Rarely does any hotly anticipated boxing match between champions live up to the hype. But once in a while, all the stars align, and we’re lucky enough to be witnesses.
In front of a sold-out house of 19,187 roaring fans at Madison Square Garden, where so much boxing history has been made, Katie Taylor of Ireland and Amanda Serrano of Brooklyn became part of a 140-year legacy with the first women’s main event Saturday night.
It was Taylor who prevailed in the high stakes contest, winning by split decision over Serrano to retain her undisputed women’s lightweight world championship. Scores were 97-93 and 96-93 for Taylor and 96-94 for Serrano.
“What a fight. I think we’re both winners here tonight,” said Taylor. “Look what we’ve just done, sold-out Madison Square Garden, the biggest women’s fight in boxing history. Both of us have fought so many burdens our whole careers. I’m just grateful to be in this position. What a fight, what a win.”
Game Plans Follow The Script
Serrano and Taylor both applied their expected game plans, the southpaw Serrano pressing forward and the skilled Taylor striking and constantly moving. With two-minute rounds, every move becomes critical.
Serrano found early success backing Taylor to the ropes to restrain her movement. The crowd was so loud, referee Michael Griffin and the fighters didn’t hear the bell ending the third round, and it had to be sounded twice.
Serrano began to take command, finding the right distance, pressing Taylor back, and landing combinations. Taylor suffered a cut over the left eye in the fourth round, and Serraro had Taylor rattled at the end of the round. She picked right up where she left off in the fifth round, pinning Taylor and pounding to the body. It worked. Serrano unloaded, hammer away with Taylor hanging on for life, dazed and bloodied on stiff legs. With 20 seconds left, Serrano poured it on. Taylor got out of the round on sheer instinct.
It seemed the fight might be over. But in coming up two weight divisions to fight Taylor, Serrano may have underestimated just how hard it would be. She continued to press Taylor to the ropes, but the champion landed several body shots and took a risk to trade with Serrano.
This is where a champion has to decide how badly they want to win. Taylor dug down just as Serrano eased off just the slightest bit. It was all the opening Taylor needed for a comeback. Serrano’s punch output dropped, and Taylor gave it everything she had to win rounds down the championship stretch.
With Taylor landing more punches, Serrano lost a grip on her rhythm. Taylor was now in control, and it won her the fight. As NYFights.com editor Abe Gonzalez posted in real-time:
— Abraham Gonzalez (@abeG718) May 1, 2022
“I knew exactly I had to dig deep for this fight. I knew I was going to be in the trenches,” said Taylor. “She’s a phenomenal fighter, a great, great person. I had to have the heart to go through it.” Taylor praised her trainer Ross Enamait for keeping her on track and guiding her to the win.
Serrano was disappointed but not downcast after the loss. “I hit her with harder punches. I almost had her out in one round. I’m happy that we finally got this over with. I am the smaller girl. I’m still champion at featherweight. I came up two divisions to fight the best. I showed I’m a true warrior. That says it all.”
Rematch In The Emerald Isle?
Talk of a rematch began after the congratulations. Both fighters and promoters, Eddie Hearn and Jake Paul, were on board.
“Katie Taylor is one of the greatest things to come out of Ireland,” said Hearn. “If we don’t go back to Ireland before her career is over, it’s a shame. Tonight, these two are a credit to the sport of boxing.”
“One hundred percent,” said Paul to the rematch overseas. “We got some unsettled business. I thought it was a draw at best. Let’s run it back in Ireland.”
Women’s tennis, women’s soccer, and now women’s basketball have crossed over to attract large audiences. Thanks to Taylor and Serrano, women’s boxing now has its proof of concept audiences will pay to see quality competition.
“They say nobody wants to see women? This place is jam-packed,” said Serrano. “Thank you for coming out. Irish, Boricuas, we put on a hell of a show. Katie is a great champion. I’m truly honored to share the ring with you. Best fighting the best. You don’t see that much. We showed women can sell. Women can fight. And we put on a hell of a show.”
Women’s boxing pioneers Christy Martin and Leila Ali, who were on hand at The Garden, surely agree. Once in a while, boxing gets it right.
