Serrano-Taylor II announced for May 20 in Dublin, Ireland, after Serrano’s bloody victory over Erika Cruz
NEW YORK — Undisputed lightweight world champion Katie Taylor was seated ringside for a reason Saturday night at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden.
She was a living prop that could not go to waste.
It’s because the plans were made.
Everything was set.
All Amanda Serrano, The Ring and IBF/WBC/WBO featherweight world champion, had to do was run through WBA titlist Erika Cruz on DAZN.
Then, Taylor would come into the ring, as Serrano and Taylor had prearranged, and announce the rematch to their epic lightweight world championship fight last April.
THE REMATCH 🇮🇪 MAY 20
After a modern day classic last April… @KatieTaylor and @Serranosisters run it back in Dublin, Ireland!#TaylorSerrano2 | @DAZNBoxing pic.twitter.com/G0FWNTQD4f
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) February 5, 2023
Only, Cruz, blood pouring down her face, wouldn’t comply to the plan that easily. Serrano (44-2-1, 30 knockouts) won 98-92 (2) and 97-93, but the scores were not exactly a true indication of how close the fight was.
Serrano is now the undisputed featherweight world champion, holding The Ring, WBA, IBF, WBC and WBO title belts.
After the decision, Matchroom chairman Eddie Hearn announced that Serrano and Taylor will fight again on May 20, in Dublin, Ireland for Taylor’s undisputed lightweight world championship.
“I’m just so emotional underneath. I finally did it for my island,” Serrano said. “(Cruz) is a Mexican champion and we knew that from the start. I knew it was going to be a bout and this what I’ve trained for. We didn’t expect anything less than that. I’m glad it went past the fourth!
“Jordan (Maldonado) kept screaming 1-2-1-2’s from the corner – go back to the basics. My left hand was catching her pretty clear with the jabs. So, I just listen to my corner. I have successfully completed all of my dreams, becoming the undisputed champion. So now I am one of THE undisputed champions, but I am still the only seven weigh class world champions in the world. It’s going to be a bigger and better fight over there (Ireland).”
Cruz (15-2, 3 KOs) looked like she would get in the way.
With 30 seconds left in the third, the fighters clashed heads, opening a hideous cut on Cruz’s forehead. It interrupted what had been a strong beginning for Cruz. The plucky, 32-year-old Mexican southpaw kept attacking Serrano, though she would drop her head almost every time she threw a punch.
The collision of heads was bound to happen.
But the sway of the fight turned when Serrano connected on a right hook to the temple, followed by a left on the chin that backed Cruz and seemingly had her in trouble.
But Cruz, teetering slightly, fought back and survived.
The seventh brought on more back-and-forth action, with each fighter, now covered in blood, whaling at each other.
Cruz would throw a punch and wipe the blood from her eyes, while Serrano tried getting on her toes and staying away from the approaching Mexican.
Cruz fell to the canvas in the last round, though it was ruled a slip, but it could have been from exhaustion. Seconds after the final bell, Serrano extended her arms and gave Cruz a well-deserved hug for a few seconds.
“I was cheering (Serrano) on. I wanted this fight. Undisputed vs. undisputed champion,” Taylor said. The last fight was an epic fight and I think the next one is going to be exactly the same.
“It’s going to be great in Ireland fighting the real deal, Amanda Serrano. This is incredible and the last fight was epic, so I expect nothing less from the next one. This is the biggest fight in women’s boxing, and I only want to do the biggest fights. This is exactly what I want.”
In the co-feature, Ring and junior lightweight world champion Alycia Baumgardner, with her most recent conquest and the one who put her there, Mikaela Mayer, seated ringside, beat France’s Elhem Mekhaled by 10-round unanimous scores of 99-89 (2) and 98-90 in her first title defense. Baumgardner had The Ring, IBF, IBO, WBC and WBO—and winning the vacant WBA title made her the undisputed junior lightweight world champion.
Baumgardner (14-1, 7 KOs) knocked down Mekhaled twice, both times in the third with a right hand. She initially hurt Mekhaled with a right, and finished the job with another right. Sensing she had Mekhaled (15-2, 3 KOs) in danger, Baumgardner attacked and dropped Mekhaled again with a flurry of punches.
In the sixth, Baumgardner started more aggressive, backing Mekhaled into the ropes. She nailed the French fighter with another combination in the last minute of the round.
By then, it looked as if Baumgardner had a firm grasp of the fight.
