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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Donald McRae

Chantelle Cameron silences the noise against Katie Taylor as rematch looms

Chantelle Cameron is announced as the winner at the end of her bout with Katie Taylor
Chantelle Cameron (right) is announced as the winner at the end of her bout with Katie Taylor. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho/Shutterstock

“I was buzzing out there,” Chantelle Cameron said quietly in the early hours of Sunday morning as, not long after her greatest victory, she explained how she dealt with the hostility which cascaded down on her in a tumultuous 3Arena in Dublin. It had felt as if every one of 10,000 roaring souls in the sold-out crowd was against Cameron and supporting Katie Taylor as she finally fought at home in Ireland for the first time in her professional career.

Cameron’s face was bruised but she smiled as she absorbed the scale of her achievement in remaining the undisputed super-lightweight champion of the world after narrowly defeating Taylor in an enthralling contest. It was Taylor’s first defeat since turning pro in 2016 and Cameron deserves immense credit for beating a magnificent champion who had craved a successful homecoming.

At the outset, Cameron’s nerve was examined like never before. But the 32-year-old from Northampton shook her head when it was suggested she must have felt very lonely in those moments when resounding booing for her was replaced by an exultant celebration of Taylor. The quiet woman from down the road in Bray walked slowly to the ring.

Cameron stressed how calm she had felt and then, with a shrug, said: “It’s just noise. That’s all – noise. As soon as that bell goes, I do what I do.” Could she hear that deafening noise, which seemed to barely subside, once the fight began? There was another shake of the head. “It’s tunnel vision.”

Her concentration had been so absolute that Cameron admitted she was unsure how the fight was being scored. In the end two judges gave the decision to her by six rounds to four, while the third saw it as a draw. “It was hard to call because when I’m fighting I’m not thinking how many rounds I’m winning,” Cameron said. “It’s just tunnel vision, throwing my hands and getting the job done.”

Cameron and Taylor do battle in the ring
Cameron and Taylor do battle in the ring. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA

When the draw was announced first, Cameron was “worried”. Her trainer, Jamie Moore, said: “I had it 7-3 but you can’t complain they scored it 6-4. I thought the draw was harsh.”

Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion, had called out Cameron in a bold move to set up the fight. Cameron is the champion in the weight class above and she is nearly five years younger than Taylor, with a three-inch advantage in both height and reach. “Katie definitely had the speed,” Cameron said of the many times when Taylor caught her with fast hands, “but I was the bigger girl with the heavier punches.”

It was a typically pithy appraisal from Cameron, who prefers fighting to talking. Taylor, who turns 37 in July, has been exceptional for years but brutal fights have drained her. Cameron was right to stress that Taylor had “definitely” given her the hardest fight of her career. “Katie is a great fighter and great ambassador for the sport. You can’t help but respect her. She’s a nice woman, a great athlete, a great boxer and she has influenced so many.”

Cameron lacks the understated charisma of Taylor, who has a nation behind her, and it is doubtful if even Northampton is agog after the champion’s seismic victory so far from home. Even amid the euphoria, Cameron looked embarrassed when asked if she is now the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. “She’s too modest,” Moore said.

Modesty is not a word associated with Eddie Hearn, who promoted the contest and has been in Taylor’s corner since she turned pro. The rematch is simmering in Hearn’s mind and he pointed to Cameron. “She’s just beaten the pound-for-pound No 1.”

“Exactly,” Moore said. “If Katie was the pound-for-pound No 1, which I believe she was, then surely this makes Chantelle the world’s new pound-for-pound No 1.”

Claressa Shields, however, occupies that role. The American is the best female fighter on the planet. She also has charisma to burn and an extraordinary personal story. Cameron won’t be bothered by that. She knows she will never match Shields as an electrifying presence. Cameron also accepts she is very different to Taylor, who has inspired a country.

Chantelle Cameron celebrates with her team and her belts
Chantelle Cameron celebrates with her team and her belts. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho/Shutterstock

Hearn praised Cameron for “never playing the victim” and understanding that “Katie was the star” in the buildup. Cameron had accepted that, even as the defending champion, she would walk to the ring first, for she was convinced she would beat Taylor. “The biggest fight in women’s boxing right now is Taylor-Cameron II,” Hearn said. “So we’ll find a way.”

Cameron agreed. “Katie’s such a great boxer she’s going to want the rematch.” And then, even through her voice still sounded more muted than elated, Cameron added one last telling sentence to stress her new authority. “But now it’s on my terms.”

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