Katie Taylor produced a brave late rally to lead an impressive fight with Natasha Jonas and defend her world titles at the Manchester Arena.
The Irish fighter started quickly, but her four light belts were at risk when Jonas started hitting hard shots as the fight progressed.
Jonas showed greater power, but the speed and volume of Taylor’s punch were critical to the victory, as she won the last few rounds.
The results of 96-94 96-95 96-95 gave her a unanimous victory, but she was really pushed.
“I am absolutely delighted with the victory,” the world lightweight champion, IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC, Taylor, told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I had to dig deep towards the end and leave everything there tonight. I think I showed a champion’s heart tonight.”
BBC Radio 5 Live boxing analyst Steve Bunce said the pair served “some greatness” in such a “quality” fight.
While Taylor faced difficulties against the wild and erratic Delfine Persoon, here she came across a trained fighter who methodically sought to break her.
Jonas – defeated by Taylor when they fought as amateurs at the London Olympics 2012 – probably knew that his rival would be too quick for her at first and so it was.
Taylor built an advantage with quick shots, but when his initial energy waned, Jonas delivered heavy, blunt strokes.
“She doesn’t like the body, Natasha … she doesn’t like it down there”, Jonas was informed by his corner during the third and she duly went to work.
In the sixth, the speed versus power clash took place, Taylor unleashing bursts, Jonas punching a stiff left hand that briefly shook his rival in a captivating two-minute round.
Many in boxing question why the fighters fight for 10 rounds of two minutes – compared to 12 three-minute segments in the men’s game.
This dispute – like several other women’s struggles in recent months – has shown yet again how intense and exciting the action can be under such a structure.
Coach Joe Gallagher told Jonas that Taylor was open for “rich prizes” after a seventh round, during which the two fighters carried out major attacks.
In the eighth, a left to the body and a solid uppercut from Jonas suggested that she could hand Taylor a first loss and secure her first world titles.
But Taylor, 34, tasted his heart before and did it again in the last four minutes – his punch count and relentless ferocity when it mattered most.
“I feel like I belong at this level and I want to win belts and be a champion,” said Jonas, 36. “There were rounds that I thought had hurt her, but it’s all about learning.”
Taylor won Olympic gold, won world titles at two pesos as a professional and in this – her 18th win in 18 games – she showed that her hunger for glory can withstand difficult times.
The pair embraced at the bell. Fans may want to see them do it again and Jonas’s showing more than deserves another chance at a world title.
Taylor, however, is a relentless force and victories like this only serve to add to his already iconic status.