Amanda Serrano gets undisputed title and rematch with Katie Taylor

One by one, the boxers poured into the Madison Square Garden theater on Saturday night, entering from backstage to the sound of their walkout music and with much fanfare from a packed house of 4,606 fans. Then came Amanda Serrano.

Serrano, who was looking to unify the women’s featherweight division titles, entered the theater from the back and made her way through the crowd with a trail of championship belts and Puerto Rican flags behind her, giving the tone for the rest of the night. She then wore down Erika Cruz of Mexico on her way to a unanimous decision victory that made her the undisputed women’s featherweight champion.

“I’m so emotional underneath. I finally made it for my island! Serrano said in the ring after a bloody, competitive fight.

It was Serrano’s first fight at the Garden since last April, when she lost a split decision to Ireland’s Katie Taylor in the main arena in one of the most famous women’s matches in boxing history. .

Before the sweat and blood dried from Serrano’s fight against Cruz, Serrano and Taylor’s camps announced a date for a highly anticipated match. revenge. It will be May 20, in Dublin, for Taylor’s lightweight titles.

Saturday’s fight was the key to this rematch. Serrano, 34, entered with a record of 43-2-1 and 30 knockouts, one of the best in women’s boxing. Cruz, 32, who turned pro in 2016, entered the fight with a 15-1 record and three knockouts. Despite having less experience than Serrano, Cruz was relentless. A third-round headbutt left Cruz wiping up the blood for the rest of the fight. But whenever it appeared she was out of gas, she kept shooting, using her low and long style to hit Serrano again and again.

As Serrano began to understand his opponent’s style, she would back away further and let Cruz tire himself out. Serrano held firm; Cruz started to get agitated. In the sixth round, Serrano was in control of the fight. She pulled out a flurry of combinations that left Cruz on the ropes and disoriented. Serrano’s message was clear: the undisputed title was his, and his alone. The friendly Serrano crowd knew it too.

Serrano, who was born in Carolina, PR, but raised in Brooklyn, centered her in-ring appearance on one of Puerto Rico’s original flags. Her Jordans were red, white and sky blue, and she wore a sports bra emblazoned with the logo of Econo, a supermarket chain in Puerto Rico. At the end of the fight, she draped herself in a sky-blue Puerto Rican flag.

Two judges had Serrano as the winner by a score of 98-92, and a third judge scored the fight, 97-93. According to CompuBox, Serrano and Cruz combined to land 459 of 1,917 punches per two-minute round. Cruz landed 202 of 968 punches thrown, the most by a Serrano opponent. But Serrano’s experience won out and she landed 257 of 949 shots.

Serrano wasn’t the only one to walk away with an undisputed title on Saturday. In the other main event at the Garden, Detroit-based Alycia Baumgardner defeated France’s Elhem Mekhaled in a unanimous decision to become the undisputed super featherweight champion.

Baumgardner has given up on his competition easily in recent months. She handed Mikaela Mayer her first professional loss in October to become the unified super featherweight champion of the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization.

Mekhaled was no exception. In round three, Baumgardner unleashed his power and took Mekhaled to the mat not once, but twice, in less than two minutes.

“I dug deep,” she said after the fight and was greeted with a round of applause when she noted that she had just started her period, “so everything is fine.”

Baumgardner clearly had his eyes set on bigger prizes.

“We want Katie Taylor, we want those best fights,” she said. “I want to challenge myself, it’s the only way to know where I am.”

But Serrano will have the first dibs.

Serrano went through one of the most intense training camps of his career to prepare for this fight: training twice a day and training three times a week consistently—sometimes for 13 rounds at a time—with men. Now, to get back in the ring with Taylor, she’ll have to add an extra 10 pounds to hit the lightweight class threshold.

With heavy breaths left from her battle with Cruz, Serrano said she was up to the task.

“I learned a lot and now I know what I have to do,” she said. “I’ve done enough” to beat Taylor, she said, “and I will do more.”

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