NEW YORK — Since The Ring magazine was established 100 years ago this year, no women have won the coveted Fight of the Year award.
And until this past Saturday, April 30, no two female boxers ever combined to earn as much money from a single fight, banking seven figures each.
New York City seemed even bigger that night, and the build-up to the fight felt meaningful. For once in this sport, women were treated like equal stars—it’s been long overdue.
We’re not all the way there yet: Katie Taylor (21-0, 6 knockouts) and Amanda Serrano (42-2-1, 30 KOs) still fought the standard 10 two-minute rounds, as is customary for women’s boxing championships, as opposed to the 12 three-minute rounds their male counterparts must endure. But the ladies still commanded the attention and emotions of all 19,187 fight fans in a sold-out Madison Square Garden for what was billed as the biggest boxing match in women’s boxing history.
There wasn’t a ton of trash talk in the lead-up, as if both rivals knew the fight itself needed to supersede the potential drama surrounding it. But there was little of that, even with controversial YouTube star Jake Paul involved as Serrano’s promoter.
Serrano, who was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico and grew up in Brooklyn, is the current WBC and WBO featherweight champion and one of four current world boxing champions who are Puerto Rican (the others being Shakur Stevenson, McWilliams Arroyo, and Jonathan González).
Taylor defended her undisputed lightweight champion status —as in the WBC, WBO, WBA, IBF, and Ring titles— at 135 pounds against Serrano, the Guinness World Record holder for most boxing world championships held by a woman in different weight classes. Serrano has held nine major world titles across seven weight classes, from super flyweight to light welterweight.
I first interviewed Serrano six years ago at a post-fight press scrum for the first boxing card I ever covered after graduating college. It was July 28, 2016, two days before a fight card at the Barclays Center topped by Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton, who waged war over the glory in the form of a WBA super world featherweight championship.
Serrano was scheduled to defend her WBO world featherweight title against Calista Silgado. Serrano was 28-1-1 with 21 knockouts at the time, and Salgado was 14-6-3 with nine KOs and, like most of Serrano’s challengers, widely overmatched.
Serrano would often discuss unequal wages for women in boxing, as someone who would watch male equals pocket seven figures while she’d reel in, at times, low four-figure sums while working a normal day job. But she and her peers were always optimistic that change would come, as far away as it seemed.
The fight itself was a first-round TKO victory for Serrano, but the highlights only aired on the Showtime Extreme preliminary card that preceded the main Showtime card. In short, it wasn’t amplified the way it should’ve been, even if it was expected to be one-sided dominance.
And in interviewing Serrano again, months later at a Retro Fitness in Queens as she prepared to fight in San Juan, Puerto Rico against journeywoman Alexandra Lazar —who she would TKO in 44 seconds— she again talked about the fight within the fight: her desire to provide a path to equal pay for female boxers.
Over the last several years, Serrano and other women continued to make progress in boxing, but the sport’s been slow to adjust. There are more female fighters now than ever but still only occasional television and pay-per-view showcases for women. It led, at least in part, to women turning to mixed martial arts for another challenge and better pay—Serrano is 2-0-1 in MMA— being among them, along with record-setting world boxing champion Claressa Shields and fellow Brooklynite and former world titlist Heather Hardy, whom Serrano out-boxed in September of 2019.
Along the way, a fight between Taylor and Serrano had been rumored, as one of the keystone dream match-ups in the sport.
Taylor, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist in boxing who turned pro after the 2016 Games, quickly became a world lightweight champion 10 months and seven fights into her career, unifying a second world title in April 2018 and eventually becoming undisputed lightweight champion in June 2019 at Madison Square Garden. But since then, Taylor had been successfully defending her titles in the United Kingdom, skillfully outscoring competitive challengers while gaining fanfare and acclaim overseas as Serrano continued her dominance stateside before aligning with the aforementioned Paul, who now helps manage the 33-year-old’s career.
And thus, finally, Serrano got her shot at Taylor.
Hyped as the greatest women’s boxing match of all time, the bout may have been exactly as advertised. The counterpunching Taylor leaned on her movement and jab to try and dictate the action, while the forward-coming Serrano relentlessly pressured her way to success throughout the night.
Taylor opened with a strong first round, maintaining a mostly safe distance while finding her range and timing, keeping Serrano at bay from fight-changing onslaughts. Serrano increased her activity going forward, culminating in her single best round in the fifth, where she outlanded Taylor 44 punches to 14, nearly dropping her on multiple occasions, which you could successfully argue showed enough to be a 10-8 round in her favor. Taylor went back to counterpunching in the late rounds, particularly from rounds seven through nine, where she took advantage of a seemingly waning Serrano, who spent much of her energy in the middle rounds trying to assert her offense.
Round 10 was quite simply a Round of the Year candidate.
WHAT A FINISH. WHAT A FIGHT. ???
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) May 1, 2022
Only one of the three judges ruled the bout in Serrano’s favor with a 96-94 score, awarding Taylor a split decision as she tallied 97-93 and 96-93 on the remaining two cards. Still, though Serrano gained another loss on her record —only her second one and the first since April 2012— both legendary ladies win in the bigger picture, and there are already calls for a rematch.
Serrano is yet another Latina changing her industry from the inside for those to follow. The change Serrano has always fought for is here, but, as usual, it’s on the men in her field to help secure that change. Having watched her career blossom from non-TV bouts to selling out MSG, if one thing’s certain, she’ll fight her heart out for it, as she always does.
We Won for Equality.
We Won for Fair Pay.
We Won for Boxing.
We Won for Women
We Won for Young Girls.
— Amanda Serrano (@Serranosisters) May 1, 2022
Bryan Fonseca is an award-winning content creator and sports journalist. He is also the author of Hidalgo Heights, and the founder, host and executive producer of the Ain’t Hard To Tell Podcast and Side Hustle. Twitter: @BryanFonsecaNY