A matchup once hailed the biggest female fight in boxing history has now devolved into a petty social media feud with threats of a legal battle.
For more than a year, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano have circled one another with hopes of colliding in a superfight. On four separate occasions, it appeared to be in play but recent events could not only cause yet another delay but potentially kill it altogether.
The latest proposed date of August 22—to take place in the backyard of Matchroom Boxing (Taylor’s promoter) headquarters in Brentwood, Essex, England—for Taylor’s undisputed lightweight championship remains in limbo. A very public dispute over money was once believed to have been resolved, but continues to remain a point of contention as Matchroom Boxing appears ready to move on with a new opponent, despite a last minute plea from its client.
“We both signed contracts, all financial barriers have been removed,” Ireland’s Taylor (15-0, 6KOs) tweeted on Sunday. “[A]ny training/travel issues are the same for both of us as I'm also training in the US.
“No more excuses, this is a fight to elevate the sport. August 22 is our time to make history. You in?”
Serrano has been in for such a fight dating back to her signing a three-fight deal with DAZN-USA early last year, a pact which also entered her and promoter Lou DiBella into an agreement with Eddie Hearn, managing director of Matchroom Boxing. The deal was to have been consummated with a superlight with Taylor, although several hiccups along the way have caused numerous delays.
All matters were thought to have been sorted out by last September, when Serrano (38-1-1, 28KOs)—a record-setting seven-division champion from Brooklyn by way of Carolina, Puerto Rico—took care of business by soundly outpointing Heather Hardy at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City to ignite a second featherweight title reign.
The post-fight press conference included the strong suggestion from both Hearn and DiBella that a Taylor-Serrano fight would be a perfect fit to headline the very same venue, targeted to coincide with International Women’s Day in early March.
“Amanda signed for (the Taylor fight) before this fight,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com shortly after Serrano-Hardy last September. “Lou has another champion, at 140 pounds who Katie wants to fight (Christina Linardatou, whom Taylor would go on to outpoint to win the title last November). She wants to move up and become a two-division world champion.
“Katie can make 135 easy. Perhaps 130 as well once upon a time. But she can make 135 and that’s where the fight will be—and it will headline here (at Hulu Theater). I don’t believe there’s ever been a women’s headliner here.”
It was a rare moment where the professional relationship between the hot-and-cold promoters seemed to line up perfectly in sync.
“I told Eddie if that is the main event at The Theater, it will go clean,” DiBella told BoxingScene at the time of such a bout selling out the 5,100-plus seat venue. “There will not be a walkup crowd because it will sell out in advance. That’s how significant that fight is. It will bring out the entire Irish population in New York, the entire Puerto Rican population in New York.
“It will bring out the boxing fans who will recognize it not just as a women’s match but a great fight between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.”
All it has done since this is bring out the ugliest side of the sport.
The balance of 2019 came and went without any assurance of such a fight taking place in March, much less in the United States. A new deal was struck between Hearn and Serrano’s team for the fight to move to the United Kingdom, with Serrano offered a last-minute undercard slot on a pre-Super Bowl DAZN event in Miami to keep her active ahead of the biggest fight of her career.
A 3rd round stoppage of Brazil’s Simone Aparecida Da Silva took place prior to the DAZN cameras rolling for the Super Bowl-themed card, but was enough for Serrano to move her career forward ahead of the biggest fight of her career—and by far her biggest payday to boot even if it meant hitting the road.
“Right before the fight, they came to us about fighting in (Manchester), England,” Jordan Maldonado, Serrano’s manager, head trainer and brother-in-law told BoxingScene.com. “It was the same fight we already accepted but now they were offering a lot more money. The moment Amanda was asked, she said yes without even blinking.”
At the time, the fight was due to take place May 2 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. The same venue saw Taylor—a two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic Gold medalist—become a two-division titlist following her aforementioned win over Linardatou. She has since vacated the belt in favor of remaining at lightweight, where she owns every major title and the division’s lineal championship.
The bout was due to serve as the chief support to a heavyweight clash between England’s Dillian Whyte and Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, with the event to air live on Sky Sports Box Office in the United Kingdom and DAZN in the United States. As was the case with every other event this spring, the show was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
From there, any updates that Serrano and her immediate team would receive would come through social media. An announcement on March 30 from Matchroom Boxing’s press office revealed a rescheduled date of July 4, to take place at the same venue and once again paired with Whyte-Povetkin.
“The May fight got postponed, and of course we get it with the coronavirus shutting everything down,” Maldonado acknowledges. “They tell us it will be changed but never told us when. So without notification, we read that it was rescheduled to July 4.
“But you know what? That didn’t even bother us. Amanda was just happy that there was a new date. So, we kept finding ways to train, since all of the gyms in New York are shut down and we can’t get any sparring.”
Things quickly went south from there.
On June 3, Matchroom Boxing announced scheduling updates for three separate shows.
A planned lightweight title eliminator between former featherweight titlist Lee Selby and unbeaten 135-pound contender George Kambosos Jr. was rescheduled for a second time in barely two months, now due to take place on October 3 in Selby’s hometown of Cardiff, Wales. The bout was riginally slated for May 9 and then pushed back to July 11, before moving to the October date but still in the same venue.
The same process was afforded a junior welterweight crossroads bout between England’s Lewis Ritson and Mexico’s former lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez. Their clash will now take place on October 17 at Newcastle Arena in Ritson’s birthtown of Newcastle, England. The same venue was in play for previously proposed dates of bout was originally due to take place April 4 and June 27.
Wedged in between was the planned July 4 Sky Sports Box Office event which was the only show among the lot to not feature a new date, but rather the disclaimer that it was canceled in terms of no longer taking place at Manchester Arena—the specified venue for every contract Serrano had signed to that point.
The reason for the location omission was due to plans of relocating the bout—along with Whyte-Povetkin—as part of Hearn’s planned ‘Fight Camp’ series, four outdoor shows in as many August weekends taking place at his company’s headquarters.
Whyte-Povetkin and Taylor-Serrano was always meant to serve as a series anchor, originally carrying a working date of August 15. That has since been moved to August 22, with plans for the show itself to take place on that day. Whether or not it includes Taylor-Serrano remains anyone’s guess even as this goes to publish (most likely not), but the reasons for its ultimate fallout still remain subject to heated debate.
Serrano learned through her promoter of plans for Matchroom to call for both Taylor and her to take a reduction in pay due to the event no longer taking place with fans in attendance. The suggestion was met with a reaction from her team, claiming they were asked to “remove almost 50% of Amanda’s purse,” although that percentage was since learned to be an exaggeration.
What remains at dispute is whether a suggested purse reduction was made.
Hearn claimed in a recent interview with BoxingScene’s Ron Lewis that it was never the case.
“There were all kinds of rumours that she had been offered reduced purses, but we never made Lou DiBella [Serrano’s promoter] one offer of a reduced purse for this fight,” Hearn claimed in a story which BoxingScene.com published on June 27.
BoxingScene.com’s U.S. team has not only confirmed that there were such requests, but that they varied in amounts ranging from a 10%-20% purse reduction. DiBella and Serrano’s immediate team declined comment as to the specific amount—both in dollar and percentage—other than continuing to publicly claim that such conversations took place.
It also contradicts Hearn’s public claim on social media that the previously suggested request was no longer an issue that Serrano would in fact receive her full pay. His walking back such claims all come on the heels of shutting down means to secure a payday external to the sport.
At the time of the belief that her fight with Taylor with full pay intact would only come in the presence of fans post-pandemic, Serrano explored an opportunity to participate in a reality show on popular Spanish-speaking network Telemundo. The multi-sport athlete—who has also competed in mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu—was in agreement to take part in the popular network series Exatlón, which would have at least helped supplement her income in a year where boxing has only provided a low five-figure payday through present day.
Serrano would have joined athletes from other sports as well as celebrities and civilian participants for the fifth season of the competition-style reality series. That part apparently didn’t sit well with Matchroom Boxing, whom BoxingScene.com learned has issued a cease-and-desist letter to Telemundo as long as a binding contract still exists for Serrano to face Taylor.
That development is only the latest in a series of back-and-forth threats that have devolved into the present-day mess encompassing this matchup. Understandably fed up with varying versions of the truth, the Brooklyn-based southpaw went scorched earth in her best effort to receive answers to a number of lingering questions.
“I signed 4 contracts to fight Katie Taylor & despite what lies Eddie Hearn wants to say he offered us a purse deduction & a change of location in addition to yet another date May 2nd, July 4th now August 22nd my team will handle this,” Serrano exclaimed on Sunday, igniting an hours-long exchange with Hearn and ultimately DiBella. “I’m Not a Toy I’m DONE WITH THE GAMES!”
Threats of lawsuits have also surfaced between Matchroom Boxing, Team Serrano and DiBella, although BoxingScene.com has learned that it won’t likely stick.
What remains unresolved is whether Serrano will be making the trip abroad for August 22. Admittedly, the change of scenery never sat well with anyone on her team.
“She is literally fighting in her opponent’s promoter’s backyard,” DiBella exclaimed to BoxingScene.com. “The friggin’ biggest female fight in boxing history is now taking place on Eddie Hearn’s [property], with no fans and where neither one of them can properly train or spar because all of the f----n’ gyms are closed.”
For now, the biggest female fight in boxing history is threatening to not take place at all. Instead, Taylor could be looking at a rematch with Belgium’s Delfine Persoon. The two collided last June at Madison Square Garden, with Taylor taking a 10-round majority decision in a fight many felt could have gone either way.
Filiep Tampere, Persoon’s manager confirmed in recent days that an offer was made to their team although the amount merely representing a starting point in negotiations. Hearn has since acknowledged that Persoon is a frontrunner to land the assignment which Serrano has eyed for more than a year.
It’s just one where she demands her full value.
“Under no circumstances will Amanda take a paycut for this fight,” Maldonado insists. “I saw that story (on BoxingScene.com this past Saturday) where Eddie claimed he never asked us to take a paycut. That’s not true at all. We were shown where he wanted both of us to take a paycut because there’s no audience. We said absolutely not.
“As it is, we’re the only one (from North America) on any of those shows. Meanwhile, she’s been training for all these different dates, just trying to find any gym time during this (pandemic) just to stay in shape, without any sparring without making a dime.”
NYC gyms remain closed as this goes to publish, as such establishments are unable to reopen until New York State enters Phase Four of its economic reopening plan.
Meanwhile, travel restrictions remain in place around the world. The European Union recently issued a warning of disallowing incoming flights from countries who’ve failed to flatten the coronavirus curve, with the United States—which leads the world in total cases and COVID-related deaths—at the top of that list.
For now, it doesn’t affect travel between the U.S. and the U.K. However, Serrano and Taylor—and their respective teams—would be subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon entry in the United Kingdom, a circumstance not asked of any other athlete in any other sport against their will in light of global health concerns.
All told, once what was a dream fight has ventured deep into a nightmare.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox