The long reign of the boxing queen, Katie Taylor, ended late on Saturday night in Dublin. At the end of 10 truly heroic rounds, Taylor dropped his head when Chantelle Cameron had her hand raised in front of nearly 10,000 people at the 3Arena.
On the night and in the fight, Cameron was just a bit bigger, stronger and busier, and she left the ring with her four world title belts. And a face full of bruises. It was one of the finest victories by a British boxer in a world title defense overseas. Cameron, the champion, had been the underdog all week, selected by Taylor personally to lose.
Taylor had dared to dream, moved up in weight, challenged an unbeaten woman, and on the night that was meant to be her crowning glory, she fell just short. One judge scored a draw, the other two returned identical scores of 96-94; Cameron, they believe, had won six of the 10 rounds. I agree, by the way.
On a night of raw emotion, Taylor had taken in every second of her ring walk, prowling the stage at the back of the arena and lifting her devoted flock to a howling frenzy.
In the ring, Cameron had bounced on her toes during the expected delay, laughing and joking with her trainers, Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis. They had been a solid unit all week here in Dublin, seemed immune to the media attention and most definitely not phased by the crowd. At ringside, Conor McGregor led the chorus of approval as Taylor finally stepped through the ropes. It was an unbelievable noise, an unforgettable scene of devotion and respect for Taylor.
And then the boxing started and Cameron moved her feet to cut Taylor down and let her hands go. In the opening rounds, Taylor was trapped repeatedly on the ropes and caught with body shots. I think that Taylor finished the first five rounds trapped in a corner at the bell, her hair free of the braids and covering her face as Cameron landed on her body and head. The crowd did their bit, but they were a boxing-wise flock and they knew what was happening. Cameron was on fire.
Taylor tried to create a bit of distance by stepping back and letting her own hands go with her trademark combinations; Cameron just eased forward, jabbed, let the right go and then switched to the body. Cameron had a great plan and was slowly dominating a hard fight. At the end of five rounds, Taylor was trailing heavily. “We have never come this far to be out-hustled by this girl,” Ross Enamait, Taylor’s trainer, told his fighter before the start of the sixth. There was a sense of shock in Taylor’s corner.
In previous tight fights, Taylor has simply had the desire and ability to dig her feet into the canvas and fight her way from the ropes to the center of the ring. It was Taylor’s 17th consecutive world title fight.
In the Dublin ring, Cameron was smart enough to adjust when Taylor started the inevitable comeback from round six. It was desperate stuff, a heroic stand, and Taylor’s homecoming army added to the drama. McGregor was still pounding the canvas with his palms and screaming. Taylor was back in the fight, losing but still swinging. This is what the faithful had been waiting for; Katie was back.
There was no panic at any point from Cameron, no drastic changes in her plans, and she stuck to her tactics. Cameron’s right cheek was starting to swell and Taylor was starting to read her. Cameron was still landing with rights, then switching to the body, but in rounds six and seven Taylor was countering and leading the crowd in song. It was a brutal fight, a savage struggle by Taylor to remain unbeaten. Taylor was, finally, starting to put her fast combinations together.
At the final bell, Sparkle Lee, the referee, had to jump between them. It was the only possible ending to the fight. Cameron and Taylor knew they had each played a special part; they had both been unbeaten before the first bell and at the end, it was Cameron who acted like the winner.
However, it was Katie Taylor’s homecoming, her night, her coronation, and boxing was scarred by unjust decisions. The correct verdict was returned, Taylor picked up her head and congratulated Cameron. It was expected and classy. “Let’s do it again,” Taylor said. There is a rematch clause for Taylor and she will inevitably invoke it. Taylor hates to lose; Cameron will not refuse.