Katie lets her mask slip slightly

Katie Taylor feels like a prisoner in her hotel in Essex as she gets ready for her fight on Saturday

Katie Taylor feels like a prisoner in her hotel in Essex as she gets ready for her fight on Saturday

Seán McGoldrick

Even for Katie Taylor who lived alone in Vernon, Connecticut during the Covid-19 lockdown in the United States, being confined to her bedroom in the Holiday Inn in Brentwood ahead of her world championship fight on Saturday night is particularly challenging.

Meals are delivered to her room and though she is allowed to train in the hotel gym, she cannot take a stroll around the Essex countryside.

"I'm not used to being in prison for a week," she remarked in a media Zoom conference yesterday. "I'm usually allowed to leave the hotel and go for a walk. But it has been a very different week, a new experience. But I'm definitely soaking it all in and I am enjoying it."

On Saturday night, Taylor puts her unbeaten professional record and her four world lightweight belts on the line against Delfine Persoon nearly 15 months after their enthralling showdown in New York's Madison Square Garden.

The Bray pugilist won the first fight on a majority 2-0 decision - the third judge scored the contest a draw. According to Persoon, the judges should have awarded her two more rounds, which would have given her the verdict.

Taylor acknowledges that it was too close for comfort.

"I was just so delighted and relieved that the decision went my way. It was obviously a very close fight and it could have gone either way. It was a great fight, I knew that, but it was probably a bit too exciting for my liking."

There is no love lost between the respective camps. Persoon has deliberately goaded Taylor ahead of the rematch describing her as the "paper champion".

Taylor has resisted the urge to respond. Yesterday, though, she let her mask slip suggesting: "I wouldn't say she's the type of person who would have respect."

Her caustic comment came in the context of a discussion about Persoon's shock decision to re-register as an amateur fighter in her native Belgium last year and box at the European Olympic qualification tournament in London in March.

She was beaten in the first round after her preparations were undermined initially by a neck hernia, which weakened her left hand, and then by illness - she contracted pneumonia while being treated for the hernia.

Taylor, who won the gold medal in the lightweight division at the London Olympics eight years ago, said she was surprised at Persoon's decision to pursue the Olympic route.

"I didn't think it was a great choice for her to step down as a professional boxer. I don't think what works for her as a pro works in the amateur game.

"I didn't really believe she was going to be successful in the Olympic qualifiers, they're very different sports."

Meanwhile, Taylor said she hasn't given up on her dream of fighting in Ireland before hanging up her gloves.

"I certainly haven't given up hope. It has always been a huge dream of mine to fight in Ireland. Maybe some day it can happen."

After the shock defeat of long-time world welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus last Saturday night by a former Taylor opponent Jessica McCaskill, the tectonic plates have shifted in the higher echelons of women's pro boxing.

However, Taylor was reluctant to speculate on the prospect of another clash against Chicago-based merchant banker McCaskill if she sees off the challenge of Persoon.

"She (McCaskill) was obviously the underdog going into the fight but it wasn't a huge shock for me or my team. She always had the potential to produce a fantastic performance. She has a big punch. My focus is purely on fighting Persoon but obviously I'm open to fighting anyone," said Taylor.

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