Boxer Delfine Persoon has been learning there are more obstacles to holding on to a world title than just an opponent who wants to punch your lights out.
Persoon, who is 34 years old and comes from Roeselare in West Flanders, is due on Saturday evening to walk in the footsteps of giants and fight to retain the women’s boxing lightweight world title. She also works in Roeselare as a police officer.
She now holds the WBC world lightweight title, having been world number one in all four women’s boxing federations – IBF, WIBF, WIBA and WBC. She has held the WBC title since 2015.
On Saturday she gets in the ring to defend her title against Irish boxer Katie Taylor, an Olympic gold medallist in 2012 who now holds the world title in the weight class for the IBF, WIBF and WIBA. The match in what can be considered the Mecca of boxing will end, unless a draw is declared, with one or the other woman holding all four world titles at once.
But the road for Persoon has not been easy. First, she was on the verge of departure for the US when it turned out the WBC had failed to send the visa she requires to enter the country. That meant two trips to the American embassy in Brussels and back to Roeselare.
Then, once in New York, she was forced to move out of her hotel into alternative accommodation when it turned out she and her entourage had been booked in to the same hotel as her opponent, who had insisted she be moved. Much to the annoyance of the Persoon camp: Delfine is number one in the world rankings; Taylor number three. Persoon’s trainer Filiep Tampere described the decision as “psychological warfare” and “totally disrespectful”.
Then yesterday she was suddenly ordered to take a blood test, despite having been tested before leaving Belgium. That involved a one-hour trip in a taxi through Manhattan traffic to get to the designated hospital, after her own doctor’s request to have the blood sample drawn at the hotel was turned down.
The two fighters came together for the first time at the weigh-in.
“I’m slightly taller than she is,” Persoon said later. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to dominate, but it is still an advantage.” And she recognised that Taylor is more lively. “But we’re not at the Olympics. We have to go ten rounds, and if I can manage to hold out until the end of the third, she’ll have lost some of her liveliness. Then the real match can begin, and it promises to be a tough one for both of us – all the way to the end.”