By Thomas Gerbasi
As the ladies of boxing hope that 2016 is the year that will bring them back to television and back in the public eye, no one is better equipped for such a positive development than Amanda Serrano.
Already a three-division world champion, it’s clear that the Brooklynite can fight. But when you add in that she knocks people out, has a strong local following and has crossover appeal, who better to help bring her sport to the masses?
“Throughout the years there have been so many good girls coming up in the game, and I hope that now that (Lou) DiBella signed me, signed my sister (Cindy), and has Heather (Hardy), he can show the world that we’re here to fight and should be televised.”
It should be a no-brainer, especially with the fighters DiBella has under contract. Hardy is an all-action fighter who has already been embraced by the mainstream and boxing media and the Serrano sisters are world-class competitors who have been fighting and beating top competition for years. All that’s left is for the networks to get on board, and then maybe women in boxing can get the exposure currently enjoyed by female mixed martial artists.
“The difference between boxing and MMA for the females is Dana White,” Serrano said of the UFC president. “Dana White put Ronda Rousey on the big screen and kept doing that for her and other female fighters. So we need that one promoter to do what he’s done, and I think DiBella can do that. He has television shows in New York and all over, so I think he will be able to do that. And now that he has a great team of women, he’ll be able to showcase that, and hopefully the networks will want to see it too.”
In the meantime, all Serrano and her peers can do is keep fighting, keep winning and keep putting on exciting fights. And luckily for Serrano, she’s been able to keep busy, sandwiching a two-fight 2014 with four-fight campaigns in 2013 and 2015. On Saturday, she’ll make her Barclays Center debut with a fight against Hungary’s Erika Kalderas for the vacant WBO featherweight title.
“It always feels good to fight at home,” Serrano said. “Like Dorothy says, ‘there’s no place like home.’ (Laughs) But I think winning anywhere, as long as I’m with my team and we get to celebrate that victory together, it’s awesome.”
The 27-year-old southpaw has won world titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds, and while her last crown was at lightweight, she has no problem going back to featherweight – or even further.
“I’m comfortable at that weight, and I fight wherever the opportunities are,” she said. “I fought at lightweight, at super featherweight, so wherever the opportunities are, I’ll be fighting. And after this fight, I may go down to 122 and win the title there.”
What would be better is for Serrano to stick around at 126 and perhaps face off with former world champion Jelena Mrdjenovich in what would be a clash of two of the sport’s biggest punchers. You want a TV fight with fireworks? That’s the one. And Serrano is just fine with that.
“I’ll fight anybody,” she said. “I want the belt, so if I have to go to Argentina and do what she couldn’t do over there and get the WBC and WBA, so be it.”
Mrdjenovich lost her WBC and WBA belts to Edith Soledad Matthysse in August, and Serrano, who has fought in Argentina before, is cool with picking up the Canadian’s hardware before what would be an epic showdown.
“You just have to stay strong-minded when you go overseas,” she said. “It comes with the territory.”
As for being the victim of a hometown decision, Serrano opts to bring her own judges, like she did when she knocked out Maria Elena Maderna in 2014.
“I kept putting pressure on and my corner kept telling me ‘you got this,’ and the sixth round came and I dropped her and she didn’t want no more, which was a relief for me because she was a tough, big girl.”
Kalderas, a recent world title challenger who has only lost once in 12 bouts, will be another tough test, but Serrano always has her secret weapon in the form of her lead sparring partner – sister Cindy, a former world champ in her own right.
“We’re so competitive that when we’re training, we’re always trying to overpower each other,” Serrano said. “When we’re running, I make sure I run faster than her; when she’s hitting the bag, I make sure I hit it harder than her. It’s always competitive with her. We’re the same blood and we just go at it, especially in sparring. She’s my best sparring partner because we go so hard with each other. Outside the ring, we’re sisters, I love her to death and I respect her. But when we’re in the boxing gym, it’s a totally different story, and we bring the best out of each other. It’s great motivation.”
And great viewing for those who get to watch those sparring sessions.
“Oh my God, it was so much better than the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight,” she laughs. “My trainer (Jordan Maldonado), sometimes he just sits back in awe. Even the people in the gym, they actually stop what they’re doing to watch us spar. That’s why the story came out about me and my sister one day fighting each other. When we spar, it’s like we’re fighting for a world championship. And most of our sparring sessions are better than most of the fights I’ve had – and harder.”
Does it sound like the world is ready for Amanda Serrano? If they’re not, they may be on Saturday. And that’s the plan.
“I fought on big stages before, so I’ve just got to perform my best and show everybody that I can fight and that I’m willing to die in there, and then come home with the victory and my belt.”