By Elliot Worsell
IT was perhaps due more to her name and her considerable Irish following, as well as the esteem in which she is held in boxing, that Katie Taylor, beaten for the first time in May, was given the green light to rematch Chantelle Cameron, her conqueror, tonight (November 25) in Dublin, Ireland.
After all, with her finding herself one step behind Cameron throughout most of the 10 rounds they shared back in May, there was little to suggest Taylor would overturn the result, or even make a better fist of it second time around.
Thankfully, then, from Taylor’s point of view, self-belief, paired with an unrivalled competitive spirit, trumped any logic going into tonight’s world super-lightweight title fight and resulted in her not only exacting revenge but, in doing so, showing she still has something to offer at a time when many were quick – maybe too quick – to assume, at 37, she had seen better days.
In truth, today will be as good a day as Taylor has experienced in boxing, whether amateur or pro, and the expression on her face when hearing the scorecards (98-92, 96-94 and 95-95) indicated as much, for this, Taylor knew, was a must-win fight in every sense. It was a fight she needed to win to silence the doubters and, more importantly, it was a win she likely needed to silence whatever doubts she may have had herself following that disappointing defeat seven months ago.
As it happened, the start this time around was no better for Taylor. Indeed, with Cameron marauding forward, as before, and using her longer arms to good effect, particularly in the form of her jab, there was a sense as early as the first round that Taylor would once again struggle getting off with her own work in the presence of a bigger and stronger fighter. This suspicion was then confirmed when, 40 seconds into the round, Cameron appeared to drop Taylor with a ramrod jab only for the incident to in fact be deemed a slip rather than a knockdown.
Even so, whether the right call or the wrong one, it was yet another sign of Cameron’s physicality and her desire to impose this on Taylor from the outset. This she did with her jab early on and then, in the dying embers of the round, she connected with a hard right hand which seemed to get Taylor’s attention.
Buoyed by this start, and her all-around assertiveness, Cameron, 18-1 (8), continued her form into the second, still winning the battle of the jabs and also doing the cleaner and more considered work whenever the pair exchanged punches. By the round’s end, she was well on top. She even had Taylor unsteady and under fire against the ropes.
Then, however, Taylor fought back. She displayed far better accuracy in the third, a round she clearly won, and looked to start finishing her combinations with a left hook which often caught Cameron as she pulled up. In round three, in particular, a slashing hook happened to nail Cameron in an exchange and this was then later followed by a series of chopping right hands Taylor forced through as the round came to a close.
If nothing else, this gave Taylor something on which to build, which is what she did in the fourth. Helped no doubt by the sight of blood on Cameron’s face, the result of a cut high on her head, Taylor, one could tell, was now growing in confidence, a shift in momentum highlighted by a smart right hand she landed with seconds to go.
Sensing this shift, too, Cameron displayed more urgency in the fifth. She also landed some quality uppercuts and began to work the body for the first time in round six. Despite this, however, one couldn’t help but be impressed by the way in which Taylor would respond to these moments by biting down on her gum shield and throwing clusters of her own. A lot of the time, too, whereas previously they were erratic and borderline sloppy, this time Taylor tightened everything up and, blessed with the quicker hands, was getting to Cameron before Cameron could get to her.
The price for this approach was tiredness, of course, which found Taylor’s arms and legs in round seven. She still managed to deter Cameron with right hands on the way in, but it was now obvious for all to see that the pattern of the final few rounds was being established in the seventh. Essentially, Cameron was about to get desperate, while Taylor, who, after seven rounds had outlanded Cameron by 50 punches to 36, was now fighting not only her biggest rival but also fatigue.
No stranger to this, Taylor, 23-1 (6), has an admirable capacity to fight through the sludge of fatigue and, with no other option, she did this again tonight. In the ninth, for example, she frustrated Cameron by doing no more than punching, then clinching, then punching, then clinching. Tactical to some degree, it was an approach motivated for the most part by Taylor’s inability to do much more than that. It was therefore shrewd on the one hand, if only because it bought her time and stifled Cameron’s work, but, on the other hand, there was also a danger Taylor might spoil her earlier good work by now effectively going into survival mode a tad too early.
That she never did, though, such was her drive and the fire burning within. Instead, although shattered and unable to find the sharpness of old, Taylor ultimately persevered, always working her hands in combination, all the while Cameron, though now the more authoritative of the two, still struggled getting to grips with the faster hands of Taylor, as well as her ability to explode when seemingly on the point of exhaustion.
That, in the end, proved the difference between them; the difference, moreover, between fight one and two. Now one begins to ponder which of the two, Taylor or Cameron, will be able to successfully implement their game plan for fight three, which, if the rematch owed more to sentiment than necessity, is without doubt both inevitable and important.