By Thomas Gerbasi
As Cindy Serrano approaches her Saturday bout with Edina Kiss, the focus may be less on Serrano’s Barclays Center debut, and more on why the Serrano sisters apparently have it out for the Budapest native.
Serrano laughs, knowing that with a win this weekend, it will be Serrano sisters 3-0 over Kiss in a trio of bouts, two already won by five-division world champ Amanda. But Cindy, the WBO featherweight champion, isn’t overlooking her opponent in this eight-round non-title contest.
“She’s a durable opponent, very tough,” Serrano said. “She fought twice with Heather (Hardy) too. A lot of females don’t really want to fight, but she was game, so we said, ‘All right, let’s do it.’ I wasn’t looking for her personally, she just happened to say, ‘I’ll do it.’ She’s a tough cookie.”
In fact, the only one to stop the 14-5 Kiss is Cindy’s sister, and she did it twice. Will lightning strike thrice in Brooklyn?
“I’m not saying the outcome is gonna be the same, but it’s definitely a great fight,” she said. “Amanda’s one of a kind.”
Five world titles confirm that notion from her big sister, but Cindy is no slouch in the ring herself. A pro since 2003, she has taken the hard road to the top, battling it out with the likes of Layla McCarter, Jessica Rakoczy, Anne Sophie Mathis and Mikaela Lauren. If some of those names sound familiar as non-featherweights, that’s because Serrano has fought everywhere from super bantamweight to welterweight.
“As you know, the female fighters don’t get a lot of money, so when I was started, I was just chasing the money and was like, ‘Let’s do it,’” she said. “I fought girls heavier than me in their hometowns. We’re road dogs, we just go fight. (Laughs) But featherweight, this is definitely home.”
In December of last year, Serrano defeated Calixta Silgado for the vacant WBO crown, and she’s since defended it successfully with a May win over Paola Torres. This weekend, she gets to debut in her hometown arena, a place her sister has graced three times already.
“It’s definitely gonna be exciting,” she said of her Barclays debut. “My trainer (Jordan Maldonado) and my sister are there in the corner, so those are the only eyes I see and voices I hear, but I’m excited. Everyone’s dream is to fight there, so it’s a dream come true. I’m doing it with pride for Puerto Rico, and that’s my main goal after the tragedy over there, to wave my flag high and hopefully put some smiles on people’s faces. And what better place to do it than a couple blocks away from home?”
What better place indeed? And though Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Team Serrano has stayed focused on the fight while also doing their part to collect items for the people of Puerto Rico.
“It hits hard and it hits home,” she said. “It was definitely a hard training camp. Jordan has some family out there, so his mind was a little offset. And when you have friends and family in need of help, even little things like batteries and water, things that we take for granted over here, it definitely hits home. But we still trained and will perform great for them.”
You can expect to see plenty of flags flying on Saturday night, because in good times or bad, Puerto Ricans always come out to support their fighters.
“We’ve got a lot of pride and we have no filters,” Serrano laughed when asked why boxing is such a big deal to Puerto Ricans. “We get excited and the fans go wild. It’s definitely gonna be a great one. And the great thing about it is even if they don’t know you personally, if you’re a Puerto Rican and you show your pride, they’re with you a hundred percent. It’s awesome.”
With everything going on, it’s easy to forget that a win by Serrano on this stage can jumpstart a career that has had its ups and downs and starts and stops. The 35-year-old admits that the reality of the sport for women has caused her to “lose focus sometimes,” but she’s still swinging and eager to take the next step. But unlike Amanda, Cindy’s next step won’t involve mixed martial arts.
“Not at all,” she laughs. “I did one day of kicking and the next day I couldn’t even walk. I look at Amanda, and she’s very tough and strong, and the look on her face sometimes, and when she goes home, the bruises, oh, I can’t do it. I’m old. (Laughs) I’ve been doing this too long. Fifteen years, my body has its wear and tear, and I definitely won’t do it. I tried it one day and said, ‘Nope.’ I give her all the credit in the world.”
Cindy Serrano is keeping her punching in the boxing ring, and on Saturday night, she finally gets her chance to shine at home. Has she pictured that moment? Not exactly, but she does have an idea about how things will go.
“I’m very focused when I’m in there,” she said. “After the win and they announce my name and I hear the crowd, that’s when the emotions will probably settle in. But right before then, I’m kind of mean. (Laughs) At the end, though, the Serrano sisters are crybabies, so I might shed a tear.”