Katie Taylor reaches new level of boxing greatness after the fight of her life

Katie Taylor won a truly remarkable and savage fight in Dublin late on Saturday night. The record books will show that Taylor beat Chantelle Cameron in their rematch, and that all four world title belts at super-lightweight were the prize. The record books will only tell a tiny piece of the story; this fight was about redemption, pride, desire, it was personal and forced both of the women to fight to a bloody standstill. It was unforgettable and there was controversy.

Taylor simply refused to lose and from the opening bell until the final seconds, when she looked close to exhausted collapse, she was still throwing desperate punches. Cameron matched her in a fight where there was never a wasted second.

“I have had sleepless nights since the first fight,” admitted Taylor. It was the motivation she needed to match her desire.

Two scores were tight, one a draw, but a third was far too wide; the two scores in Taylor’s favour only confirmed the sense that she had done enough. It was the emotional homecoming that Cameron denied Taylor back in May. The first fight was exceptional, the rematch was better.

In the opening round, Cameron connected with a clean, jolting jab and Taylor was over. The referee, Roberto Ramirez, ruled the legitimate knockdown a slip; if it had been ruled a knockdown, the scores would have been different, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would have shifted the final result in Cameron’s favour. It was a talking point, part of the post-fight discussion.

Taylor stood her ground, trying at all times to control the centre of the ring and not be bullied back to the ropes. In the first fight, Cameron had pushed Taylor all over the ring, easily controlling the flow of the fight. In the rematch, Taylor adjusted, she moved her feet and, more importantly and controversially, she hit, moved and held. Taylor gripped at times, Cameron tried to shake her off; it was physical. The referee was amazingly lenient with Taylor’s holding, but he also ignored Cameron’s shoulder work and use of the forearm. It was hard, the prizes were high and the blood flowed.

Cameron covers up against a Taylor assault (Getty)
Cameron covers up against a Taylor assault (Getty)

A clash of heads in round three left Cameron with a gash high above her left eye; she was also bleeding from a cut on her nose and a nick by the side of her right eye. The deep cut to the forehead was caused by Taylor’s head, but both their heads were smashing together. The doctor officially inspected the cut at the start of the fourth and continually interfered with the furious attempts by Cameron’s cutsman, Kerry Kayes, to seal the wound between rounds.

After five rounds, I had Taylor 3-2 in front, but she knew she was in the fight of her life; the capacity crowd at the 3Arena of just over 9,000 were with her every single second of the way. I’m not sure I have ever seen a crowd get so emotionally involved. It was a wild night by the Liffey.

Cameron had a good sixth, the blood had stopped, but Taylor had a good seventh, holding, denying Cameron the chance to work inside, and letting her fists go. Every single second was contested, every inch of that canvas was their personal battlefield.

Fans enjoying the pre-fight atmosphere in the 3Arena (Getty)
Fans enjoying the pre-fight atmosphere in the 3Arena (Getty)

“It is just six minutes of your life,” Taylor’s coach, Ross Enamait, told her before the eighth round started. It was more than that, it was six minutes to change her life forever; Taylor has walked in greatness for a long time, a win in this fight would take her to a new level. It was totally absorbing, breathless.

The last three rounds went in a blur, Cameron was smeared in her own blood from the gash and she stayed relentless, Taylor looked exhausted and drained; the last round was fought over a tiny space, the blood and sweat flying in all directions. And then the bell finished the classic. Nobody sat, people cried and hugged. The fans knew their idol had done enough. Just, by the way.

Cameron seemed to sense defeat, her first, and Taylor summoned the last of her energy to roar at the delirious crowd. It was a heartbreaking contrast in the ring; two teams, just one winner and that sickening pause before the inevitable moment of confirmation. The joy was overwhelming, Taylor gripped her mother, Bridget, when the verdict was announced. The entire crowd had remained and the place was bedlam. Cameron left the ring after one final embrace with Taylor.

Taylor roars at the crowd prior to the verdict (Getty)
Taylor roars at the crowd prior to the verdict (Getty)

There was respect, there were tears, there were bold plans for the trilogy fight at Croke Park. Nobody wanted to leave the ring or the arena. It was unforgettable and everyone wanted it to last as long as possible; it was a moment to savour for a very long time.

“She is everything that you want your children to stand for,” said Eddie Hearn, the amazement and awe in his voice easy to hear.

Under the soaring hum of celebration, Cameron, her family and her team slipped away. They were beaten but not bowed. They were angry at the referee for allowing so much holding and not scoring a knockdown in the opener. Emotions were certainly high. Taylor, meanwhile, can sleep again.

They came in hope, their tricolour flags draped across their shoulders, and in their thousands, they howled at her every punch; she was their boxing queen and they were not ready to let her go. They knew she was in the fight of her very long life in boxing and they backed her until the end. They backed her until she could barely walk and they got what they wanted. It was some night. Now for the trilogy at Croke Park.