Boxing Reaches New Heights After Historic Amanda Serrano-Katie Taylor Bout

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2022

New York , United States - 30 April 2022; Katie Taylor celebrates victory after her undisputed world lightweight championship fight with Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden in New York, USA. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
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It was one of those moments.

Moments where folks of a certain age shook their heads in amazement that they'd lived to see it.

For those unaware, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano fought at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

But they didn't just fight. They headlined.

Go ahead and read that again.

Two female boxers, one from Ireland and the other from Puerto Rico, were main-event principals in a lightweight title fight on an MSG card that included several men's bouts and was broadcast live by international streaming giant DAZN.

In the facility's history-sopped 140 years, it had happened precisely zero times.

And it wasn't the sideshow of Christy Martin, the go-to lady in Don King's promotional circus in the 1990s. Nor was it the novelty of Laila Ali, whose famous surname yielded consistent work for a stretch in the subsequent decade before she graduated to a TV career, or Mia St. John, whose Playboy cover appearance coincided with spots on Oscar De La Hoya undercards in 1999 and 2000.

3 Mar 2000:  Promoter Don King holds up the arm of Christy Martin after defeating Belinda Laracuente by way of unanimous decision after 8 rounds during their Women''s WBC Championship bout at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.  <<DIGITAL IMAGE>>   Manda
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Those acts titillated for a while but fizzled when attention spans waned.

Instead, this was two women with authentic in-ring pedigrees—Taylor from the Olympics and Serrano on the heels of titles in seven pro weight classes—seizing the main stage because of the talent they possessed and acumen they'd shown. And it occurred while two unbeaten male champions fought a unification about 2,500 miles to the west in Las Vegas, with a fraction of the fanfare.

And by the way, they delivered.

Delivered a classic that ended with a bloodied, swollen Taylor winning a split decision—taking 97-93 and 96-93 scores on two cards while Serrano took a 96-94 margin on the third.

"Women can sell. Women can fight," Serrano said. "And we put on a hell of a show."

Taylor agreed, and immediately suggested a second go-round—a sentiment shared by the business types.

"Let's run it back in Ireland," said Jake Paul, Serrano's promoter.

Going in, Randy Gordon had been one of the head-shakers.

The current SiriusXM Radio host is a former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and was responsible for green-lighting the first two women—super lightweights Kathy Collins and Laurie Bishoff—to fight in the state at a 3,000-seat theater on Long Island back in 1995.

Bishoff lost a four-round decision and never fought again.

Collins, ironically, met Martin in the final bout of what became a 20-bout career in 2001.

"When I licensed the first women to box in New York, I hoped to see this day," Gordon told Bleacher Report hours before the fight. "Almost 27 years later, it is happening."

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Now, the goal is to ensure it happens again and again, says Mark Taffet, former head of HBO's pay-per-view boxing arm and current manager of dual gold medalist and multi-division pro champion Claressa Shields.

Shields took the top podium steps at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and hasn't lost in the ring in 10 years—running up a 12-0 pro mark since debuting in 2016.

She appeared on HBO's final scheduled boxing broadcast in 2018 but hasn't consistently seized the narrative to the level of Taylor and Serrano's fight—leading to a brief crossover to mixed martial arts in 2021 in which she split two bouts.

MMA has been a higher-profile stage for female fighters, who've headlined three pay-per-view shows that have generated a million or more buys

Ex-boxer Holly Holm was a winner at one of those events—UFC 193 in 2015—defeating Ronda Rousey by KO. Holm, in fact, defeated Martin and St. John in consecutive bouts in 2005 and boxed for the final time in 2013.

Andy Brownbill/Associated Press

Shields returned to the ring in February and is penciled in to face UK native Savannah Marshall, the only boxer to ever beat her as an amateur, in July. The two have had heated exchanges at their respective lead-in fights and their enmity will be a significant selling point in the aftermath of Taylor-Serrano.

Shields has won titles at 154, 160 and 168 pounds and is the sport’s only reigning champion in two classes. Marshall, meanwhile, is also 12-0, has 10 KOs in those wins and holds the WBO title belt at middleweight, where Shields is the WBA, WBC and IBF title-holder.

Others poised to take the next step for women include minimumweight title claimant Seniesa Estrada, featherweight prospect Skye Nicolson—who won a six-rounder on Saturday's undercardand unbeaten American super featherweight Mikaela Mayer, who could be next on the agenda for Taylor, if she decides to delay a Serrano series.  

"When the best fight the best, there are no losers," Taffet told Bleacher Report.

"(Shields and Marshall) will capture the imagination of the whole world because of the intense rivalry between the two women. It will be not only a big fight but a sensational promotion between intensely competitive rivals.

“2022 will be the year that women's boxing turned the corner and rose to new levels in history."