The Biggest Women’s Boxing Match Ever Will Get A Sequel
2:06 PM EST on February 6, 2023
Ahead of her fight in New York on Saturday night, Amanda Serrano did her best to keep the focus on the task at hand, and not the match-up everyone wanted to talk about. Following the pre-fight press conference, she even went so far as to publicly apologize to her opponent, Erika Cruz, for the way so many in the sport were looking past her and toward a Serrano rematch with undisputed lightweight champ Katie Taylor.
But after Serrano got her expected victory to become undisputed featherweight champ—maybe in a slightly more difficult fashion than she anticipated—it took no time at all for Cruz to be relegated to afterthought. That Taylor was present at the fight betrayed both camps' plans before the first bell even clanged, and as soon as it was over, Serrano's rival was in the ring to help promote a rematch of probably the greatest and most important women's fight ever, to take place in Dublin on May 20.
I don't want to shortchange what was in fact a very good bout between Cruz and Serrano in the theater below MSG. Cruz, though a heavy underdog, came in as a highly ranked contender with a hard-earned belt and did not back down from the challenge. She fought an aggressive 20 minutes that saw her land more punches than any opponent Serrano had faced before. But Serrano worked just as hard and held advantages in both accuracy and power. Plus, after an accidental clash of heads in the third round, Cruz was forced to awkwardly deal with a steady stream of blood from her forehead, which both impaired her defense and tilted the visuals of the fight in Serrano's favor.
After a scorecard in which two judges went 8-2 Serrano and one went 7-3, Cruz will find it difficult to return to a stage this prominent. But Serrano has her eyes set on the biggest fight of her life. In April 2022, she stepped up from featherweight to lightweight, entered the main arena at MSG for an unprecedented women's main event at that venue, and gave Taylor an impressive first-half beatdown before a late comeback allowed the champ to retain in a tight, contested split decision. A little over a year later, Serrano will enter the undefeated Taylor's home country and try to play spoiler by delivering a fight just a little more complete than the one she fought in New York.
It's unfair to talk about Taylor and Serrano as if they are the only female boxers who matter—or even the clear-cut best in the sport, given the presence of undefeated champs Claressa Shields and Chantelle Cameron. But it's also hard to deny that they're by far the most compelling pair, male or female, that the boxing overlords can conceivably put together in a ring right now. Their rivalry is so much more than just "they're both really good and have a lot of belts." It's a microcosm of all that is frustrating about women's sports and a tribute to the tenacity of those within it.
Both Taylor and Serrano endured the stigma and second-rate conditions of women's boxing in their youth, but they each took sharply contrasting paths to get to their meeting last year. Taylor, fighting out of Bray, County Wicklow, was thrust into this complicated role of anointed barrier-breaker. She won the first-ever officially sanctioned female boxing match in Ireland at age 15 and eventually became a national hero through her Olympic gold at London 2012. Though her elevation has sometimes felt like a token nod to gender equality in a sport that heavily favors the promotion of men's fights—she's often been in the lone female fight on her Matchroom Sport–promoted cards—Taylor's been winning in prominent arenas for her entire professional career, and as such has been the face of women's boxing for most fans. When you look at the all-male cards outside the Matchroom universe, it's clear no one else has really been allowed the opportunity to come close.
Serrano, a Nuyorican, got no such support or institutional attention. While Taylor's resume almost exclusively boasts appearances at easily recognizable spots like Wembley, the O2, MSG, and more, Serrano's fights have been mostly concentrated in anonymous hotels and casinos across the eastern U.S. and the Caribbean. But after toiling in obscurity and earning small paydays for over a decade, she got her big break with a pair of winning performances on the undercard of shows that might be anathema to boxing purists: Jake Paul pay-per-views. Roll your eyes all you want, but Deron Williams vs. Frank Gore helped pave the way for this massively anticipated Taylor-Serrano sequel.
Their first bout in New York was so completely defined by its own singularity, and what it meant for women's boxing as a whole, that it couldn't help but overwhelm the personal stories of each competitor. But the stirring, closely contested in-ring back-and-forth guaranteed that these two wouldn't stop at just 10 rounds. Now that everyone's hopefully done patting themselves on the backs for making money off the other half of the world hitting each other, Taylor-Serrano 2 can perhaps be less about its own significance and more about the athletes themselves.
There's no shortage of compelling backstory here. The Chosen One of women's boxing is having a homecoming after 22 straight wins across the U.K. and U.S. In Dublin, she'll look to retain in a rematch after a shaky defense against a woman who has consistently refused to be discouraged, who gained weight to challenge the Queen in her own division, and who forcibly seized the attention of every audience she fought in front of until people started turning out by the thousands to see her in a main event. I don't even care what history this fight makes. It's going to be awesome.