No announcement yet.

Is Taylor vs. Serrano Really the Biggest Women’s Fight Ever?

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Is Taylor vs. Serrano Really the Biggest Women’s Fight Ever?

    Click image for larger version  Name:	bernard2.PNG Views:	5 Size:	376.4 KB ID:	21263

    By Bernard Fernandez

    Some of the highest-grossing boxing matches ever were artistic duds, but that is not to diminish the importance of revenues generated in establishing some sort of pecking order. Financial gender equity with elite male fighters remains a goal far, far away from being achieved by women, if it ever is to be, but that is not to say history won’t be made Saturday night when arguably the top two current female practitioners of the pugilistic arts square off in the first card in the 140-year existence of Madison Square Garden headlined by fighters born with two X chromosomes.

    Money is just another way of keeping score, and regardless of what transpires during the 10 scheduled rounds (or less) pitting undisputed women’s lightweight champion Katie Taylor (20-0, 6 KOs) and seven-division titlist Amanda Serrano (42-1-1, 30 KOs), a landmark scrap that will be streamed via DAZN, a milestone will be achieved. Taylor, from Bray, Ireland, and Serrano, the Brooklyn, N.Y., southpaw of Puerto Rican descent, are each down for purses of $1 million, making them the only fighters of their sex to join the seven-figure club that previously had been an all-male preserve.

    It remains to be seen whether Taylor and Serrano justify their record-breaking paydays with the sort of exhilarating, two-way action that will come to be viewed as the distaff equivalent of the best work some of the legendary guys have had to offer. Becoming an instant millionaire for one night’s work, however, does and should come with certain perks. Don’t think that Taylor, a gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics and the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2019 and 2020 Female Fighter of the Year, and Serrano, the 2021 BWAA Female Fighter of the Year who comes in on a 10-year, 28-bout winning streak, aren’t aware of how much responsibility they are shouldering not only for the enhancement of their own professional futures and legacies, but for women hopeful of following in their footsteps.

    “This is just a special occasion for me, to headline a huge fight like this at Madison Square Garden,” said Taylor, 35, whose WBC, IBF, and WBO 135-pound titles will be on the line. “It’s being billed as the biggest fight in female boxing history. This is just incredible and a real privilege for me.

    “Amanda Serrano is a fantastic fighter. She deserves this opportunity as well. She’s been pioneering her own way and that’s why this fight is the best in female boxing history. We have champion vs. champion, the best vs. the best, and this is why this fight is so special. I think years and years from now people are still going to be talking about Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano.”

    Said the 33-year-old Serrano: “I don’t need to talk bad about my opponents. I do all (my) talking inside the ring. I respect Katie Taylor and what she’s done. We’re changing the sport. I am excited to be opening doors. We have to prove who the pound-for-pound best is, because everybody has been asking for it.”

    How open the doors are to which Serrano has referred is still a matter of some discussion. Yes, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., has gotten around to granting admittance to female fighters, beginning with the 2020 recognition of Moderns Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker, along with Barbara Buttrick in the Trailblazer category. They will be officially welcomed during the IBHOF’s four-day induction festivities from June 9-12, the past two ceremonies having been postponed by COVID-19. The 2021 Class includes Moderns Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe and Trailblazer Marian Trimiar, with the Class of 2022 adding Moderns Holly Holm and Regina Halmich and Trailblazer Jackie Tonawanda.

    Regardless of whoever emerges victorious Saturday night in the Garden, it is a safe bet both Taylor and Serrano will someday join the aforementioned women with plaques hung on the hallowed walls of the IBHOF. Taylor and Serrano currently are rated Nos. 1 and 2 on the women’s pound-for-pound lists of the BWAA, ESPN and DAZN, with Taylor and Serrano first and third as cited by The Ring and Sports Illustrated, sandwiched around two-time Olympic gold medalist and self-proclaimed “greatest woman of all time” Claressa Shields. But the talent pool of women of comparable achievement is still relatively shallow, and the fact that both Taylor and Serrano are in their 30s suggests that their exemplary careers likely have as much or more past than future. The incursions of Father Time and Mother Nature further ratchet up the necessity of Saturday night’s main-eventers to put on a show capable of inspiring a new generation of girls and women to tug on padded gloves and climb inside the ropes.

    Jake Paul, the YouTube sensation whose ballyhooed entrance into the fight game has met with both praise from new devotees to the sport and criticism from stodgy traditionalists, is outspoken in his support of women’s boxing, and most specifically Serrano, whom he signed to a contract with his Most Valuable Promotions and featured on his own highly profitable cards. When the prospect of a superfight pairing of Taylor (who is promoted by Eddie Hearn) and Serrano was initially raised, the dollar amount pitched to Team Serrano was an almost-unheard-of $300,000, which Serrano’s trainer/manager, Jordan Maldonado, rejected as being insufficient for his fighter.

    “You have to know your worth at times,” Serrano said of her determination to ascend to a monetary summit never previously scaled by a female fighter, but will now have those figurative flags planted by herself and Taylor. Still, the dream fight did not only face contractual hurdles; the originally proposed date of May 2, 2020, was postponed, as were numerous other bouts, by the lingering effects of COVID-19. As more and more time slipped away, representatives of both fighters feared the matchup desired by many would never advance beyond the theoretical.

    But now it’s here, and its possible ramifications for women’s sports history have yet to be fully determined. The crusading Billie Jean King years ago won her fight for pay parity with men in big-time tennis, and Title IX nudged many women’s college sports out of the shadows into a spotlight, albeit a somewhat less brightly lit one than the men in basketball. Another victory was achieved recently when the United States’ National Women’s Soccer Team received a new contract that paid its members the same as the men’s team.

