Religion, boxing and family drive Katie Taylor in quest to become undisputed world champion

Taylor aims to unify the lightweight division (1:48)

Katie Taylor looks to join Cecilia Brækhus and Claressa Shields as she sets her sights on becoming the third unified boxing champion. (1:48)

Before she leaves her hotel room in New York on Saturday night, Ireland's Katie Taylor will be surrounded by her family, in deep prayer.

Joined in hands, they will pray all goes well for Taylor later that night when she tries to add the last remaining world lightweight title belt to her collection and become an undisputed champion. Taylor, the WBA-IBF-WBO 135-pound champion, faces WBC champion Delfine Persoon (42-1, 17 KOs), 34, of Belgium, in a clash to decide the queen of the lightweight division on the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Jr. undercard.

Sometimes tears roll down the cheeks of the deeply religious Taylor during one these family prayers, which are led by her mother, Bridget. It's an emotional moment, indicative of how important Taylor's Catholic religion is to her -- even more so than boxing.

Religion, boxing and family are the three pillars in Taylor's life, and they come together this week in one of the most significant moments she has ever experienced.

For Taylor (13-0, 6 KOs), 32, a victory over Persoon will be the biggest achievement of her decorated boxing career, which includes a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

"I think it would be better than winning Olympic gold," Taylor told ESPN. "This next chapter is going to be my greatest, yet the best is yet to come, I keep saying it. It's something I dreamed of, and I'm blessed to be in a great division.

"I want to be involved in big fights and make history, and this fight [against Persoon] would be both of those things. Amanda Serrano too, at the end of the year, is a fantastic fight and is one of the biggest fights in women's boxing right now. But I have to keep winning for these fights to happen."

Taylor's family has made the trip over from Bray, a coastal town south of Dublin. Brothers Lee and Peter and sister Sarah are also in New York for this fight.

A lot of Irish boxing fans will be in attendance as well, as Taylor holds major drawing power with her hometown fans. While Joshua headlines the card, just as many -- if not more -- of Taylor's fans are expected to fill Madison Square Garden as Joshua's supporters.

Saturday is all part of a plan hatched by manager Brian Peters and her promoter Eddie Hearn to make the Irishwoman the biggest star in women's boxing. Even before Taylor's last fight in March, when she captured a third world title with a ninth-round win over Brazil's Rose Volante in Philadelphia, Peters was talking about fighting in New York on Joshua's undercard on June 1.

"At a time when role models are scarce, she is an extraordinary ordinary person," Peters told ESPN. "She's never failed to deliver."

Peters also hopes to deliver Puerto Rico's seven-division world titleholder Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs), who is based in New York, at the end of the year. There is also Norway's Cecilia Braekhus, the undisputed world welterweight champion, who would be available in a catchweight fight.

But Taylor, who trains in Vernon, Connecticut, says she cannot afford to overlook the danger posed by 34-year-old Persoon (44-1, 18 KOs), who has made nine world title defenses, lost just once in 45 fights and works as a policewoman in her native Belgium.

Taylor has yet to box in her native Ireland as a professional, unlike Persoon, who has had all but one of her fights in her home nation. But she is happy training in Vernon with coach Ross Enamait, and sees her career being played out in the U.S.

Fighting in Ireland is "definitely something I want," Taylor said, "But I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. I'm trying to focus on America at the moment. Right now I've based myself here and fighting out here has more to offer me at the moment.

"Based in Vernon, Connecticut, the middle of nowhere, it's the perfect training environment for me. We are here and get great sparring and I feel really well prepared for fights."

For now, talks of megafights and trips back to her homeland will have to wait.

"This fight is going to be the toughest of my career so far," Taylor said, asserting her focus is squarely on the fight at hand.

"Delfine is a fantastic champion, she's got 43 wins and just one loss, she's been a long-reigning champion and she's a fantastic person. I know that this is going to be tough and that's why I've trained so hard and had a tough camp as I know that this is so big for me, not just for the immediate success but for my future plans.

"She's very tall and awkward, she punches non-stop for the 10 rounds and I think it's going to be a very physical fight. She'll bring the best out of me as I have the utmost respect for her and we're going to lay it all on the line."