At the outset of the seventh, Baumgardner had Mekhaled in serious trouble, ripping rights and combinations that had Mekhaled wondering where she was, turning her back on Baumgardner and stumbling away.
Entering the eighth, it appeared Mekhaled would need a knockout to win. Mekhaled nailed Baumgardner a couple of times in the ninth, though Baumgardner walked through the shots. The ninth was clearly Mekhaled’s best round, then she followed that with another strong 10th, pushing Baumgardner’s boundaries.
👏 @alyciambaum pic.twitter.com/JAE9ippyNf
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) February 5, 2023
Junior welterweight Richardson Hitchins (16-0, 7 KOs) received a gift call in the first round of his 10-round unanimous decision over gutsy lefty John Bauza.
Hitchins really didn’t need any help. He won 100-88 on all three judges’ scorecards.
By the end of the fight, Bauza (17-1, 7 KOs) was a red mess.
Hitchins stuck Bauza with a jab late in the first, and then inadvertently stepped on Bauza’s lead right foot sending him down to the canvas. Referee Charlie Fitch called it a knockdown, though no clear contact was made.
Hitchins fought well backing up. Bauza would lunge forward to attack, and Hitchins would counter him coming forward.
In the fourth, Hitchins knocked down Bauza again—this time legitimately—with a straight right hand with just under 1:40 left. Bauza’s face started to come apart. With a cut beginning to open on Bauza’s right eye and beginning to shut, he tried roughing Hitchins up against the ropes to no avail.
After the fifth, Fitch began looking closely at Bauza’s right eye. In the sixth, Bauza became more defenseless, getting hit at will. Just before the seventh, Fitch pulled the ringside doctors over to look at Bauza’s right eye to see if he his vision was impaired.
The doctors nodded and the fight was allowed to continue.
Soon, Hitchins was on Bauza again, cornering him and landing big shots to his head, causing Bauza’s nose to bleed. Fitch kneeled in Bauza’s corner before the eighth and let him back out again. Hitchins took his foot off the pedal a little in the eighth, and still won the round.
Hitchins’ foot went back down in the ninth. He plowed Bauza with numerous straight rights to Bauza’s face, which turned into a crimson mask. Even his forehead appeared to be bleeding.
Hitchins took the last 10 seconds off, running from Bauza towards a clear victory.
Puerto Rican 2020 flyweight Olympian Yankiel Rivera was fun to watch. He switched stances, he playfully did an Ali shuffle, and he was clearly the superior fighter over Fernando Diaz (11-3-1, 3 KOs) in their scheduled eight-round bout.
Rivera, a southpaw, kept moving forward, clearly looking to keep his brief string of stoppage wins intact, but Diaz presented some problems, spinning out of trouble, and on occasion, countering Diaz and timing him as he neared.
In the sixth, Diaz was able to cleave Rivera’s high guard, bouncing a combination off his head, though he did not follow up. Rivera reached the seventh for the first time in his career, going more rounds than he did combined in his first two fights, which ended in first- and third-round stoppages.
Rivera looked smooth, and he is exciting, though for someone elite, he took many punches from a fighter that he was overtly better than.
Rivera kept his record clean, winning by unanimous scores of 79-73 (2) and 78-74 in moving to 3-0, but his short run of stoppage victories ended.
Australian bantamweight Skye Nicolson (6-0, 0 KOs) made easy work of previously undefeated Tania Alvarez (7-1, 1 KO) in a unanimous 10-round decision.
In a 10-round junior featherweight bout between undefeated fighters, Ramla Ali (8-0, 2 KOs) came out still spotless with a dominant decision over Australian Avril Mathie (8-1-1, 3 KOs).
Paterson, New Jersey’s Shadasia Green (12-0, 11 KOs) notched her most impressive victory to date stopping former IBF and WBA super middleweight titlist Elin Cederroos (8-2, 4 KOs) for the first time in her career at 1:08 of the sixth round in a scheduled 10-rounder.
“The Sweet Terminator” did something undisputed super middleweight world champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn could not do last April and that’s stop Cederroos.
Lightweight Harley Mederos (5-0, 4 KOs) stopped Julio Madera (4-3, 3 KOs) in the sixth round. In the first fight of the night, junior welterweight Aaron Aponte (7-0-1, 2 KOs) won an eight-round unanimous decision over Joshua David Rivera (8-2, 3 KOs).
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.