NEW YORK (AP)Amanda Serrano narrowly missed becoming an undisputed champion last year when Katie Taylor edged her at Madison Square Garden.
She has another chance at undisputed on Saturday. Win that and she might get a second shot at Taylor, too.
Serrano (43-2-1, 30 KOs) returns to Madison Square Garden, this time back in her own weight class, to face Erika Cruz (15-1, 3 KOs) with all four belts in the featherweight division on the line. A champion in seven weight classes, she can become the first Puerto Rican to hold all four in one division simultaneously if she adds Cruz’s to the three she currently owns.
”So to me, that was definitely a goal I wanted to accomplish,” Serrano said. ”Honestly, once I accomplish this goal, I think I’ve pursued everything in my career, I can retire and be happy. But I won’t.”
Not with a rematch with Taylor possibly up next.
They fought for Taylor’s four lightweight titles in April in the first women’s boxing match to headline at the Garden in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,187 that was divided between Puerto Rican and Irish fans. Taylor won by split decision in what organizers called the most significant bout in women’s boxing history.
Eddie Hearn, who promotes Taylor, was back at MSG on Tuesday to watch LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Knicks in overtime. As he walked around the arena, he found himself thinking back to the moments before that fight.
”And I thought to myself, this is one of the biggest basketball games that can take place here. The atmosphere for Taylor-Serrano was a thousand times better,” he said. ”I know it’s a different sport, but what I’m trying to say is like, that was such a special sporting occasion that doing it back in Ireland, like, we have to see it again.”
If Serrano wins, the goal is to get them back in the ring in May at a venue in Taylor’s home country, where she has never fought as a pro. If she loses, perhaps the opportunity would go to Alycia Baumgardner, who could become the undisputed champion at 130 pounds with a victory Saturday over Elhem Mekhaled earlier in the event that will stream on DAZN.
Baumgardner (13-1, 7 KOs) has owned three belts in the division since edging Mikaela Mayer in October in London, and the vacant WBA belt will become hers with a victory over Mekhaled (15-1, 3 KOs).
”As I walked in the gym as an 8-year-old girl, I had a vision, I had a plan to become the best and that’s what I’m doing,” Baumgardner said. ”Now, here just seeing it come alive, I’m just, I’m hungry and I love to fight.”
This card is in the smaller Hulu Theater, not the main room where Serrano fought last time, but she said it’s no less meaningful. She began this current run atop the featherweight division in the Hulu Theater when she beat Heather Hardy in September 2019.
Eight months earlier, she had claimed a title at 115 pounds to become a champion in a seventh weight class, then told her team it was time to stick at 126, where she feels most comfortable. She added the third piece by rebounding from the loss to Taylor with a victory over Sarah Mahfoud in September.
The 34-year-old Serrano has fought anywhere from 115 to 140 pounds and would like to stay at 126. But she doesn’t have many matches left before planning to retire at 36 – she pushed the original intention of 35 back a year due to the pandemic – and probably none would be bigger than Taylor-Serrano II.
That would require going back up to 135 pounds again.
”I say featherweight is where I want to be at, but the only way I’m going to go up is to fight Katie Taylor for the rematch,” Serrano said. ”But right now I’m focused on Erika Cruz. I’m focused on becoming undisputed and then after that, it’s game time. So we’ll see, we’ll see.”
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