Madison Square Garden has served as host to countless boxing (and more recently MMA) championship bouts throughout its storied history, but this Saturday night will mark a first for the venue dubbed the mecca of boxing.
Ireland’s Katie Taylor (20-0, 6 KOs) will defend her status as undisputed lighrweight champion against Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised power-puncher Amanda Serrano (42-1-1, 30 KOs) in the first ever women’s boxing or MMA main event at MSG. Unfortunately, women’s boxing still is limited to a maximum of 10×2 minute rounds as opposed to 12×3 minutes for men’s fights, but perhaps one day that will be eradicated. For however long the fight lasts, it should be fantastic.
On a night when Oscar Valdez vs. Shakur Stevenson is set for a massive junior lightweight unification in Las Vegas, it’s Taylor vs. Serrano that is going to have the bigger attendance. According to promoter Eddie Hearn, over 14,000 tickets have already been sold and a sell out is expected. Hearn also revealed that both women are guaranteed seven-figure purses, which is also a historic first.
The promotional push for Taylor vs. Serrano is unlike any other major women’s boxing match from years past. NBC’s The Today Show had Taylor and Serrano in-studio to preview their matchup, a sign of mainstream attention more akin to men’s superfights as opposed to treating women’s boxing as a novelty act or a sideshow. The WWE announced a partnership with DAZN to help market the bout.
It wasn’t until 2012 that women’s boxing was introduced to the Olympic Games. We didn’t have a women’s boxing match headline a major Showtime card until Claressa Shields fought Christina Hammer in 2019. HBO never aired a women’s boxing match until Cecilia Braekhus vs. Kali Reis in 2018, which was somewhat cynical because it was the network’s last year airing live boxing and the budget had been so heavily slashed that this was the level of fight they could afford.
The likes of Christy Martin, Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Ann Wolfe, etc. may have had their great fights and moments in the spotlight, but they never were involved in a fight this large and also competed at a time when women’s boxing was laughed off as more of a novelty act than a sport to be taken seriously. When their era ended, women’s boxing was essentially off the airwaves among major networks and promotions until the past few years.
We often hear of men’s MMA fighters looking to boxing to secure grand paydays they wouldn’t dream of making in their own sport. On the women’s side we’ve seen the opposite, with Amanda Serrano, Claressa Shields, and Heather Hardy all competing in MMA and all citing pay as a factor. We’re not at the stage yet where the talent pool and interest in women’s boxing is on par with women’s MMA, but perhaps we’re reaching the point where the top names in the sport can generate public interest and earn massive paydays without having to career switch.
Taylor, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, has long established a major fanbase for herself in her native Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, headlining several Matchroom Boxing shows and featuring on multiple Anthony Joshua undercards. Taylor turned pro in 2016 and won her first world title in 2018 by beating Anahí Ester Sánchez for the vacant WBA lightweight title. One of her notable defenses was a decision over Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s sister, in late 2018. Arguably her most controversial and most difficult title fight was the undisputed/unification bout with Belgium’s Delfine Persoon in June 2019. Taylor was quite fortunate to win a majority decision to unify the 135 lbs division, and perhaps a different set of judges would’ve seen her unbeaten record come to an end. She did win the rematch in 2020 a bit more clearly and has had four more defenses of her four titles since then.
Serrano, who signed with Jake Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions, elevated her profile by co-headlining Paul’s two fights against Tyron Woodley. She’s also been on the main card of several Matchroom shows in New York, and headlined a Ring City USA card on the defunct NBC Sports Network last year in Puerto Rico. Among the names Serrano has beaten include Eva Voraberger, Heather Hardy, Yazmin Rivas, and her last stoppage was over Daniela Romina Bermúdez in that aforementioned PR card.
These two were supposed to fight in 2020, but the pandemic undoubtedly played a role in shelving the matchup and there was a heated dispute from Serrano’s side over their slashed purse amount. Since then, Serrano has changed promoters and the fight has only gotten bigger over the past two years.
The latest odds from DraftKings Sportsbook have Serrano as the slightest of favorites but this really is a 50-50 matchup. There’s no doubt that Serrano has the heavy advantage in punching power, whereas Taylor is more of a technician who relies on her overall boxing skill and ability to control the pace of her matches to win fights. What’s worth noting re Serrano’s power is that most of her knockouts have occurred in weight classes below lightweight, and Taylor has never been dropped so there may be some reason to be skeptical about whether or not Serrano can really bust up Katie with her best punches.
What I like about Serrano is her ability to go to the body and work in combinations both at range and on the inside. She is not a crude puncher with no boxing ability at all, don’t get it twister. Taylor hasn’t looked especially great in her showings against Firuza Sharipova (who admittedly put on an absurdly negative display) and especially Natasha Jonas, but she figures to still have the speed advantage and her ability to counter accurately may swing some tight rounds her way. At distance, Taylor has the edge and she’d be well served keeping it there as much as possible to do her best work.
Ultimately I think Serrano is the archetype of fighter who’s given Taylor trouble in the past, and her body shots will go a long way towards wearing Taylor down and inviting Serrano to her preferred pressure-based game. Taylor doesn’t have the firepower to dissuade Serrano from coming forward, so she’ll need the footwork clinic of her life to avoid getting trapped into Amanda’s style. I’m leaning towards Amanda Serrano by decision.
Speaking of undisputed, there’s another women’s title fight that’s for all of the belts. WBA and IBF super-middleweight champion Elin Cederroos (8-0, 4 KOs) takes on WBC and WBO champion Franchón Crews-Dezurn (7-1-1 NC, 2 KOs). What’s interesting is that Crews-Dezurn’s last title defense was actually a loss to Alejandra Jiménez, but Jiménez failed for PEDs and Franchon was reinstated as champion. It’s nevertheless still a difficult fight to predict between her and Cederroos, who’s not competed since beating Alicia Napoleon in January 2020.
Liam Smith (30-3-1, 17 KOs) takes on Jessie Vargas (29-3-2, 11 KOs) in a fight that’s objectively not very relevant to the top of the junior middleweight division but should feature a lot of action between two guys who can both throw a good clip and have study chins.
2020 Olympic gold medalist Galal Yafai (1-0, 1 KOs) also features on the undercard against Miguel Cartagena (15-4-1, 6 KOs) in a ten-rounder. He’s 29 years old and obviously just turned pro so they don’t want to wait too long to see if he’s a world-level fighter or not. Expect him to be in title contention at flyweight within a year or two if he keeps winning.
Middleweight prospect Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams (10-0, 8 KOs) takes on Chordale Booker (17-0, 7 KOs) in a battle of unbeatens. Williams should be favored and he’s both the heavier puncher and has higher upside, but Booker could be a tricky opponent.
It feels good to talk about an undercard that’s worth a damn.
Taylor vs. Serrano airs live on DAZN with a main card start time of 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT on Saturday, Apr. 30. Ring walks for the main event are expected for 10:15 PM ET/7:15 PM PT.