Face of Flanders: Delfine Persoon


Bleeding from both eyebrows, Delfine Persoon from West Flanders became the lighweight boxing champion of the world

Self-proclaimed "hard-headed type"

Jean-Pierre Coopman took Muhammad Ali to nearly five rounds in 1976, and that’s as close as a Belgian has ever come to a world boxing title. Until now.

On Easter Sunday, in a packed hall in Wingene, West Flanders, Delfine Persoon, 29, became the World Boxing Council’s lightweight champion of the world. That brings Persoon’s world titles to four, but the WBC title is considered the real thing.

Persoon (pictured) defeated Erica Anabella Farias from Argentina on a unanimous points decision – 96-92, 96-92, 96-93. The bout itself was messy: both women were warned about head-butting, and Farias was also warned over her trademark holding. Persoon finished victorious, bleeding from both eyebrows. But that didn’t spoil the mood for the victor – or for the crowd in the Zwevezele sports hall.

Persoon was born in Hooglede in the middle of West Flanders in 1985. As a child, she went to ballet class with her elder sister. At the age of six, again following her sister, she took up judo and went on to win medals up to national level, moving on to the school for top sports performers in Antwerp before a back injury put an end to that career, with two Belgian champion titles under her belt.

The switch to boxing was originally for fitness rather than competition. No-one could then have predicted what has now happened. When Persoon's trainer Filiep Tampere first saw her training, she told De Standaard last week, “he told me: ‘You can’t box forward, you can’t step backwards, your guard is worthless, you don’t know how to punch, and you lead with your chin.' I couldn’t do anything." 

But, she continued, “nobody ever had to teach me how to give it my all. When I was a kid, and someone shoved me, I shoved back so hard my opponent fell over, and I won. As a judoka I wasn’t afraid to break arms. You get these hard-headed types who just won’t give in. I’m one of those.” 

Photo by David Stockman / Belga