The narrative is that Saturday’s lightweight unification fight at Madison Square Garden in New York between unbeaten Katie Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, and Amanda Serrano is the most significant fight in women’s boxing history.
There is no denying the importance of the fight. At worst – at the absolute worst – Taylor and Serrano are among the top five pound-for-pound female fighters in the game today. At best, they’re Nos. 1-2.
So whenever you have that kind of talent meeting in the ring, it’s significant.
The fight comes at a point in time where, sadly, women’s boxing hasn’t taken off. While women’s MMA is hugely popular and doesn’t take a backseat to men’s bouts, such isn’t the case in boxing.
I live in Las Vegas, which is known as the “Fight Capital of the World.” If I went to Las Vegas Boulevard and asked 100 random people on the street if they could identify either Serrano or Taylor, I’d be surprised if I got 10 correct answers.
That’s not to knock either fighter; it’s the reality of the situation.
It’s also difficult to call a fight in which only the hardest of the hardcore fans are familiar with the combatants the biggest of all time. It’s going to be an epic battle given to both women are supremely talented, amazingly competitive and have much at stake.
This could be the fight that opens the door for more widespread acceptance of women’s boxing much like in MMA when Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche put on a great battle at UFC 157. After that, there were never any questions about the ability of women to either sell or fight at the highest level.
Serrano says she’s making at least $ 1 million for the fight. No female boxer I am aware of has ever made a purse of $ 1 million for a single night, so that is encouraging.
There are usually four factors that make a fight can’t-miss:
The styles of the fighters promise an action-filled fight.
The stakes are high.
It is a rivalry or grudge match.
The public has demanded the bout.
In this case, the styles mesh perfectly and this no doubt has Fight of the Year potential. The stakes are enormous and the winner will probably be No. 1 pound-for-pound in the sport. Taylor has been one of the biggest names in women’s boxing since she joined the sport and has cast a huge shadow over Serrano.
Serrano hasn’t gotten the recognition she deserves despite championships in seven weight classes, so a rivalry has developed.
The fan recognition isn’t there, though, and that’s the one thing keeping this bout from being everywhere.
But Taylor hit on the significance of this bout when she was talking about its importance to her.
“It’s years and years later, and we’re still talking Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fights,” Taylor said. “I think years and years later from this fight, people are going to be talking about Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano.”
If they are, this fight will do much toward changing the narrative of women’s boxing. In addition to Taylor-Serrano, women like Claressa Shields, Mikaela Mayer and Seniesa Estrada are taking big risks and being bold to strive for greatness.
It’s just not getting the attention that it does on the men’s side.
But the boxing hardcores know how great both Serrano and Taylor are as fighters and what promise their fight holds.
There hasn’t been a women’s boxing match yet that has crossed over and done big business even remotely comparable to what a top men’s fight would do, and this won’t either. It will have a nice crowd and generate some buzz, but based on the importance within the sport and the talent of the fighters, this should be getting the kind of build-up that Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte got last week.
As great as Laila Ali was in her career, she never had that big crossover bout despite the most famous last name in boxing. Promoters could never get her and Anne Wolfe into the ring against each other.
Lucia Rijker is regarded by many as the greatest female fighter of all time, but without looking it up, name her biggest win.
Christy Martin is going into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this year, but she’s known for being on the cover of Sports Illustrated more than anything else.
Serrano and Taylor can change that narrative and help the women who come behind them earn the paydays and get the recognition that their talents demand.
“We have to fight 10 times harder than the men because we’re just not fighting for ourselves,” Serrano said. “We are fighting for recognition, we are fighting for recognition, we are fighting for equality.
“I hope that we show that we can perform, that we can bring people to the seats, we can bring excitement to the sport of boxing and I’m just hoping it’s not the last time women get this recognition, recognition and pay.”
If it is, it’ll be a dark day for women’s boxing.
But my guess is that 20 years from now, a lot more people are going to say they were there at the ringside than they actually were. It’s that kind of fight.