The idea that boxing's best rarely fight each other carries far less weight in recent years than in the decade prior. Boxing's run of frequent clashes between top fighters continues this Saturday when undisputed lightweight champion Kate Taylor defends her titles against unified featherweight champion Amanda Serrano in the biggest women's boxing clash in history.
Adding an extra layer of prestige to the fight, it is the first time women have ever headlined a boxing card inside New York's legendary Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, DAZN -- subscribe now).
Taylor has rattled off 20 straight wins to start her career, first becoming a world champion in October 2017 when she defeated Anahi Ester Sanchez to win the WBA lightweight belt. The fight with Sanchez was just the seventh in Taylor's professional career. In her ninth fight, Taylor added the IBF title to her collection. By June 2019, Taylor had unified all four world titles at lightweight, last collecting the WBC title by winning a dramatic thriller against Delfine Persoon.
Persoon had pushed Taylor nearly to her limits, counteracting Taylor's slick boxing by dirtying up the fight and baiting Taylor into a war. Taylor would establish her superiority over Persoon in another war two fights later, returning to lightweight to defend her undisputed status one fight after winning the WBO title at junior welterweight. In the rematch, Taylor took a narrow unanimous decision.
Taylor has now successfully defended her undisputed championship five times, setting up the massive fight with Serrano.
"It's definitely bigger now than it ever was before," Taylor said in an interview with BoxingScene.com. "A couple of years ago we were about to fight during the fight in Eddie's backyard. No people were going to be there, it would have been an empty arena.
"Here we are now in the most iconic venue in boxing. It's going to be a sellout and I'm very, very grateful that it didn't happen a couple of years ago. There was a time I was thinking, 'Gosh, this fight wasn't going to happen.' It would have been an awful shame if it didn't happen. It is the best versus the best and I'm very grateful."
Serrano is one of the best punchers in women's boxing, having piled up 30 stoppage wins in 44 professional bouts. Her power and aggressive style have guided her to world championships across seven weight classes.
Championship success didn't come as fast for Serrano as it has for Taylor, with Serrano's first world title coming in her 14th fight. Nor has Serrano had the same dramatic attention-grabbing fights as Taylor vs. Persoon.
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What has been a boost to Serrano, who has long been one of the top fighters in the sport, has been her association with Jake Paul. Paul, the controversial social media personality turned boxer, signed Serrano to his promotional company and threw serious muscle and financial backing behind pushing her as a star deserving of a major stage.
Serrano made good on that faith throughout 2021, twice defending her unified WBC and WBO featherweight titles before returning to lightweight in December to take a dominant win over Miriam Gutierrez to set up the bout with Taylor.
"Being a Latina from Brooklyn, I'm excited to say, 'I've made it'," Serrano said this week. "I'm fighting the main event at Madison Square Garden! I'm making seven figures, a young Latina from Brooklyn. I never thought it could happen.
"I've never fought at MSG; I did a tour there recently and then we did the press conference there; I was in awe of it, and I am so honored to be fighting here. I made history at the Hulu Theater by becoming seven-weight world champion and I won the Golden Gloves there too -- it's full circle now being able to be headlining in the big room and following some of the greats."
Elsewhere on this card, veterans Liam Smith and Jessie Vargas are set to make their returns to the ring. Smith, the Englishman who once held the WBO title at 154 pounds before losing to Canelo Alvarez in 2016, is back after a pair of bouts in 2021. He lost to Magomed Kurbanov in May before rebounding with a win over Anthony Fowler in October. Vargas, meanwhile, has been out of action since a February 2020 loss to Mikey Garcia. He's only lost to elite fighters over his 34-fight career, including defeats to Garcia, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
And another women's unification bout is set to take place as well. Franchon Crews-Dezurn and Elin Cederroos are set to battle for all four titles at super middleweight. Crews-Dezurn, 34, is unbeaten since losing her pro debut to multi-division champion Claressa Shields in November 2016. Cederroos, meanwhile, is undefeated in eight pro bouts since debuting in 2017. She has not fought since January 2020 when she outpointed Alicia Napoleon to take the WBA title.
Below is the complete fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to a prediction and pick on the main event.
Taylor vs. Serrano card, odds
Amanda Serrano -150
Katie Taylor (c) +125
Undisputed lightweight title
Liam Smith -270
Jessie Vargas +220
Franchon Crews-Dezurn (c) -150
Elin Cederroos (c) +125
Undisputed super middleweight title
Austin Williams -490
Chordale Booker +370
|Galal Yafai -2200||Miguel Cartagena +1100||Flyweight|
The fight largely comes down to whether or not Serrano can force Taylor into an ugly fight, similar to Persoon. Taylor struggles at times against fighters who are able to work to the body. She will need to use her slickness and speed to try to hold Serrano back from getting inside and going to work on her ribcage. That may be easier said than done, but Taylor is the naturally bigger fighter and there's some evidence that Serrano's best work is done at lower weight classes where she can be the complete bully.
What may ultimately decide the fight is the antiquated ruleset under which it will be contested. The women will not only be limited to 10 rounds rather than the 12 men fight in a championship contest, but also will only fight two-minute rounds. That limits the amount of time available for Serrano to battle her way inside. If Taylor can maximize the amount of time the fight is spent at distance, she'll be in good shape. On the other hand, if Serrano is able to quickly bull her way inside, she may be able to outwork Taylor.
It's a difficult fight to call but the two-minute rounds may shade things a bit in the direction of the underdog and defending undisputed champion. Pick: Katie Taylor via SD