AND STILL: Katie Taylor Retains Undisputed Crown With Wembley Win

Business as usual.

It mightn’t have been Madison Square Garden and 20,000 fans but Katie Taylor did what Katie Taylor does best tonight in London.

The undisputed lightweight champion breezed past Argentine Karen Elizabeth Carabajal with minimal fuss at the OVO Arena Wembley, keeping busy with an entertaining if one-sided win.

The big fights have happened and the legacy is secured. There is a Jones’s Road-shaped box that Taylor wants to tick but, with that not possible in 2022, the outmatched Carabajal and yet another away trip for a throng of Irish fans was the order of the day.

While somewhat out of her depth on a competitive level, Carabajal did not lack for effort and pushed Taylor – more so than some of her other opponents of this calibre – but the Irish legend was never in danger.

A return to the ring following her incredible win over Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden during the Summer, it was not the Croke Park event that was initially proposed in the aftermath of that enthralling war in the Big Apple. Moves were made by Taylor’s manager, Brian Peters, but Serrano and promoter Jake Paul could not be enticed to Dublin. With the Wicklow wonder eager to fight as regularly as possible, we found ourselves at this London stop-gap.

Promoted by Chino Maidana Promotions, Carabajal’s Mayweather-bothering backer was perhaps the most news-worthy piece of information related to the opponent. Stepping up from super featherweight where she was an Argentinian and South American champion without ever threatening the world scene, this was a massive jump for the 32-year-old. While she performed admirably, it was a relatively straightforward win for Taylor in the end.

Taylor walks to the ring past a sea of tricolours

Meek at the weigh-in and throughout fight week, ‘Burbuja’ came out with some ambition but was quickly timed by right hands from Taylor who eased herself into the first round.

Again, Carabajal started the second aggressively but was shook by counter shots from Taylor. The Latino challenger was game and was not lying down for the champion but her forward marching was bringing little actual success and only giving Taylor opportunities and openings.

Carabajal’s ambitious start was already beginning slow slightly in the third but she continued to trudge towards Taylor, leading to some messy clinches as the Wicklow woman looked to land the left hook.

The crowd were brought back to their feet in the fourth as Taylor cornered Carabajal and the pair traded – the Irishwoman the tidier but the visitor also swinging dangerously.

Enjoying herself, Taylor landed volleys of shots early in the fifth but Carabajal, to her credit, was fighting well and implementing a solid gameplan based on pressure. Whether it was enough to impact the scorecards was an entirely different question.

Moving into the second half of the fight, the Argentinian corner protested Taylor’s use of the head but it was the fast right hand that was doing damage.

Round Seven was particularly quiet, playing massively into Taylor’s hands who was content to potshot from the outside and bank the stanza decisively.

Much of the fight in Carabajal had evaporated by the eighth and Taylor began to turn the screw. Standing between rounds, the Olympic gold medallist was definitely the fresher of the two, with her opponent getting by purely through grit.

Bleeding from beside the eye, likely due to an errant forehead, Carabajal continued to lash in shots whenever she could but the South American was being controlled by a relaxed Taylor.

Things stepped up for the final two minutes both inside and outside of the ring and Taylor delighted the crowd by going toe-to-toe, landing some heavy backhands before bringing in her signature left hook as they fought to the bell.

A Good Night’s Work

Going to the cards with absolutely no doubt, two-weight champion Taylor was confirmed the winner with scores of 100-91, 99-91, and 98-92 to improve to 22(6)-0 and retain her WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, and Ring Magazine titles in the process. The impressive Carabajal, who will hopefully be seen again in major fights, drops to 19(2)-1(0).

Talk will inevitably move now to a Croke Park homecoming which already largely dominated the build-up to tonight’s procession. Money does cure all ills in boxing but, even still, Matchroom’s ongoing legal wrangle with MVP’s Paul would cast doubt on the ability to bring Serrano to Dublin. The Puerto Rican is already looking to push the rematch to 2024 while the possibility of a different opponent at GAA HQ does not appear to be an option Taylor’s handlers are considering.

While 36-year-old Taylor herself will insist the best is yet to come, it is wholly apparent that we are in the end-stages of her career. The question now is whether she will get the final big occasion.

Earlier in the night there was a big win for Naas southpaw Gary Cully who needed just 35 seconds to get rid of Frenchman Jaoud Belmehdi. Taylor congratulated her fellow lightweight following the fight and ‘The Diva’, trained by Pete Taylor, is himself looking towards a Croke Park appearance.

Taylor and Cully embrace

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