Chantelle Cameron had wanted to be the spoiler in Ireland, to turn Katie Taylor’s homecoming sour. She’d heard the boos from the time she entered the ring. This would be a pro-Taylor crowd in Taylor’s first pro fight in her home country of Ireland — and Cameron cared not at all.
Cameron held on to beat Taylor by majority decision (96-94, 96-94, 95-95) to retain her undisputed junior welterweight titles and hand Taylor her first pro loss.
Cameron’s team lifted her above their heads for a moment. It was a scene mildly unexpected on this night, one Cameron had believed in even if few others were confident it would happen.
Cameron (18-0, 8 KO) understood the challenge and believed she did enough, although even as she heard the scorecards being read she wasn’t sure if she was going to win.
“I was petrified,” Cameron said. “I had seen it before in boxing, it had happened to my team before. So yeah, I was petrified that I was not going to get the decision.”
Cameron’s concerns were not necessary. Two of the three judges gave Cameron the decision, one that showed in the ring and statistically she deserved.
Cameron, ESPN’s No. 7 pound-for-pound fighter, landed more total punches (141), more power punches (114) and more body punches (37) than Taylor, who is No. 2 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings. While Taylor (22-1, 6 KO) landed a higher percentage of her shots, the undisputed lightweight champion couldn’t match the aggressiveness and constant onslaught from Cameron.
By the fifth round, Cameron’s relentless attack had knocked Taylor’s braids out, forcing her hair into a ponytail for the final few rounds of the fight. Cameron landed more power punches in six of the 10 rounds, including a massive sixth round, when she landed a fight-high 20 power punches and 22 total punches.
“That’s my strength,” Cameron said. “That’s my forte.”
It was something Taylor was prepared for, too. She knew what to expect going in and admitted as much following the fight. As Taylor did in her most recent megafight against Amanda Serrano last April, Taylor rallied late in the fight to make it closer.
Against Serrano, Taylor did enough to win a split decision. On Saturday, judges gave Taylor two of the final three rounds to make it closer than it had looked earlier, when Cameron was in good position throughout.
Cameron’s victory capped an electric night in Dublin. As David Diamante made the pre-fight announcements in the ring, he could barely be heard on television as he prepared to announce Cameron and Taylor, with boos for Cameron and deafening cheers for Taylor.
Taylor paced at the top of the runway as the Elevation Worship song “More Than Able” played to an adoring Irish crowd singing along and cheering Taylor’s every move. Wearing her traditional black with gold, Taylor stood at the top of the apron once she reached the ring and stood looking around at the sold-out 3Arena cheering her along.
Then the fight started and Taylor, who always seeks the biggest challenges she could find, realized early she was in for a big one. Cameron came out with more aggressiveness early, often sending Taylor back on her feet. Taylor settled down by the middle of the fight, but Cameron stayed on the attack throughout the fight.
Afterward, Taylor was asked if she thought she won the fight.
“I’m not sure to be honest,” Taylor said. “I have to go back and look at it. It was obviously a very, very close fight. It was not how I wanted my homecoming to go. But I’m just so grateful for the support to be honest.”
Both Taylor and Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn said after the fight they would be exercising a rematch clause in the contract and wanted to run the fight back in the fall, again in Dublin. Another potential option for Taylor is a rematch with Serrano, who had to pull out of this fight initially due to a hand injury.
But Hearn said, “We’ll be doing this fight again in Dublin in autumn this year.”
Saturday, though, was Cameron’s night, the culmination of a massive year for the English pound-for-pound fighter. In November, she beat welterweight titleholder Jessica McCaskill to become the undisputed junior welterweight champion.
She beat another undisputed champion, the lightweight titleholder Taylor, to defend her own titles against another pound-for-pound great.
Cameron said ward that she’s “sick of keeping my belts,” adding, “I want to go for more belts,” perhaps indicating she could opt for a different fight or maybe even go down to 135 pounds and challenge for Taylor’s belts.
Cameron will have her options. On Saturday, she proved she’s one of the best in the world.