Amanda Serrano masters the mental game as the fight of her life nears
As the days wind down, as the hours whittle away, as the minutes melt, so too does Amanda Serrano. The defining fight of her life nears, yet by the placid look on her face and the ease with which she is talking and doing things a few weeks out, you wouldn’t know it.
Serrano (42-1-1, 30 knockouts), the 2021 BWAA Female Fighter of the Year who is ranked No. 3 at lightweight and No. 1 at featherweight by The Ring, is set to face Katie Taylor (20-0, 6 KOs), The Ring’s lightweight champion and rated No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world, on Saturday, at Madison Square Garden in New York, shown live worldwide on DAZN.
It is the biggest fight in women’s boxing history.
You couldn’t tell by Serrano
She walks an effortless balance. She never gets too high or too low.
In fact, she looks calmer with each passing day.
To the 33-year-old southpaw and seven-weight titlist, it’s just a fight.
Like every day, living in a modest gray, two-story, aluminum-sided home in Brooklyn, New York, with her parents, making $2,000 for title fights.
Serrano will make a career-best of over $1 million for this one.
She got into boxing through her brother-in-law, trainer and manager, Jordan Maldonado, and her older sister, Cindy, who got into boxing trying to lose baby weight she gained from giving birth to Amanda’s niece. Amanda would work in Maldonado’s Glendale Queens, New York, gym babysitting. She was around boxing since she was 13 and started boxing when she turned 18.
“She (Cindy) is a great inspiration to me and my motivation,” Amanda says. “She’s a great mom, a great woman, a great fighter, so I was always behind her back, always her little tail. She gets a little mad sometimes because she always called me the third wheel, but I’m so inspired by her. And she doesn’t like when I say it, but she’s my mom figure.
Training gets harder and harder. I’m exhausted and tired, but hard work pays off. It’s all work. Once I become undisputed, then it’s all play.”
Asked if this training camp feels different than others, she says, “A little bit because of the attention we’re getting. We’ve been doing a lot of media and people are acknowledging me when I walk down the street and wishing me luck for this next fight and saying, come on, bring it home. So, it’s a little different. We’re getting a little more recognition, so I’m excited about that.”
What Serrano does above everything else is listen.
She listens to Maldonado. She listens to her sister Cindy. She listens to sparring partner Gary Stark Jr., a former junior featherweight contender.
It keeps her grounded.
“Jordan and my family keep me humble,” Amanda says. “They’re always making sure they put me in check. They’re always like, hey, you’re not a seven-division world champion, they still make fun of me. Every other day, Jordan is still making sure that he brings the best out of me. He’s always keeping me modest and telling me, ‘You’re not the best,’ and then I hear him talking to other people and saying, ‘Oh man, she’s amazing.’”
As for what to expect Saturday night, Stark has a good idea. It could translate into a stark, bleak night for Taylor.
“Amanda is in phenomenal shape,” Stark said. “When I started mimicking Katie Taylor, Amanda’s so good, I had to switch up on my style a little bit more. Her body attack is crazy and then it’s me just being a gamer, like you ain’t got nothing on me. I’m reliving my pro days. (Laughs) And Jordan’s like, ‘Kid, you gotta stay with Katie Taylor’s game plan.’ I know, but she throws me off my game because I can only do Katie Taylor so much until she starts making me pay for those Katie Taylor mistakes. I had to go back to Kid’s swag and boxing.
“Boxing is one sport you can’t make a mistake in. Sparring is never light and easy. You’re either getting f—ed up or you’re f—ing someone up or you’re learning … and you’re getting hit at the same time. Amanda’s always humble, so it’s not like a cocky kid who thinks she can’t lose. Amanda fights like a dude. Katie’s bringing a different style that Amanda’s not used to – it’s that European, jump in, jump out type stuff. And when you’re not used to seeing that style, it’s tricky.
“Amanda and Cindy, they don’t box like women. They box like fine-tuned professional men. I know they could beat some guys, too.”
The fight of Amanda Serrano’s life is approaching.
To her, it’s just a fight.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.