Legend of Katie Taylor keeps growing on seminal night for women's boxing

Irish champion defeated Amanda Serrano on a split decision in one of the most memorable boxing shows in history

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It was a night boxing history was made. Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, the two biggest stars in female boxing, on Saturday night became the first women to headline a show at Madison Square Garden in the venue's storied 140-year past.

Even before they had touched gloves, Taylor and Serrano had joined the boxing luminaries of New York City's most famous arena, but regardless of its historical context, by the ding of the final bell, this fight had been etched into folklore alongside the great MSG bouts. Joe Louis v Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier, Jake Lamotta v Sugar Ray Robinson, and now Taylor v Serrano. It really was that good.

The hype for this momentous showdown had reached fever pitch by the time the ring walks were completed as the sell-out crowd of nearly 20,000 roared its support for both fighters. The ear-splitting noise continued throughout and became so deafening that on more than one occasion neither the fighters nor referee Michael Griffin could hear the bell to signal the end of a round.

Given the crackling electricity inside the venue, it felt inevitable that Taylor and Serrano were going to deliver a classic, and over 10 pulsating rounds that's exactly what they did.

In a clash of styles between Taylor's technical brilliance and Serrano's speed and power, it was the Irishwoman who claimed the narrowest of victories, retaining her world lightweight titles on a split decision. But boy did she have to earn it; that she even went the distance is testament to Taylor's bravery and ruggedness after Serrano had her badly hurt in the fifth round.

But as great champions do, Taylor found a way to regroup and maintain her composure under the most intense of circumstances, starting and finishing the bout the stronger fighter to do just enough to protect her unbeaten record. As the final bell sounded Taylor and Serrano, both bloodied and bruised, embraced in a show of respect and recognition that together they had entered sporting immortality.

“People will absolutely be talking about myself and Amanda Serrano for years and years to come,” Taylor, 35, said.

What she described as "the best night of my career" only adds to the burgeoning legend of Katie Taylor, which first began to take shape in 2001 when, at the age of 15, she competed in the first officially-sanctioned bout between female boxers in Ireland. The ban on female boxers in her homeland meant that Taylor used to sneak into the gym where her brothers trained, put her name down as K Taylor, and tuck her hair into the headgear as a disguise. When she invariably won, there would be uproar when everyone realised she was a girl.

All modern greats stand on the shoulders of giants, but over the subsequent two decades, no one has done more to champion the cause of women's boxing. As a five-time European and six-time world amateur champion, Taylor successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to add women's boxing to the 2012 Games. She, of course, won gold.

Her impact on the professional ranks has been just as seismic, driving up interest and credibility to its latest culmination of selling out Madison Square Garden and earning both her and Serrano the first $1 million purses in female boxing history.

Having battled for so long, in and out of the ring, to get women's boxing to a point where its biggest fighters can now carry sold-out shows in big arenas, Taylor insisted she still has plenty more to accomplish.

"I have no plans of retiring right now," she said. "I love fighting and I just want to keep making history."

As long as Taylor keeps lacing up the gloves, there is little doubt that more history will indeed follow, hopefully starting with a rematch against Serrano in Ireland.

Updated: May 01, 2022, 2:34 PM