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AND STILL: Katie Taylor keeps undisputed crown on electric Leeds stage

It wasn’t vintage Katie Taylor but the Bray lightweight still had more than enough to largely dominate Jennifer Han tonight in Leeds.

The Irish amateur legend was made to work by her American foe but still comfortably retained her undisputed 135lbs crown via unanimous decision at the Headingley Stadium, home of the Leeds Rhinos rugby league team.

Taylor struggled to get to grips with the slippery Han early on but was still doing more than enough and upped the ante down the stretch.

It was a return to the ring for the 35-year-old Wicklow woman following her epic win over amateur rival Natasha Jonas in May. While that fight had ‘juice’ in the promotional sense, tonight’s was more of an administrative exercise, with 38-year-old Han being the IBF’s mandatory challenger.

That being said, the former featherweight champ from El Paso did not come to lie down and posed some puzzles.

Taylor, whose father Pete hails from Leeds, entered to huge acclaim with the almost-capacity crowd roaring during the introductions.

However, it was cagey to start, with Han proving both a tricky and an extremely motivated foe.

The Korean-American’s craftiness, though, began to unravel as the rounds progressed, with Taylor taking a firm grip by the mid-way point and starting to turn the screw on a tiring Han.

The Texan took a tumble to the canvas in the eighth, being hit by a Taylor flurry while off-balance and taking a count but, despite some relentless pressure, there would be no stoppage as we went the ten-round distance.

Going to the cards in little doubt, Taylor was confirmed a winner via whitewash, winning every round on every card for a trio of 100-89 scores.

The win sees Taylor improve her perfect professional record to 19(6)-0 while Han, who deserves credit for what was probably a career-best performance, falls to 18(1)-4(0)-1.

In terms of what’s next, the mandatory responsibilities continue to tumble through and the WBA may enforce a fight with their top contender, Firuza Sharipova of Kazakhstan. However, beyond this, the confirmation of Matchroom’s Road to Undisputed tournament means a chance to become a two-weight eight-belt champ looms large.

This four-fighter elimination features Mary McGee, Kali Reis, Jessica Camara, and likely winner and long-term Taylor-targetter Chantelle Cameron – and a showdown between the winner of this tournament and Taylor next Summer looks to be Matchroom’s big plan.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie