Separate options await the winner of the Amanda Serrano-Erika Cruz undisputed featherweight championship.
All four major sanctioning bodies have granted their approval for their respective belts to be at stake in the February 4 DAZN main event from Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Brooklyn’s Serrano will defend her lineal, WBC, IBF, IBO and WBO featherweight titles, while Mexico City’s Cruz risks her WBA crown.
The WBO was the last sanctioning body to conditionally approve the fight. The Puerto Rico-headquartered organization was always on board but was also legally required to protect the rights of interim WBO featherweight titlist Brenda Karen Carabajal (18-5-1, 9KOs). A path now exists for the Argentine boxer to receive her mandatory shot—but only if Cruz emerges victorious.
A victory by Serrano will set up a highly anticipated springtime rematch with Ireland’s Katie Taylor (22-0, 6KOs), the reigning undisputed lightweight champion.
“Please be advised that the WBO World Championship Committee hereby grants sanction approval for the subject
matter bout to be conducted on Saturday, February 4, 2023, at the Madison Square Garden [Hulu] Theater in New York” WBO Championship Committee chairman Luis Batista-Salas informed event promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing via official letter, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Sanction is granted subject to the following provisions:
- (i) this Committee reserves the right to order the enforcement of the Mandatory title defense;
- (ii) if Ms. Cruz wins the bout, she must face within 120 days thereafter the WBO Interim Featherweight Champion Brenda Carabajal to terminate the Interim Championship status and determine a sole Champion in the WBO Female Featherweight Division; and
- (iii) if Serrano wins the bout, the Committee will allow Serrano to move up to the Lightweight Division to [pursue] a rematch against Ms. Katie Taylor for the Undisputed Lightweight Championships.
Serrano (43-2-1, 30KOs) will attempt to become the first-ever Puerto Rican undisputed champion, male or female, with a win on February 4. The career-long quest to accomplish that level of history motivated the record-setting seven division champion to return to featherweight in September 2019, when she entered her third title reign at the weight with a ten-round win over fellow Brooklyn native Heather Hardy also at MSG Theater.
The win also came with the interim WBC title at stake, upgraded to full title status when Jelena Mrdjenovich was unable at the time of their ordered title consolidation clash in 2021. Serrano—a 34-year-old southpaw from Brooklyn by way of Carolina, P.R.—has made three overall defenses of her current reign, including a ten-round win over unbeaten IBF champion Sarah Mahfoud in their unification bout last September 24 in Manchester, England.
Prior to landing the Mahfoud fight, Serrano was due to face Argentina’s Carabajal on August 6 in the main room at MSG. The show was canceled after the Jake Paul-Hasim Rahman Jr. main event fell apart due to a weight discrepancy.
Carabajal has not fought since claiming the interim WBO title in a ten-round, majority decision win over Debora Anahi Dionicius last May 13 in San Lorenzo, Argentina. The fight occurred two weeks after Serrano fell just short in a split decision in favor of Taylor in their historic April 30 lightweight championship clash. Serrano was at risk of the WBO stripping her featherweight title—per sanctioning by-laws as a condition of permitting fights at another weight—but was permitted to retain her crown in part due to her ‘WBO Super Champion’ status.
Cruz (15-1, 3KOs) has held the WBA title since an April 2021 technical decision win over Mrdjenovich in West Point, New York. Two successful defenses followed, including a ten-round shutout of Mrdjenovich in their rematch as part of a September 3 DAZN show from Hermosillo, Mexico.
An upset win on February 4 will leave her as the undisputed featherweight champion but with a four-month window to enter a title consolidation clash with Carabajal, per the WBO ruling. A win by Serrano will leave Carabajal with the option of waiting out Taylor-Serrano II which is targeted for May, or to make an optional defense to avoid further inactivity.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox