NEW YORK — Amanda Serrano could only enjoy her decision victory over Erika Cruz for the undisputed featherweight title for about 30 seconds on Saturday. That’s the reality. Even before Serrano could step out of the ring with all the belts for the first time, her anticipated rematch with Katie Taylor was announced.
Serrano will travel to Ireland to fight Taylor on May 20 in a rematch of the best women’s fight in boxing history, something that was talked about from an hour or so after the first fight ended at Madison Square Garden on April 30 last year.
This has always been the path, the course for Taylor and for Serrano.
Serrano wanted this first — wanted to become undisputed first — before she entertained fighting Taylor again. Actually, she wanted this to happen before the first fight with Taylor, but the scenario was too great for her to pass up — and Taylor and Serrano had been circling each other for years at that point.
At the moment, though, Serrano didn’t want to think about Taylor. She wanted a couple of days — perhaps after a trip back to Puerto Rico, where she has a new home she still needs to organize — before she starts to think about what’s next.
But she and her trainer, Jordan Maldonado, made one thing very clear: If they were going to fight Katie Taylor again, it was going to be in Ireland. It was important to Taylor and, in some ways, important to Serrano too.
“We knew we were going to Ireland,” Maldonado said. “The plan was the plan. Katie Taylor was super respectful and honorable and fought us here in New York. We’re Puerto Rican, but this is basically our home.
“And we promised, and one of the things I had said is the only way I would take the Katie Taylor fight was in Ireland. She deserves it.”
Where the fight will take place in Ireland is still being worked out, as the past week has seen a lot of shifting parts. But the women’s game is once again doing what the men’s game so often struggles to do: It’s giving its fan base the best possible fight in a time frame that’s reasonable without much haggling.
And if it’s even close to the intensity of the first fight, it’ll help grow women’s boxing even further. — Michael Rothstein
Alycia Baumgardner has plenty of options
While Taylor and Serrano will fight in May, the options are fairly well open for Baumgardner after she took the undisputed junior lightweight title on Saturday with a victory over Elhem Mekhaled.
In the near term, it would make sense for Baumgardner to likely stay at 130 pounds and pick up a couple of title defenses there before moving up in weight for a megafight. Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn mentioned the potential for a homecoming fight for Baumgardner in Detroit.
“A homecoming fight in Detroit would mean everything,” Baumgardner said. “I was a club fighter back in the day selling tickets. I know I can put people in seats. I know I’m entertaining, and I can sell out a great crowd whatever arena we choose in Detroit.
“It would put Detroit back on the map. Detroit has a history of boxing and great champions coming out of that state.”
And there are plenty of option for opponents, although if Baumgardner were to have a homecoming fight, it would make sense for it to be a defense of her newly minted 130-pound undisputed title.
But there is life beyond 130 pounds. So what could that mean? Baumgardner said she feels best anywhere from 130 to 140 pounds but that she also would be open to going down to 126 pounds to fight Serrano — a bout that would pair two of the hardest hitters in the sport if it were to happen. Hearn said Baumgardner also would have interest in Taylor and Chantelle Cameron.
So there are big potential fights coming for Baumgardner, complete with big paydays.
And the other potential payday was sitting just off to the side of the ring: Mikaela Mayer, whom Baumgardner beat in October for the IBF and WBO titles. Whenever the camera panned to Mayer, she was booed inside the Hulu Theater.
Hearn said he would consider a rematch because of how big the fight would be in the United States — Detroit, Las Vegas or New York. When Baumgardner was asked how many zeroes it would take to make that rematch, she deadpanned, “The ones that never end.”
Her saying that now tells you how much of wild ride it has been for Baumgardner, who in 15 months has gone from the B-side of a title fight against Terri Harper to the undisputed junior lightweight champion. — Rothstein
Ramla Ali continues to improve
Ali was one of the highlights of the early card — and showed exactly what she could become as a fighter.
She told ESPN she didn’t think her win over Avril Mathie on Saturday was her best effort, but because she’d been battling illness all week — she told her trainer, Manny Robles, in the second round that her chest was hurting due to the illness — she “made it my best performance.”
“It went OK,” Ali said. “[Mathie] got very lucky that I wasn’t at my best.”
Robles pumped her up with positivity, which Ali said helped get her through the fight.
From a progression standpoint, though, Ali said she is much better than a year ago.
“I’ve got more things in my arsenal,” Ali said. “I wouldn’t have been able to compete in 10 rounds if I wasn’t in a state where I was better than I was last year. I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. I would have been done.”
As far as what’s next, she said she wants to be in a position to fight for a world title. Whether that’s next or not would remain to be seen and up to her management team.
On the back of her trunks on Saturday, she had the word “Chingona,” which is Mexican slang for “bad ass,” a moniker given to her in her gym in Los Angeles, Ali said, “because of all the hard work, all the sparring and all the grueling training that I’ve been showing and doing so well in.”
“They gave me that nickname, and it’s a term of endearment,” she explained.
Ali had actress Letitia Wright as part of her cheering section. Ali invited the “Wakanda Forever” star to the fight — and she met with Wright after. It showed Ali has star power other fighters might not have, which could make her growth as she continues to advance all the more important for pushing boxing onto bigger platforms. — Rothstein
Will Emanuel Navarrete’s sloppy-yet-entertaining style be successful at 130?
Navarrete is one of boxing’s most offensive-minded fighters, and so far, that approach has carried him to the top.
The Mexican fighter is now a three-division champion, and he proved that his power carried to 130 pounds, even if it took longer than usual to materialize.
Navarrete’s 130-pound debut also showed his vulnerability. He always is in entertaining fights, but a lack of defense comes at a price. Liam Wilson’s left hand in Round 4 produced the first knockdown of Navarrete’s career, and it’s a surprise he hasn’t been dropped sooner.
Navarrete wildly throws punches from all angles, sometimes off rhythm, and often has his hands dropped low during sequences. Wilson was able to time Navarrete between punches and almost ended the fight. He might have if it wasn’t for the incredibly long count Navarrete was afforded.
But he was — and Navarrete was able to wear out the 8-1 underdog and earned the stoppage in Round 9. Credit to Navarrete for finding a way to win, but he’ll now have to prove that same character in fights against bigger punchers and far better fighters.
The fact that Wilson was able to bring Navarrete so close to the brink of defeat is alarming. Then again, it’s tough to know just how good Wilson is since this was his first time on the world level. While Wilson didn’t show off anything special, he did prove his grit and that the moment wasn’t too big for him.
Navarrete, meanwhile, can’t change his style at this juncture; it works for him. But facing bigger fighters at 130 pounds, he’ll likely have to be more defensively responsible if he wants longevity at his new weight class. — Mike Coppinger