With a pair of marquee fights on opposite sides of the country, the sport of boxing took center stage in the United States on Saturday, including the biggest women's match in history.
Undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor (21-0, 6 KOs) edged seven-division champion Amanda Serrano (42-2-1, 30 KOs) via split decision in a fight of the year contender at New York's Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Shakur Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) provided a surgical dismantling of Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) to unify 130-pound titles in a battle of unbeaten junior lightweight champions.
Let's take a closer look at the biggest takeaways from a wild night at the fights.
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1. Some way and somehow, Taylor-Serrano exceeded expectations
In the first female combat sports main event in the 140-year history of "The World's Most Famous Arena" in midtown Manhattan, Taylor and Serrano did everything in their power (and then some) to elevate their sport. This showdown between the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the game was a skillful war with dramatic swings of momentum. But it was also free of trash talk and some of the excesses often associated with boxing. Even with a disputed result from the split trio of judges at ringside, both fighters showed nothing but class and humility in praising one another after the fight. Even better, everyone associated with this instant classic, including promoters Eddie Hearn and Jake Paul, showed an immediate want to run in back (possibly in Taylor's native Ireland). Despite the hype and pressure, both Taylor and Serrano refused to take a backward step in a skillful and savage display of their future Hall-of-Fame talents. This was a special night that won't be forgotten soon and the sold-out crowd of 19,000-plus produced one of the most electric atmospheres for a big fight this country has seen in years.
2. However you scored Taylor-Serrano, you were probably right
No, seriously, the fight really was that close. If there was ever a women's boxing match that deserved equal rules to the men when it comes to three-minute rounds and 12-round title bouts, it was this one. Instead, the two-minute round setup was bound to create a potential scoring controversy if there were no knockdowns. Luckily, in this case, the split-decision end result was anything but a robbery. With the exception of a dominant Round 5, in which Serrano routinely hurt Taylor, there was enough two-way action in each remaining stanza for it to have gone either way. In the end, the judges preferred Taylor's counter combinations to the harder single shots landed by Serrano in the big moments. Yet to illustrate how close this fight really was, Serrano outlanded Taylor by a margin of 173 to 147, according to CompuBox, yet it was Taylor who was far more accurate by landing 39% of her total punches and nearly 47% of her power shots. The fight could've gone either way and instantly demanded a rematch. There's no reason this incredible rivalry can't end up being a trilogy, when all is said and done.
3. Taylor showed the heart of a lion
Despite not being the bigger puncher of the two, the 35-year-old Taylor showed insane heart to survive nearly being finished in Round 5 and stubbornly refused to go away. Not only did Taylor look out on her feet at least twice during the harrowing round, it was the onslaught she unleashed the following round to stand her ground and land the bigger, cleaner shots in Round 6 that might have won her the fight. Taylor refused to allow Serrano to build sustained momentum, even with a cut above her right eye and blood flowing from her nose. With the loud fan bases of both fighters from the Irish and Puerto Rican communities cheering them on, Taylor needed every bit of determination inside of her to pull out the most important victory of her career. This was a vintage fight that demanded an old school performance of toughness to get the job done.
4. Boxing's next great star has arrived
Shakur Stevenson, the 24-year-old southpaw, put on nothing short of a master class of hit and not get hit as he widely outpointed Valdez in a unanimous decision that included a knockdown in Round 6. Although he's not known as a power puncher, Stevenson was sharp and quick enough to land just about anything he wanted against Valdez, leaving the Mexican warrior's face cut and blotchy in the aftermath. It's rare when a boxer gets compared to someone as clinical as Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather, but Stevenson actually deserves the mention in this case. He controlled distance with ease against Valdez and pieced him up with one combination after another. Not only will Stevenson be a fixture in the top 10 of just about every pound-for-pound list moving forward, it's not out of the question to wonder how soon it will be before he takes over the top spot. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist is a champion in two divisions and appears to have the speed, IQ and technique to eventually climb as high as welterweight when all is said and done.
5. Give us Stevenson vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko
Talk about a superfight in the making. Lomachenko, who has won titles in three divisions following an amateur career that produced a pair of Olympic gold medals, can still make 130 pounds with ease despite fighting at lightweight in recent years. Although he chose to sit out a shot at fighting unified 135-pound champion George Kambosos Jr. in order to suit up on the frontlines for his native Ukraine during its current conflict with Russia, the 34-year-old Lomachenko still finds himself ranked among the P4P best. A fight against Stevenson, regardless of which division it takes place at, has high-speed chess written all over it and could go on to be a passing of the torch from one generation's wizard to the next.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way on Saturday for both events, so be sure to follow along with the live results and highlights below.
- via split decision (94-96, 97-93, 96-93)
- Keyshawn Davis def. Esteban Sanchez via sixth-round TKO
- via first-round knockout
- Liam Smith def. Jessie Vargas via 10th-round TKO
- Franchon Crews-Dezurn (c) def. Elin Cederroos via unanimous decision (99-91, 99-91, 97-93)