    How much is a million dollars for a single fight to Taylor and Serrano? It is an imagined fantasy come true, with the possibility of more such bouts shimmering ahead like so many oases. But the pay gap between top-tier men and women remains Grand Canyonesque. The combined purses of Taylor and Serrano are mere chump change when compared to the reported $240 million Floyd Mayweather Jr. received for his May 2, 2015, fight with Manny Pacquiao, who had to “settle” for $120 million or so. As is the case with American professional basketball, where WNBA superstars are virtual paupers in comparison even with NBA bench-warmers, boxing will never represent a level playing field for women who can only hope for more and tastier scraps falling off the men’s banquet table.

    “Equity is really how we redistribute power,” Temple University Sports Psychology professor Leeja Carter said after the U.S. women’s soccer team finally got the major pay hike its players figured they had earned on the pitch. Soccer, however, is not boxing; the redistribution of power in the ring is not likely to ever resemble anything even remotely equitable for women whose acceptance in a sport mostly populated and dominated by men is, at best, a work in progress.

    It is incumbent upon Taylor and Serrano to give fans and non-fans of women’s boxing reason to believe that their brand of the sweet science is deserving of a longer look. For every undeniably entertaining fight, such as Christy Martin’s bloody stoppage of Deirdre Gogarty and Taylor’s first meeting with Delfine Persoon, there are other potential breakthrough bouts that don’t rise to that level. When Claressa Shields turned pro after her two Olympic golds, some predicted that she would establish herself as the female Mike Tyson, a skilled boxer with the sort of power that would surely make her a make-see attraction. But while Shields has a key to the throne room, the fact remains that, undefeated and dominant in her 12 bouts, she has scored only two victories inside the distance and no longer is being referred to as the same sort of power source as was Tyson. Even her most significant victory, a one-sided unanimous decision over Germany-based Christina Hammer, was not competitive enough to live up to the hype.

    My first exposure to the “biggest female bout of all time” was the June 8, 2001, matchup of celebrity daughters Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. It was a global media event, but more so given the identity of the fighters’ even more celebrated fathers, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, a major factor in the reported $250,000 which went to each woman. The 23-year-old Laila scored an eight-round majority decision over Jacqui, 39 and a mother of two, and drew some positive comments.

    “Both women showed grit and determination,” said Al Bernstein, who did the post-fight interviews. “They are in the embryonic stages of their boxing careers, but they gave it everything they had and you can’t ask for anything more than that. Are there better women boxers? Yes. Would I just as soon see Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker fight? Yes. But this was fun, it was competitive and it was hardly a travesty.”

    Interestingly, Martin and Rijker were to have swapped punches on July 30, 2005, at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay in what was being touted as the first women’s million-dollar fight. But that description was only partially correct; in a matchup of 37-year-olds, Martin (45-3-2, 31 KOs) and Rijker (17-0, 14 KOs) were guaranteed $250,000 each, with promoter Bob Arum providing an additional $750,000 to the winner. The fight was canceled and never rescheduled after Rijker ruptured her Achilles tendon in training on July 20.

    “I would not be telling the truth if I didn’t say that, without the movie (2004’s Academy Award-winning Million Dollar Baby, in which Rijker played the role of a female villain who fought Hilary Swank’s character trained by the veteran cornerman played by Clint Eastwood), we wouldn’t be doing this,” Arum admitted. “The movie highlighted women’s boxing and made it seem very exciting. Clearly, it was the impetus for me to put on this event. Without Million Dollar Baby, I didn’t think there was much future in women’s boxing. After seeing that film, I had second thoughts.”

    Frazier-Lyde, after hearing Arum’s thoughts on the matter, railed against the notion that women’s boxing needed a Hollywood tie-in to make women’s boxing interesting enough to merit much public interest. “I would like all fighters to make the money they deserve, but it all boils down – or should – to making great fights,” she said. “Whether its women or men, you shouldn’t need a movie to sell a great fight. Genuine boxing matches sell themselves. Lucia and Christy have made great contributions to the game. They don’t need something fictitious to get the recognition they already should have had.”

    Nearly 17 years after Martin-Rijker went by the boards, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano – real million dollar babies -- will attempt to verify Frazier-Lyde’s heartfelt contention that truly meritorious matchups, including those involving women, don’t need fake bells and whistles.

    Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the Class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sports writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of 2020. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Round 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, is currently out. The anthology can be ordered through and other book-selling websites and outlets.
    Last edited by AcidArne; 04-27-2022, 07:34 AM.

  • #2
    Christy Martin’s bloody stoppage of Deirdre Gogarty was my all-time favorite and that is the one, I submit, that put female boxing on the map. Also, Holly Holm is one of my favorites,

    Ireland’s Olympic gold medalist Taylor said “You need heroes growing up and she was definitely one of mine…It’s boxers like her that have paved the way for the likes of us. I don’t think women’s boxing would be where it is today without the likes of Deirdre Gogarty.”This one is a breakthrough in a different way. The women deserve these showcases and so do the fans.

    Last edited by Kid Blast; 04-27-2022, 09:05 AM.


    • #3
      Click image for larger version  Name:	christy.png Views:	0 Size:	94.3 KB ID:	21266
      With Christy back in the day. Thing I recalled the best was how she resembled a male fighter with her technique. Jabs, infighting, body work, and especially her combinations. Unlike phoney 'Trailblazer Jackie Tonawanda.' Christy was the real deal.

      Again, superb article.
      Last edited by Kid Blast; 04-27-2022, 10:25 AM.