Crews-Dezurn Becomes Undisputed Super Middleweight Champion
Franchon Crews-Dezurn of Baltimore (8-1, 2 KOs) lived to her moniker “The Heavy Handed Diva” and then some, dominating Elin Cederoos of Sweden (8-1, 4 KOs) for ten bloody rounds in a thrilling show for fans at The Garden. Crews-Dezurn becomes the unified, undisputed women’s super middleweight world champion, winning by unanimous decision. Scores were 99-91 X 2 and 97-93 for Crews-Dezurn.
As the scores were read, Crews-Dezurn closed her eyes and breathed in the moment as all four belts were placed on her shoulders.
“I saw this moment. I visualized this many times. I never thought I was going to get here,” said Crews-Dezurn, who thanked trainer Barry Hunter, husband Glenn Dezurn, and undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields, who gave Crews-Dezurn her first pro bout and has supported her since.
“I’m blessed, thank you. I’ve gone through losing my first fight. I’ve gone through managing myself. I’ve gone through fighting a steroid cheat. I’ve got through I losing my hair, but I say fuck that hair, I want the belts. And I’ve got all of them!” said an elated Crews-Dezurn.
Crews-Dezurn found the right moment to deliver the best fight of her career. Working with Hunter and Performing Athletes for nutrition guidance made it all come together for Crews-Dezurn. She showed excellent conditioning and pushed her work rate. Delivering a steady stream of impressive power shots, Cederroos was a bloody mess by the third round. The Swedish fighter showed determination and an impressive chin to keep her in the fight. Cederroos landed a handful of hard shots through the fight, but not enough to seriously challenge the American, but enough for Hunter to lecture Crews-Dezurn between rounds.
Crews-Dezurn: ‘I am present, I earned it, I am enough'
“I still have some improvement, my nerves got me a little bit, but this is the start of something new,” said Crews-Dezurn. “Because I know the road gets harder, it doesn’t get easier. I want to still compete at an elite level. I’m going to keep working harder.”
Crews-Dezurn admitted deviating from the game plan to go to the right. “I felt her punches, and they weren’t harder than mine. If we’re going to sit there and trade, we’re going to sit there and trade,” calling it “target practice.”
“A lot of people want to be good. But my coaches, my husband, Barry, they want me to be great. So they never let me settle, ever.”
“I’m going to bask in this moment. I am here, I am present, I earned it, I am enough, and I am the undisputed champion of the world!” exclaimed Crews-Dezurn.
Liam Smith Stops Jessie Vargas in Co-Main
In the co-main event, Liam “Beefy” Smith of England (31-3-1, 18 KOs) and Jessie Vargas of Las Vegas (29-4-2, 11 KOs) turned up the heat, getting bloodied and battered in a do or die fight, career must content for both combatants. The naturally stronger and heavier man, Smith prevailed over Vargas in his first super welterweight fight and his first fight in 26 months. Referee Steve Willis stopped the fight at 41 seconds of the tenth round of the 12-round bout. Smith wins a WBO minor belt.
The 33-year-old Smith stays relevant in a competitive division, while Vargas can and should retire to focus on his political campaign in Nevada.
Undercard Results: Yafai, Williams, Mati, Nicolson Win
All the favorites won on the undercard with ease.
Middleweight prospect Austin “Ammo” Williams of Houston (11-0, 9 KOs) took out Chordale Booker of Stamford, Connecticut (17-1, 7 KOs) with ease for a first-round TKO. Time for Williams to step up in competition a bit.
Flyweight Galal Yafai of Birmingham (2-0, 2 KOs) continues to show the skills that won him an Olympic gold medal with a second-round stoppage of Miguel Cartegena of Philadelphia (17-7-1, 8 KOs).
Reshat Mati of Staten Island (12-0, 7 KOs) went all eight rounds with Joe Eli Hernandez of Mexico (12-2, 10 KOs), scoring a total shutout of 80-72 on all cards.
Australian prospect Skye Nicolson of Australia got her third pro win in three months with a six-round unanimous decision over Shanecqua Paisley Davis of Houston (3-2). Nicolson scored her first knockdown at the end of the fight to put a stamp on her win. She intends to fight two to three more bouts and book an eight-round bout before 2022 is over.