Katie Taylor v Delfine Persoon: 'This might just be the women's boxing match we have waited for'
|Undisputed lightweight world championship: Katie Taylor v Delphine Persoon|
|Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York Date: 1 June Time: About 01:30 BST, 2 June|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and a live text commentary on the BBC Sport website|
A policewoman seeking to take a "once-in-a-lifetime" chance stands between Katie Taylor and boxing greatness as she bids to become undisputed women's lightweight champion.
Taylor already holds the WBO, IBF and WBA world lightweight belts, and will attempt to take Delfine Persoon's WBC title at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Belgium's Persoon, holder of the WBC belt since 2014, has had to balance her preparations for the fight with the demands of her day job in the country's police force - and whatever happens, expects to be back at work on Wednesday.
To get ready for Taylor, she saved up overtime at work and added a few days' annual leave to allow her to have a long and focused spell in a training camp - a contrast with the extra day or two off she normally has to get ready for a bout.
Persoon, 34, has never fought outside of her homeland, having taken up boxing 12 years ago after injury ended her judo career.
While Ireland's Taylor was winning Olympic gold at London 2012, the Belgian was setting up her own fight shows and selling tickets privately, on her way to compiling a record of 43 wins from 44 bouts.
Saturday's contest, on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's match against Andy Ruiz Jr, is widely anticipated. Mike Costello - who will commentate on the bout for BBC Radio 5 Live from ringside - believes it "might just be the women's boxing match we have waited for".
"Taylor had a big amateur career but in Belgium it wasn't possible for me with no national team so I went pro after just 12 amateur fights," Persoon told BBC Sport.
"My trainer has been busy looking at this fight for two years, hoping I may get a chance. We did not think we would but I thought: If I just keep my WBC title, maybe one day she would want it.
"I am going to go for the fight and I think I am the first Belgian who can make history and take all the belts."
A long way from Taylor's childhood act
Persoon is largely unknown in her own country, but Taylor has been described as "the closest thing Ireland has to royalty" by the Irish Times.
As she bids for all four major belts in just her 14th professional fight, she too has come a long way from the girl who pretended to be a boy in order to box.
"Those are the things you had to do when I started boxing as a 10-year-old," Taylor told BBC Sport. "Things have come a long way since then.
"It sounds like Delfine has had a lot of battles as a female boxer in Belgium but she's got herself in this position and I definitely have an awful lot of respect for her.
"Since I turned professional I wanted to be an undisputed champion. This was always the goal so I pinch myself I have this opportunity, it can't get any better than this."
Former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton told BBC Sport he used to spar with Taylor during her amateur career.
"It was always competitive," he said. "If I stood off her, I'd be outboxed. I'd try to push her around.
"There is so much expectation on her. It brings its own pressures. She says she knows how to deal with it but even from the amateurs, it was pressure for her all the time. What she has achieved is an amazing feat."
A hobby versus a job...
Persoon spends her days training police to prepare for large-scale events, and is often deployed to work on international cycling races. Recently, she has taken on a new role as an inspector and is also qualified to train officers to operate firearms.
"For me, work is always most important, then the boxing is my hobby, my passion," she said.
"If I lose it won't be pretty but for her, if she loses, it's her job.
"We are going to go for it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so why not? A lot of people say I have no chance but me, I say 50-50."
When negotiations for the fight began, Persoon's offer of 130,000 euros was rebuffed by Taylor's management, who said their fighter "wouldn't get out of bed" for the sum.
But for Taylor, the contest is about more than money. Victory can cement her legacy at lightweight and push her on to contests with champions from other divisions.
"It's huge, the biggest fight and biggest night of my career," Taylor said.