round of a classic fight Cameron needed a stoppage but both women stood their ground – with Taylor landing heavy combinations. But Cameron was undeterred and she kept fighting. At the bell the two women, both their faces showing the marks of battle, were rightly exalted by a delirious crowd.
To defeat a champion as formidable as the previously unbeaten Cameron, Taylor supplied the best possible response to so many pundits and boxing insiders who believed that, at the age of 37, she was on the downward slope to retirement. But her consummate skills and gritty resolve undermined the doubters as she won a rematch in which Cameron had been so heavily favoured.
The deciding fight in a majestic trilogy, possibly at Croke Park, will surely happen next year. But, for now, Taylor can relish a victory which will bring more satisfaction, and relief, than almost any other in her long and outstanding career. She is, once more, the queen of Ireland and of women’s boxing.