The rematch is officially on between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano for Dublin on 20 May. An announcement could only come after 10 brutal and bloody rounds on Saturday night in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, the packed venue below the main arena here in the ancient fight city. The sloped venue was heaving with noise and devotion for Serrano, who was raised across the bridge in Brooklyn.
In the ring, Serrano added the WBA featherweight title to the IBF, WBC and WBO belts already in her possession; the win cleared the way for the rematch of last April’s fight. Taylor was ringside to witness the slugfest.
Serrano beat Mexico’s Erika Cruz over 10 rounds, winning on all three scorecards, but having to fight every second of every round. Cruz survived a massive cut under her hairline, a heavy knockdown and the odds being stacked against her. It was, at times, a crude offering, especially for a full unification fight, but it was also relentless entertainment.
Cruz refused to surrender and fought over every inch of the canvas. She fought like a boxer totally unaware that she was not expected to win.
Serrano will now gain eight or nine pounds to move back to lightweight for the Taylor fight. Serrano has actually won world titles in seven different weight divisions and across a 25-pound span in weight. The fight in Dublin – the venue has not yet officially been announced or secured – will be the first time that two unified champions, which is a boxer holding all four of the modern belts, have met.
“Katie travelled to America to fight me last year,” said Serrano after beating Cruz. “Now I will travel to Ireland to meet her.”
The Cruz fight was always going to be hard. Cruz simply would not quit and just kept going forward, head down and swinging. The blood from Cruz’s head wound was smeared across just about every inch of their exposed torsos; the cut came in the third from a clash of heads and it was impossible to stop.
In the 10th and last, with Serrano’s partisan Puerto Rican fans on their feet and waving flags, Cruz finally crumpled to the canvas from another vicious Serrano combination. She actually went down so heavily that it echoed. Cruz beat the count and continued swinging until the final bell.
“It was a good performance,” said Taylor, who joined Serrano in the ring at the end to launch their fight. Taylor is never comfortable doing anything that even remotely resembles a stunt. Taylor likes to live a private life, walk her dog and drive her speedboat. And, fight and train. On Saturday, she was a fleeting guest, a reluctant witness at her own serenade.
Serrano was arguably hit more than usual by the wild punches that Cruz launched, but possibly she also knew that Cruz’s fists were not a problem. Serrano is now 34, this was her 47th fight. There are no veterans in the women’s side of the sport quite like Serrano. Taylor has only fought 22 times and has already admitted that she has changed the way she prepares and spars; boxing is an unforgiving sport for both men and women.
Just before Serrano won all four belts, it was Alycia Baumgardner’s turn to add the WBA’s super-featherweight belt to her IBF, WBC and WBO versions. In another ten-round slugfest, Baumgardner beat Elhem Mekhaled of France on all three scorecards. Mekhaled was dropped twice and the fight looked over in the third, but she rallied each time.
She was dropped again in the 10th but it was ruled a slip, it was not. It was a gutsy display from Mekhaled and perhaps highlighted the obvious that Baumgardner needs to move up in weight; she has wanted Taylor for a long time.
First, it’s Dublin and Taylor and Serrano II, a fight where the many diamond and gold and soft-fur belts are not really needed. Taylor and Serrano will always fight for something a lot more meaningful.
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