DUBLIN—Katie Taylor got her homecoming. Chantelle Cameron got the win.
The Irish champion has helped elevate women’s boxing to new heights but couldn’t solve Cameron in a showdown of undisputed and undefeated champions on Saturday.
By a majority decision, Taylor suffered the first loss of her professional career.
Taylor, whose lightweight belts weren’t on the line, fell to a 22-1 win-loss record after the judges scored the Dublin fight 96-94, 96-94 and 95-95 in front of a stunned capacity crowd at 3Arena.
“It’s not how I wanted my homecoming to go,” Taylor said in the ring. “It was a tough battle, a grueling 10 rounds like I expected it to be. I just came up short tonight.”
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist had never fought professionally in Ireland. It was Taylor’s first defeat at any level since being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
Cameron, who was inspired by Taylor to turn pro, remained the undisputed super-lightweight champion.
The English fighter entered the ring first even though her belts were at stake, and seemed unfazed by the fervent home fans. She bounced and stayed loose while Taylor soaked in the applause during a long ring walk.
“I came to Dublin, her homecoming, everyone was against me, everything was in favor of Katie but I showed what I’m about,” said Cameron, who enjoyed a cold beer at a post-fight press conference to go with bruises on her forehead and right cheek.
Once the bell rang, Cameron stalked Taylor and stayed aggressive the whole way—throwing nearly twice as many punches. She used body shots to exhaust Taylor and jabs to outwork her.
In the sixth, they went toe to toe in the middle of the ring. Taylor fought hard, using combinations to counter Cameron’s greater weight and strength.
Cameron was pressuring enough by the eighth to make Taylor look in need of some big rounds.
But amid chants of “Katie, Katie!” Cameron kept her off with uppercuts. At the end of a contest which met the hype, both fighters jumped on their trainers’ shoulders and raised their arms.
Taylor has a rematch clause, and Cameron expects it to be in England. Taylor gambled by challenging Cameron to take the fight after Amanda Serrano backed out because of an injury. The 36-year-old Taylor moved up to Cameron’s 140-pound division to entice her.
“Looking forward to the rematch,” she told Cameron in the ring.
Cameron said she would be interested in dropping down to lightweight to challenge for Taylor’s belts.
Cameron improved to 18-0 in what is instantly a career highlight for the heavy puncher, who hadn’t planned to turn professional until she saw the success of Taylor and Claressa Shields. The 32-year-old Cameron had been hoping to become a physical education teacher before deciding to stay in the ring.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn said Taylor looked tired from the start and wondered if the long ring walk was a factor.
“It was so emotional. I don’t know if that was draining,” he said.
Taylor didn’t do a press conference after the fight. Hearn said she was “devastated”
Taylor last fought in Ireland as an amateur more than seven years ago.
There had been no elite-level boxing events in Ireland since gunmen opened fire during a weigh-in at a Dublin hotel in February 2016. Authorities say the shooting was part of a feud between two drug trafficking gangs.
Conor McGregor made it to ringside in time to see three Irish boxers—Dennis Hogan, Gary Cully and Taylor—lose their bouts.
Image credits: AP