Wednesday, April 24, 2024  |



Amanda Serrano finally gets the exposure she craves – and with it, a measure of controversy

Yamileth Mercado was game but lacked the power and skill to compete with Amanda Serrano (left). Photo by Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME
Fighters Network

Amanda Serrano has been one of boxing’s most dominating female fighters for a long time. Her accomplishments are extraordinary by any measure, and her dedication is second to none. For years, she has clamored for a bigger platform and the bigger paydays that come along with it.

On Sunday, August 29, she got all that – and then some. On that night, Serrano defended her WBC/WBO featherweight titles against WBC junior featherweight titlist Yamileth Mercado in dominating fashion in front of a packed house in the co-main event of a Showtime PPV headlined by Jake Paul vs. Tyrone Woodley, her biggest platform yet.

A few things that happened on that night, however, were not as rewarding. And should they continue to happen, they may threaten to tarnish or even undo a considerable portion of the great legacy that Serrano is building inside the ring.

While Serrano was taking care of business inside the ropes, a different type of business was taking place just outside of it, as her trainer, manager and brother-in-law Jordan Maldonado became the perpetrator (yet again) of a vicious verbal attack unleashed upon Serrano’s foe and her team, which began midway through the fight from the center of the ring and continued until the very moment when Mercado was walking towards the ambulance that drove her to the hospital, many minutes after the fight was over.

Listening to Mercado tell the story in Spanish is harrowing to say the least, and to the point of being revolting during its worst passages.

“Starting in the middle the rounds, (Maldonado) would come to the center of the ring to yell at me, telling me that I was trash, that I was a coward, that I was a ‘pendeja,’” said Mercado, when interviewed on the day after the fight by Ernesto Amador. “My trainers would try to distract me so I didn’t pay attention to those comments during the fight. Once the fight ended, he came to our corner and told our trainers that they were ‘maricones,’ that I was garbage, and a lot of insults. My trainers felt threatened and I decided to leave the ring, we didn’t stay for the interviews.”

It didn’t end there.

“When we were in the locker rooms, it was decided that I needed medical attention due to my cuts. I was bleeding a lot and seeing a lot of inflammation due to a head butt that nobody saw. I walked to the ambulance with the paramedics while my team stayed behind packing my bags, and when I was on my way to the ambulance Maldonado came to me and continued attacking me, calling me a coward, a good-for-nothing idiot and more.”

The whole scene is easy to imagine, yet hard to process and digest: a 6-foot tall man dishing out a brutal stream of insults to a woman who is walking to an ambulance, several minutes after his protégé gave her a serious beating.

As infuriating as it may be, it was not the first time. And judging by Maldonado’s past comments and actions, it may not be his last.

“I love the violence. The violence is the best part.” That is how Maldonado described his job as a bouncer in an HBO documentary entitled “Bounce: Behind the Velvet Rope,” as quoted in a New York Post article. “I sit there and hope, I hope and pray that you cross that line.”

Maldonado apparently got tired of waiting for people to cross lines sometime after that documentary was shot and started crossing them himself instead. In fact, the article featuring this quote is a report on “Operation Dumbell,” the end result of an 18-month undercover operation by New York police that led to Maldonado’s arrest on drug charges when he was caught selling steroids and other substances out of a gym, where he allegedly supplied those drugs to other boxers and weightlifters as well. He was sentenced to one year in jail (he had already served a previous 2 ½ years prison stint on drug charges), and his wife Cindy Serrano received a suspended sentence.

It was during those years that Maldonado, a former fighter himself in the Golden Gloves circuit, began training Amanda when she was in her late teens. He took her to a record-breaking seven titles in as many divisions in a run that stands at 41-1-1 with 30 KOs. It is undeniable that Maldonado’s role in her rise as a legend in the game is there, but the way in which this was achieved has raised a few eyebrows – and triggered more than a few hypotheses about the extent of his handling of Serrano’s career.

Photo by Amanda Westcott/ Showtime

In past interviews, Serrano has boasted that she does not own a cellphone, has not had a boyfriend during her entire career, and that this zero-distraction policy is the reason behind her success. But the fact that Maldonado handles her social media account (under the hashtag @Serranosisters, which is also revealing), as well as her interviews and other activities, leads many to believe that there is more to it than just a complete devotion to the sport of boxing, which is an activity that other adult female fighters also devote to in spite of the distractions implied in owning and operating their own cellphones.

Add the fact that Serrano does not wear boxing boots, choosing instead to use “Jordan” branded athletic footwear in honor to her mentor, and the recipe for a relationship worthy of a more severe scrutiny is almost complete.

It is possible, of course, that the symbiosis between Serrano and Maldonado may be a healthy one, and that they both share a bond that allows them to work seamlessly in search of a common goal. But Maldonado’s behavior, so far removed from Serrano’s usually respectful demeanor, is already a cause of concern for many, and has triggered an uproar unlike anything we’ve seen against a boxing second in recent memory.

The language picked up by ambient microphones during Serrano’s last two fights paint a dark story already. But any requests of quotes from those who were on the receiving end of those insults is met with refusals to even pronounce the words in question. Even a recent letter sent by Mercado’s handlers to the commissions, organizations and sanctioning bodies involved in the fight fails to include verbatim transcriptions of those insults.

A proof of the seriousness of those transgressions is the fact that Maldonado was ejected from Serrano’s corner in her previous fight, against Argentina’s Daniela Bermudez, which took place in Puerto Rico. In spite of being in charge of the corner of a local hero fighting in her own backyard against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. didn’t hesitate to banish Maldonado from the ringside technical area after hearing insults “too dirty to be even repeated,” according to Ramirez.

Previously, during Cindy Serrano’s losing effort against Ireland’s Katie Taylor, Maldonado had been quoted as yelling “you picked the weaker Serrano” to Taylor, presumably indicating that Amanda would one day do a much better job than his own wife, in what has to constitute a new low in the realm of both managerial and matrimonial support – or lack thereof.

When the time came to negotiate the fight between Amanda and Katie, however, the deal suffered a few setbacks, and even though both parties had agreed to the fight, it was later learned that Taylor’s camp’s request for VADA-style drug testing before the bout had become a matter of discussion that remained unresolved.

Regardless of what happens to Maldonado next, the tidal wave of rejection and disbelief that his antics have generated shows no sign of slowing down. A number of legal actions are being pursued by different actors, and even though he may emerge relatively unscathed from the current situation, he will certainly continue attracting the wrong kind of scrutiny on the career of an otherwise unimpeachable fighter.

None of this is any consolation to Mercado.

“I am furious, and I ask the organizations, I ask (WBC president) Mauricio (Sulaiman) and everyone to take action on this,” said the fighter, still exhibiting a ghastly scar on her left cheek. “The Ohio Commission never reprimanded him for this. I feel he should have been expelled from the corner at that point. I believe he crossed a very important line, and his verbal aggressions were too much, especially since I was alone at that time.”

She is not alone now. And unless a drastic change of behavior takes place in Maldonado, she will be accompanied by many others in her battle as time goes by.