CARDIFF, Wales — Katie Taylor won a world title in her seventh professional fight after unanimously outpointing Anahi Sanchez in the undercard of the Anthony Joshua-Carlos Takam heavyweight title fight Saturday night in Cardiff, Wales.
The Irishwoman lifted the vacant WBA lightweight belt less than a year after turning professional, triumphing by three scores of 99-90.
Sanchez, who has won world titles at two weight divisions, failed to make weight on Friday, meaning she was stripped of the title and only Taylor could win it.
And for most of the fight, only Taylor looked like winning it.
Taylor (7-0, 4 KOs), 31, was razor sharp from the start and in the second dropped Sanchez (17-3, 9 KOs) with a wicked left to the body.
The Argentine did well to get to her feet at the count of eight and then survived a furious assault from Taylor, who landed a right flush to the jaw and a left hook to the temple amid a blur of punches.
But Taylor, who trains in Connecticut, had to take a few at the start of the third round before then replying with a right to the jaw.
Sanchez, 26, who won the WBA belt only last month, gave Taylor the toughest round of her short professional career in the third round and landed a left uppercut early in the fourth.
Both landed clean punches in the fourth, but Taylor asserted some authority in the fifth when she landed a few clean punches to the head.
Taylor then sent Sanchez onto the ropes with a long right hand in the seventh as the fight seemed firmly in the Irishwoman’s hands.
But Sanchez remained dangerous through to the 10th and final round, when she was buzzed by a left hook to the temple at close range.
Whyte wins, fails to shine
Dillian Whyte struggled to shine in a unanimous-points win over Robert Helenius, which keeps him in contention for a shot at WBC world heavyweight title.
Whyte triumphed by scores of 119-109 twice and 118-110 to claim the fringe WBC Silver heavyweight title, but he looked underwhelmed with his performance at the finish.
Whyte — a former victim of heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua — wants to face the winner of the WBC title fight between titleholder Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne, who meet on Nov. 4.
Whyte has been calling on Wilder to face him, but this was not the emphatic win he wanted to send out a message to the American. Whyte struggled with Helenius’ 6-foot-6 height, something he will also have to address if he faces the 6-7 Wilder.
Jamaica-born Whyte, 29, who moved to London as a child, went into the fight as the WBC’s No 3 heavyweight after registering five wins since being stopped in the seventh round by Joshua in December 2015.
Former European champion Helenius, 33, was a different opponent to what Whyte has been used to, and the Finn’s height and reach made it difficult for Whyte.
Whyte landed a good right in the second and again in the third, but they were single shots rather than sustained attacks.
Helenius landed a series of body shots at the end of the fifth, but it was Whyte who did all the pressing in Rounds 6 and 7.
Whyte kept hammering away to the body, and in the eighth, Helenius began bleeding from his nose. The Finn was no longer a threat in the later rounds and was content to try to minimize damage.
Whyte landed an arcing right to the head in the 10th and loaded up with a lot of his punches, but a lot were blocked by Helenius.
Whyte, to his credit, never gave up on landing the KO blow and was still trying to hurt an exhausted Helenius to the body in the 12th round.
Yafai retains belt with decision win
Joshua’s former Great Britain amateur boxing teammate Kal Yafai unanimously outpointed Japan’s Sho Ishida, making a comfortable second defense of his WBA world junior bantamweight title, winning by scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112.
Yafai, 28, from Birmingham, England, won the vacant belt on points over Luis Concepcion in December before he outpointed Ishida’s fellow Japanese boxer Suguru Muranaka in May. More difficult nights than this await next year if he gets his wish of unification fights.
Ishida, 25, was taller and quicker, with Yafai carrying the superior power. Early on, Yafai was the aggressor and landed the cleaner punches, including a left uppercut at the end of the third round.
Yafai (23-0, 14 KOs), was mostly in control, but was momentarily stunned by a right hand in the seventh round. Ishida (24-1, 13 KOs), was difficult to catch, and it was far from a thriller, but Yafai landed more.
Frank Buglioni unanimously outpointed late replacement Craig Richards in a second defense of his British light-heavyweight title.
Richards (10-1, 4 KOs), who took the fight against Buglioni at only seven days’ notice after fighting in Belfast last Saturday, had some good moments early on, but Buglioni (21-2-1, 15 KOs), dominated from the sixth round to earn scores of 117-111 (twice) and 116-113.