The undercard at Madison Square Garden this Saturday has a distinct British and Irish feel to it. There are two World Title fights, and some intriguing match ups in addition.
Katie Taylor (13-0, KO6) will attempt to become an undisputed World Champion by adding the remaining piece of the World Title puzzle to her collection when she clashes with the Belgian Delfine Persoon (43-1, KO18).Taylor is a female boxing superstar, with the potential to really cement a legacy in New York. The Irishwoman is the current WBA, WBO and IBF Lightweight Champion, and she has been ruthlessly picking up belt after belt since her first back in October 2017.
Taylor captured the WBA belt at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, by dropping and clearly outscoring Anahi Esther Sanchez for the vacant Title. She has made six defences of the crown and added the IBF Title in Brooklyn in April last year with another dominant win, this time a clear point win against Victoria Noella Bustos.
Most recently, the WBO Title was acquired by the Bray born Taylor, when she scored a highly impressive ninth round stoppage of Rose Volante in Philadelphia in March.
To gain the WBC strap, Taylor will most likely be tested against her stiffest opposition yet.
Current Champion, Delfine Persoon is unbeaten in nearly ten years and thirty fights. After defeating the then 4-2 Zelda Tekin in October 2010 via disqualification, Persoon was upset in a rematch just one month later, stopped in four rounds.
The Belgian has held the WBC Title since April 2014, when she handily outpointed Erica Annabella Farias. Persoon had previously been IBF Champion prior to this win. In a forty-four-fight career, Persoon has only boxed once outside her home country, an April 2015 defence of her belt against Nicole Boss in Switzerland, winning by a dominant ninth round stoppage.
Delfine does fight regularly, but against mostly inferior opposition. She made a defence of the green belt last June against the then 8-10-3 Natalia Aguirre via wide unanimous decision. Her last outing was in also in March this year, like Taylor. Persoon defeated Melissa St Vil via seventh round retirement.
Prediction: Taylor is simply box office and is headed for all time greatness in the sport. Although Persoon will pose a tough test as an established and experienced World Champion in her own right, Taylor is far superior, and is destined to clean out the Lightweight division. I expect Taylor to put on a clinic, and she may even stop Persoon in the later rounds as the heat is cranked up on the Belgian.
Callum Smith (25-0, KO18) makes a welcome first defence of his WBA (Super) Super Middleweight Title on the bill, with a hastily arranged meeting with former World Middleweight Champion, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (37-3, KO21).
The 35-year-old Cameroonian has mostly campaigned at 160lbs throughout his career, so it’s a surprise that he is afforded a shot at Smith.
“Mundo” won the Title, and the Muhammad Ali Trophy, last September in the left field surroundings of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by impressively halting, and, ultimately retiring, George Groves in the final of the World Boxing Super Series.
Groves was considered the favourite for the contest, with Smith not having any previous World Title fight experience. A British and European Champion previously, Smith took charge of what was a tight contest to overwhelm Groves with spiteful shots to force a seventh-round stoppage. He will be going his New York assignment full of confidence, and there is also the carat of a potential meeting with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez down the line.
First, Smith must take care of immediate business with N’Dam. The African is usually found wanting when making steps up in class. In a challenge for the WBO belt at Middleweight in October 2012, N’Dam was down six times in a heavy defeat to Peter Quillin. He then challenged for the vacant IBF belt in June 2015, but the big punching Canadian, David Lemieux dropped him four times on the way to a point win.
N’Dam did pick uptake WBA Title at Middle in an upset in Japan in May 2017. He was again knocked down, this time by Ryota Murata in Murata’s Japanese back yard, but took an upset decision win to become Champion.
His joy was short-lived though, as Murata gained revenge five months later, stopping N’Dam in seven. N’Dam took fourteen months out after his first stoppage defeat, and he returned in December 2018, travelling to Manchester to upset Martin Murray via majority decision. This will be N’Dam’s first foray into elite class at Super Middle.
Prediction: N’Dam has a history of being decked in his career, and those occurrences were at Middleweight, so Smith could well make a statement here. Smith has fast hands and carries serious power, and it will be interesting to see how N’Dam stands up to this at the higher weight. I think Smith will make N’Dam feel the pace after halfway, where the likeable Liverpudlian will force a stoppage.
Fight of the night could well involve regular crowd pleaser, Tommy Coyle (25-4, KO12). The likeable Hull man finally gets a chance at breaking America that he has so badly craved.
He has picked a tough opponent for his big night, and it will be foamier WBO Super Lightweight Champion, Chris Algieri (23-3, KO8) in the opposite corner to him. Algieri picked up the belt in a shock June 2014 split decision win against the Russian, Ruslan Provodnikov.
The New Yorker is 3-3 in his last six contests, although his defeats have come at the hands of class operators in Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan (Both unanimous) and Errol Spence, who stopped Algieri in five in April 2016.
After a two-and-a-half-year layoff, Algeri has returned with two straight wins. He outscored Angel Hernandez in November 2018, before doing the same to Daniel Gonzalez to pick up the WBO International belt in January.
Coyle did make a low-key USA debut in October 2018 by dropping Ryan Kielczweski in Boston, but this is a much bigger stage. When Coyle tastes defeat, it’s usually in a no guts, no glory fashion. His first reverse came against Gary Sykes in a Prizefighter tournament in October 2012. He would suffer heartbreak in a bid for the Commonwealth Lightweight Title in July 2013, when, after winning near enough every round, Coyle was wiped out a monster Derry Mathews tenth round knockout punch.
Coyle rebuilt with some entertaining wins, before Luke Campbell proved a class above in a Hull Derby in August 2015. Coyle was dropped four ties before being stopped in ten. A move to Super Lightweight followed, and, although he floored Tyrone Nurse in July 2016, he couldn’t finish the job and lost on points in a challenge for the British Title. Tommy dropped back down to Lightweight in April 2018 to stop Sean “Masher” Dodd in six to become Commonwealth Champion.
Prediction: Although Algieri isn’t a major World Title player, he represents a significant step up in class for Coyle. Although Tommy is as brave as they come, he may come unstuck against the boxing skills of the home fighter. I think Algieri will frustrate Coyle with his style, and think an Algieri points win is the pick.
Josh Kelly (9-0, KO6) makes a US debut against Ray Robinson (24-3-1, KO12) in a defence of his WBA International Welterweight Title, while British Light Heavyweight Champion, Joshua Buatsi (10-0, KO8) also gets a runout.