“This is crazy!”
Amanda Serrano was left to offer that phrase as the final friendly verbal exchange with undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor as they stood center ring for referee Michael Griffin’s final pre-fight instructions. Their April 30 pound-for-pound showdown came with unprecedented press coverage and an enormous amount of hype, to where there wasn’t any way that the first-ever women’s bout to headline at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden could possibly meet exceedingly high expectations.
They somehow found a way to surpass it.
Ireland’s Taylor (22-0, 6KOs) forever raised the bar for women in boxing, beginning with her taking the lead in having this side of the sport debut in the 2012 London Olympics where she captured a Gold medal. It was fitting that she anchored the historic moment at the 140-year-old Madison Square Garden, even more so that the moment was shared by Serrano who has won major titles in a record seven weight divisions and who was fighting two divisions above her natural featherweight frame for the occasion.
From the opening seconds of round one until the bell to end the tenth and final round, the action never relented—to the delight of the sold-out MSG crowd. Taylor built an early lead before Serrano—a Puerto Rican southpaw based out of nearby Brooklyn—came roaring back in a round five that saw her land 44 punches in just 120 seconds. Taylor barely survived what was easily the worst round of her already historic career, with Serrano continuing to bring the pain in round six.
Taylor rallied over the second half of the fight, to the point where Serrano (43-2-1, 30KOs) needed a knockout to erase a deficit on two of the three scorecards. The Puerto Rican superstar had her moment in the final ten seconds, briefly rocking Taylor but unable to land that one final, game-changing shot to make history for her beloved island.
A win by Serrano would have crowned Puerto Rico’s first-ever undisputed champion, regardless of gender. Taylor swept the final three rounds to end that dream, winning on the scorecards of judges Glenn Feldman (97-93) and Guido Cavalleri (96-93) to overrule the dissenting card in favor of Serrano provided by Benoit Roussel (96-94).
The final outcome was met with mixed reaction. Taylor’s throng of supporters on site and watching at home on DAZN felt the unbeaten Irish legend was a worthy winner; many others believed that Serrano was denied the chance to add yet another historic moment in a career spent shattering records.
The truth is that there were not any losers that night, even if Serrano’s 28-fight unbeaten streak spanning ten years came to a close. MSG—long dubbed ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’—was blessed with one of its most iconic combat sports moments in its 140-year history. The sport was granted an instant classic, one that stood the test of time and shattered the glass ceiling long in place for women in boxing.
Boxing fans can take joy in the possibility of a rematch taking place sometime in spring 2023, likely a long-overdue home game for Taylor who will get to fight in Ireland for the first time as a pro. The sequel could somehow surpass the original in terms of pure spectacle, with an estimated crowd of 80,000 expected to pack Croke Park in Dublin.
Whether the action itself can outdo the original remains to be seen. Just don’t tell Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano what they can’t do. They already heard that song prior to April 30, at which point they provided the runaway choice for BoxingScene.com’s 2022 Women’s Fight of the Year.
The runners-up for BoxingScene.com’s 2022 Women’s Knockout of the Year award are listed below, in chronological order.
Marlen Esparza UD10 Naoko Fujioka (April 9, San Antonio, Texas): Don’t be fooled by the absurdly-scored shutout cards turned in by judges Jesse Reyes (100-90) and Wilfredo Esperon (100-90; the lineal/WBC/WBA flyweight championship was a nip-and-tuck affair for all ten rounds at San Antonio’s famed Alamodome. Judge Lisa Giampa (97-93) was the closest to reality, as Houston’s Esparza (13-1, 1KO) opened hot and closed strong to defend her WBC title while lifting the WB title from Fujioka, Japan’s lone-ever five-division champion.
Delfine Persoon UD10 Elhem Mekhaled (May 21, Abu Dhabi, UAE): The lone non-title fight on this year’s list was also by far the standout moment on what was otherwise a dumpster fire of an event. The bout was nearly scrapped after the traveling circus topped by Floyd Mayweather’s exhibition bout versus Don Moore was forced to shut down plans for an already rescheduled date in Dubai. Belgium’s Persoon and France’s Mekhaled already flew back home before being put back on a plane barely 48 hours ahead of what became a fiercely contested ten-round slugfest. Persoon (47-3, 19KOs)—a former long-reigning WBC lightweight titlist—outlasted the unbeaten Mekhaled to earn a close but well-deserved points win.
Claressa Shields UD10 Savannah Marshall (October 15, London): The undisputed middleweight championship easily wins this category in any other year. The significance of the fight and the event it topped was significant to where the death of Queen Elizabeth II could merely postpone it by five weeks but not prevent it from ultimately taking place. Shields (13-0, 2KOs) entered as a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and unbeaten three-division champ but whose lone defeat in the amateurs came ten years prior to Marshall (12-1, 10KOs), who was given no worse than a puncher’s chance to repeat the feat in the pro ranks. Shields prevailed in what the self-proclaimed ‘GWOAT’ (Greatest Woman Of All Time) confessed to be the toughest fight of her storied career to fully unify the middleweight division for the second time and become a three-time undisputed champ.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox