"I hope she walks away" - Tony Bellew urges Katie Taylor to go out on top
"She was hurt badly tonight."
Ahead of what turned out to be an all-time classic at Madison Square Garden, Tony Bellew gave his honest opinion of Katie Taylor and where he feels she currently stands in women's boxing.
The Liverpudlian, on punditry duty for DAZN at Madison Square Garden, is a massive fan of Taylor, but believes she does not, or indeed should not, have many fights left.
Taylor turns 36 in July but has been boxing since she was 12 and had her first sanctioned bout at the age of 15. The Bray native has ticked each and every box in women's boxing, then went chasing more boxes to tick. She is a Olympic champion, the undisputed lightweight champion and is now 21-0 in her professional career.
As she was making her way to the ring, at MSG, to face Amanda Serrano, Bellew observed that Taylor may have lost some of that keen edge that set her apart for so many years. He commented:
"It’s tough. It really is tough. I don’t think this is Katie Taylor at her absolute prime. She was there about a year ago… My opinion isn’t relevant for her to win… This is the defining fight of her career."
When the fight was over, 10 gripping, gruelling rounds later, Taylor had her arm raised and Serrano was the latest conquered foe. Still, Bellew stuck to his pre-fight comments, and he should be praised for not getting carried away by the moment.
'I hope Katie Taylor walks away' - Tony Bellew
Amanda Serrano rocked Katie Taylor badly in the fourth round and poured on the punishment in the fifth round. Eddie Hearn would later admit he thought the fight was going to be called for the Puerto Rican, but Taylor somehow held on before finishing strong.
As the world champion soaked in the magnitude of her fight, and split decision victory, Tony Bellew spoke clearly and with a great deal of empathy. He commented:
"In rounds five and six, Amanda Serrano was all over Katie Taylor. She hurt her really badly. It's the most I've ever seen Katie Taylor hurt, in her career. She was out on her feet.
"She showed amazing resolve to get through it, and that was the difference. It's the defining moment of her career and, I'm not going to lie, I hope she walks away. Because that's a damaging night for her tonight. I hope she goes out at the top.
"The only place it's going to get better, bigger is Croke Park. But I'd like to see her walk, now. I really, really would. She was hurt bad tonight. In that fifth round, she was close to going; she really was.
"She is one of the greatest athletes of all time. Not just boxing - greatest athletes. It's amazing what she has achieved."
Many fight fans will be craving another Katie Taylor fight before the year is out. Both Eddie Hearn and Jake Paul have already suggested a Croke Park rematch in September or October.
Bellew is correct about the damage Taylor absorbed, though. Serrano landed over 200 punches over 10 non-stop rounds and Taylor had to go deep, deep into the well to pull out the victory.