Jessica McCaskill set the tone last weekend by showing enough gusto and hunger to hand Cecilia Brækhus her first pro loss, as she coronated herself as the new undisputed welterweight champion of the world, while managing to take women's boxing up a level in the process.
Katie Taylor responded Saturday night, leaning on her boxing ability to thwart a relentless Delfine Persoon via unanimous decision to retain her undisputed lightweight crown. The victory was another hard-fought war, but one that Taylor was able to skillfully produce a more convincing result than the majority decision she eked out over Persoon last June. Again, women's boxing was elevated.
Conor McGregor took notice, cheering on his fellow Irish fighting star.
Huge congrats Katie Taylor!!! Put that one to bed for sure, no questions! Top drawer stuff as always from Ireland’s greatest! @KatieTaylor ❤️— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 22, 2020
Now, the stage will be set for an undisputed vs. undisputed championship rematch between Taylor and McCaskill. And this highly-anticipated bout should not only outdo the unanimous decision that Taylor delivered over McCaskill in December 2017, but it should also present a defining moment for women's boxing.
Think about how each world champion has elevated her fighting game since that bout. McCaskill overwhelmed Erica Farias and Anahi Ester Sanchez via a pair of unanimous decisions to claim the WBC super lightweight and WBA super lightweight titles in October 2018 and May 2019, respectively. She then defended both via a scrappy majority decision over Farias, setting the stage for her showdown with Brækhus on Aug. 15.
Leading up the mega bout, McCaskill stomached talk of the undefeated Brækhus closing in on boxing history, as a win over McCaskill would have snapped Joe Louis' record for consecutive title defenses. Well, "CasKILLA," behind that big puncher status of hers, shocked Brækhus with a majority decision to snatch the undisputed welterweight titles in handing the Norweigan legend her first loss in 37 pro bouts.
Taylor, too, has grown significantly since edging McCaskill on the scorecards nearly three years ago. The Irish boxing sensation started 2018 by taking the IBF lightweight title with a unanimous decision over Victoria Bustos in April, before defending that strap and her WBA title against Kimberly Connor, Cindy Serrano and Eva Wahlstrom to close out her stellar year.
In March 2019, her ninth-round TKO of Rose Volante allowed her to claim the WBO lightweight belt, while her narrow majority decision over Persoon in June made her just the third woman in boxing history to become an undisputed world champion. (Brækhus was first, Claressa Shields was second and McCaskill just became the fourth).
For good measure, Taylor added the WBO junior welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou in November, before pulling off this gutsy performance over Persoon. The latter bout showed that Taylor can not only outbox her competition but hurt them in the process, as Persoon said that she thinks she suffered a broken nose in the second round.
A rematch between Taylor (16-0, 6 KOs) and McCaskill (9-2, 3 KOs) should detonate absolute fireworks. McCaskill can be as relentless as Persoon, but with better boxing ability with a bigger punch as a boxer-puncher who refuses to be denied ... and seems to be entering her prime.
Taylor — through her series with Persoon alone — has demonstrated that she can win ugly if need be, adding to her growing legend.
If McCaskill-Brækhus and Taylor-Persoon were able to impress in back-to-back weeks, just imagine what the buildup toward Taylor-McCaskill 2 and the actual fight will do.
Regardless of who wins, women's boxing will be better off for it. If Brækhus, who turns 39 next month, decides that she isn't done with boxing just yet, the situation will only get more intriguing. Shields ready to fight her self-proclaimed GWOAT status into fruition as the arguable pound-for-pound best makes the puzzle all the juicier.
All being said, late 2020 and 2021 should leave indelible marks — not only on women's boxing, but the sweet science, period.