Katie Taylor remains undefeated, she remains the undisputed queen at lightweight, but the Irish icon was pushed to her absolute limit by Natasha Jonas in a gripping 10-round contest.
A razor-tight decision, which saw Taylor triumph (96-94, 96-95, 96-95) on the cards, deserved a raucous crowd in Manchester, as both women displayed immense desire alongside their skills, with each round providing back and forth action.
Taylor’s 12th consecutive world title fight, with her quartet of world titles on the line in a rematch of the 2012 Olympic contest, was one of her most enthralling yet thanks to the Liverpudlian challenger’s thudding arsenal of shots and strength to last the distance.
The fight caught fire from the opening bell, with an intense opening bringing both women close enough to fit inside a phone booth. But it was Taylor’s speed and subtle movement that saw her take the initiative.
But the margins for error were evidently slim, as Taylor ducked in with her head in the second, grazing Jonas’ forehead to prompt a cry in protest.
Despite Taylor’s busy approach, Jonas rallied quickly in the third, unloading the heavier shots, with her thudding left behind a clever southpaw jab particularly effective.
It prompted encouragement from Jonas’ trainer, Joe Gallagher, who screamed at the end of the third, “she’s all over the place, Tasha”.
But one of Taylor’s strengths, her eagerness to get off early and take control of the exchanges, was providing Jonas opportunities, wit the 36-year-old countering beautifully.
Jonas started to sit down on her shots in the seventh, too, slipping to the right and digging to the body, but Taylor incredibly perservered with the output rarely dipping.
Belief was growing in the challenger’s corner though, with uncertainty growing as how the judges might be interpreting the contest.
And while Taylor’s class has been apparent for years, it was her toughness that shone through here. It deserved a roaring crowd in recognition, but the quality exchanges, deep into the fight, prompted cries from each corner and likely thousands more behind televisions around the UK and Ireland.
Both women’s variety of shots kept each guessing: Jonas turning to the uppercut late on as Taylor found a home for the left hook alongside a textbook straight right.
With the fight up for grabs entering the final two rounds of this contest, Taylor found a second wind, which ultimately proved vital to the outcome of the fight. A flurry of shots closed the ninth round and 10th rounds.
She needed it, too, with Jonas committed to the body and piling on the pressure, only for Taylor to pin her to the ropes, unloading the tank as the final bell sounded.
A rematch awaits down the line, with Taylor conceding afterwards that her rival “has everything that it takes to win a world tile”. The legendary career of Taylor marches on, this time her grit and determination enabling her to overcome one of her toughest challenges yet.
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