Katie Taylor is a two-weight world champion after claiming a unanimous-decision win over Christina Linardatou in Manchester on Saturday.
Competing at the 10-stone limit for the first time, the Bray native triumphed on two ringside scorecards of 97-93, and one of 96-94.
In doing so, the reigning undisputed 135-pound champion added the WBO super-lightweight belt to her collection, a feat which sees her join Carl Frampton and Steve Collins in the realm of Ireland’s multi-division titlists.
“It’s just incredible,” reflected Taylor. “I was getting very emotional because that’s how much it meant to me. I was overwhelmed by the support, and to be a multi-weight world champion is what every fighter dreams of.
“I was undisputed a few months ago, and it just keeps getting better and better.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt in camp, because I had longer to prepare. I was able to work on my strength, even eat a little bit more! I walk around at about 140lbs anyway so I just had to literally step on the scales. I felt strong.”
Linardatou, making the second defence of the crown she won in March, sprung from the traps with mean intent and assumed the front foot in much of the early going.
While not without success, the Greek-based belt-holder was unable to make quite enough of those pressure tactics, Taylor’s adept movement allowing her to walk Linardatou onto blurring counter combinations.
In action for the first time since June’s historic unification win over Delfine Persoon, Taylor’s check-hooks again found a frequent home, many exchanges assuming the bull-matador dynamic so common in her career to date.
“I probably have to go back and watch it, but I’m very happy with my performance,” beamed Taylor.
“We were looking for a boxing exhibition tonight. I tried to make the fight as easy as possible for myself.
“There was no point standing there trading, that’s her strength. We knew before the fight she was the best 140-pounder in the division. She definitely had a strong punch, a big right hand.
“The plan was always to box on the outside. I had to be consciously disciplined for the whole fight because it’s actually so much easier to stand there and fight rather than move your legs ... for me it is, anyway!”
Taylor did indeed get drawn into the trenches on occasion, her swollen right eye emblematic of the warfare.
The closing rounds proved a particular test of mettle, thudding left hooks and straight backhands from Linardatou requiring riposte.
The latter’s animated post-fight protestations suggest she felt her pro-activeness was sufficient to win the night.
In the eyes of the judges, however, a tendency to load up on power shots may well have been to her detriment, Taylor’s fleetness of foot and hand duly steering the challenger home in front of a fervent Irish-infused crowd.
The victory further opens up options for the 33-year-old, rematches with now fellow 140lb queen Jess McCaskill and recently deposed lightweight stakeholder Persoon among them.
“When I first sat down with Eddie [Hearn, promoter] those few years ago, I didn’t know what way this journey was going to go,” admitted Taylor.
“But now there are so many options. I know the likes of Amanda Serrano are calling me out, I’m always pretty quiet on social media.
“Once I get them in the ring, that’s when I can shut them up.
“I always say my strength is my quiet confidence, I don’t need to talk, I do my talking in the ring.”
That oft-mooted match-up with Serrano seems likely for 2020, while Hearn could well attempt to wangle a catch-weight clash between Taylor and new signing Cecilia Braekhus.
“Everybody wants the lottery victory, the Katie Taylor fight,’’ quipped the Matchroom supremo.
“We’ve been building to this for a long time. I know in Ireland she will always be a legend, but now everyone else is behind her.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s Manchester, London, New York, Boston, Philadelphia. I mean, when you look back at what she’s achieved in such a short space of time, not just what she’s won, but everywhere she’s been, all that ground that she’s broken.
“A world title at the Millennium Stadium, then Wembley, then undisputed at Madison Square Garden. Now she’s headlining, and there’s so much more to do.
“We could have the first ever double-undisputed champion fight between her and [welterweight queen] Braekhus. She could headline her own card at MSG against Serrano, or rematch Persoon. For me, I would like to see her become a two-weight, undisputed world champion. That would be the ultimate.”
Hearn also lauded Taylor’s palpable impact beyond the ropes, appraising her increasingly crossover appeal within the sporting community.
“I’ve never seen so many young women at a boxing event, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “Hundreds of them, and they’re all there to watch Katie, it’s amazing.
“There’s never been a female superstar of boxing, until Katie Taylor. Someone who’s filling arenas, someone who the broadcasters want to headline with, who they want to look at for a pay-per-view event in 2020.
“She’s a trailblazer in that respect.
“Honestly, when you look at the top stars of the sport, Katie is right up there.
“I’m talking about Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua. Floyd Mayweather is gone, but that’s the level. She will, in my opinion, headline on Sky Box Office next year. She’s the governor at the moment, in her prime, and looking for the big fights now.”