Katie Taylor's ninth round at Madison Square Garden summed up her champion spirit 5 months ago

Katie Taylor's ninth round at Madison Square Garden summed up her champion spirit

"I'm living the life of my dreams right now."

So said Katie Taylor, on Friday, when she was given a rapturous homecoming - sans Shane Ross - in Bray.

Crowds flocked to Taylor's hometown from across the country to catch a glimpse of the undisputed women's lightweight champion and her five belts - WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF and a specially-commissioned 'Linear' belt.

The sky was cobalt grey and threatening rain. Still it was fresh, joyous and a world away from where Taylor found herself in the closing stages of an absorbing fight at Madison Square Garden.

One would have forgiven many boxing fans for assuming Katie Taylor would add Delfine Persoon's WBO belt to her cache of gold at MSG. The Belgian had only been defeated once in her 43-fight career, heading into the bout, and had declared Taylor would have to knock her out to leave the victor.

(Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile)

Persoon was, however, not the first opponent of Taylor's talked up. The 32-year-old had not been seriously troubled in 13 previous professional bouts and there were high expectations on her marching on.

So it was looking for the first six rounds. Persoon was marching forward and swinging lustily but it was Taylor who was landing crisply and avoiding most of what zoomed her way.

In rounds seven and eight, though, Persoon's punches started to get through and Taylor flagged. Two of the three judges awarded the Belgian the seventh round and all three agreed she won the eighth.

Over on Sky Sports, going into the penultimate round, commentator Andy Clarke had it much closer. Clarke scored the fight 76-76 going into the ninth and he revealed that the DAZN commentators had Persoon two rounds in front.

"Is Katie Taylor staring her first professional defeat in the face?"

That was the question posed by Sky, and it was valid. Taylor was looking troubled and Persoon seemed to be improving with each passing round.

It was here when Taylor drew upon her reserves and won the round that ultimately clinched the undisputed title. These two minutes where absolutely crucial and what proved her champion spirit.

Taylor connected flush with Persoon's face on the opening exchange and she landed three more to the body. Persoon was clearly frustrated and she hit Taylor after referee Sparkle Lee had stepped in to separate them. That brought some boos from the crowd but Taylor, who refused to touch gloves after, was undeterred.

She answered back with her best punch of the fight when, after a flurry, she shot a left straight down the pipe that rocked Persoon back on her heels.

Credit: Sky Sports

That connection, and Taylor's front-foot follow-up basically won her the round.

Most of what Persoon was uncorking was missing its mark but, with 40 seconds to go, Taylor's footwork got messy and she ended up with her back to her opponent. As Persoon stalked after her, she slipped.

Lee gave her a moment as she waved off any suggestion of a knock-down. With 20 seconds left, Taylor copped a strong left from Persoon but responded with a nice combination before making the Belgian swing and miss a few more times.

Such was Persoon's exasperation that she hit Taylor after the bell, sparking more boos and catcalls from the Taylor-favouring crowd.

All three judges - Allen Nace, Don Trella and Jon Poturaj - scored round nine in Taylor's favour and that proved to be vital. All three gave the final round to Persoon so Taylor's fast, smart start and the ninth round was what won her all the marbles.

You can watch the full fight here:

Whenever that rematch arrives, we'll be watching.