Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano made boxing history by perfectly living up to the hype

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    Michael RothsteinESPN Staff Writer

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    • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
    • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

NEW YORK — Katie Taylor showed up to the weigh-in Friday afternoon and it was then — more than 24 hours before she’d be in the boxing ring at Madison Square Garden against Amanda Serrano — that the gravity of everything they’d been trying to pull off hit her.

She’s been to big weigh-ins in the past. It was like, “Are you kidding me?” inside the Hulu Theater. The crowd was loud. Loud. It was huge, especially for a weigh in. Puerto Rican and Irish fans wave flags and chant, turning a routine part of a boxing week in to a sideshow.

For months, they had called Taylor-Serrano the greatest fight in women’s boxing. They would now have to deliver.

” It was like an Anthony Joshua or Canelo [Alvarez], weigh-in,” Taylor said. “I have never seen anything like it in my professional career. And just selling out Madison Square Garden tonight, the atmosphere was incredible.

“Tonight was just very, very, very special, and I don’t know what else to say. “

By the time a still bloody Taylor sat at a dais — flanked by her promoter, Eddie Hearn, and her trainer, Ross Enamait, after defending her undisputed lightweight title in a split decision win over Amanda Serrano — she had her answer.

Taylor-Serrano had done more than produce a memorable fight on a night when women’s boxing received a rare spotlight. It had made boxing great again, and it showed that there was still room for improvement in the sport.

If things had gone well it would have attracted attention. If everything had gone as planned — and Saturday night was close — it would have transformed and elevated the entire sport.

“Madison Square Garden, you think of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier,” Taylor said. “People will talk about Amanda Serrano and myself for many years to come.”

“This fight is history-making and it certainly lived up to that expectation. “

The entire promotion, including posters and the title card as well as the hashtag they used over the past few weeks, was focused on one thing: History. The Garden’s first female headliners. Taylor and Serrano were challenged to do impossible things Saturday night.

They were asked to live up the enormous reality of boxing promotion. This could easily have been a disappointment. These events can be easily swept under the rug by the excitement and gravity of the moment.

Taylor-Serrano exceeded what people might have expected, what the promoters had billed. Taylor and Serrano stood in ringside in the final minute of the fight, the decibels rising with every punch thrown. It was everything they had hoped for.

Serrano had a bruised face; Taylor a bloodied nose and a cut over her right eye. The atmosphere was intense due to the crowd. The Garden was ready for a momentous occasion.

If you were looking for a scrap, Taylor and Serrano had it. You want a technical fight between two styles of fighters who are trying to figure out how to attack each other? You can have that too.

The only thing that didn’t happen was a knockdown, or a knockout. But some of the most memorable fights don’t end like this. Why? Because it was even. Two fighters of equal standing made life difficult for each other.

“Tonight is the moment where we stop talking about women’s and men’s boxing,” Hearn said. “Just boxing. Because it was one of my favorite fights. “

The energy was evident from the beginning. Two hours after Taylor and Serrano had left their dressing rooms cheers erupted whenever Taylor or Serrano were mentioned. At 8: 20 p.m., when video was shown of each fighter walking into The Garden, it was like they were heading into the arena bowl.

As the moment came closer, the crowd grew more frenzied; “Ole, Ole, Ole” constantly chanted throughout the Liam Smith-Jessie Vargas undercard in front of an area where nearly every seat was filled.

Both fighters seemed to be able to take in the gravity of the moment and to appreciate what was happening.

Taylor briefly paused at the top of her ring before she walked into it, looking like she had a small smile that had softened her serious fight-night demeanor. Later, she said this evening eclipsed the night she won the Olympic gold medal in 2012 in London.

Serrano smashed her gloves together when introduced, this after raising her fist to the crowd in acknowledgment before entering the ring.

“It wasn’t a crazy feeling,” Serrano stated. “You had two women main-eventing at a sold-out MSG. Who would have thought? Two great champions were out there giving their all and the crowd was amazing.

” In my last two events, Jake Paul was the co-main event and I was able experience that. This time it was me and I was told that I should enjoy every moment of it. I took it all in. “

Serrano couldn’t hear anything when the fight began. The noise was so loud, and so close to constant, that Serrano couldn’t hear her trainer Jordan Maldonado or her sister Cindy Serrano, former professional boxer.

That was what they wanted. Imagine a night like this. This is a night like this. It’s a chance to grow the sport they love. This was beyond the pragmaticities of winning or losing, of leaving behind legacies, and of what Taylor called “career-defining moment” It is risky to achieve that. There are many things that could go wrong. Taylor and Serrano did something remarkable.

They placed women’s boxing on top of the marquee using their fists. They did it.

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