Serrano outslugs Cruz in epic battle for undisputed women's featherweight title; rematch with Taylor set for May 20 in Ireland
Baumgardner drops Mekhaled twice in rout to become undisputed women's junior lightweight champ
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In a blood-soaked, toe-to-toe battle and early women’s fight of the year contender, Amanda Serrano outpointed Erika Cruz to become the undisputed women’s featherweight champion in the main event of the Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN on Saturday night at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“A long journey. I’m just so emotional,” a jubilant Serrano said. “I finally did it for my island (of Puerto Rico).
“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 weight-class (women’s) world champion.”
Serrano retained the WBO, WBA and IBF titles and took Cruz’s WBC belt and next will have a second chance to become the undisputed lightweight champion.
Immediately after the victory, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, with Serrano and undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor flanking him, announced in the ring that a rematch between two of the pound-for-pound best was signed, sealed and delivered for May 20 (DAZN) at a venue to be determined in Taylor’s home country of Ireland, where she is a mega star.
First, however, Serrano had to deal with Cruz, which was no easy task despite the lopsided scores of 98-92, 98-92 and 97-93.
Cruz won the first two rounds on two scorecards and it was even on the third, but the fight changed dramatically late in the third round when a brutal accidental head butt ripped open a cut on Cruz’s forehead/hairline. Blood poured down her face for the rest of the fight.
Serrano also suffered a cut at some point during the bout in the corner of her right eye, making for one of the bloodiest fights in years. They spilled so much blood that the white DAZN logo in the center of the ring was mostly red.
Whenever Serrano would land a clean punch, Cruz’s blood would fly. But she was undeterred by the mask of blood and fought her heart out with nonstop punching.
“She’s a Mexican champion and we knew that from the very beginning,” Serrano said. “I knew she wasn’t just going to let me take her belt. She worked hard for this, I worked hard for this. That’s what we expected. That’s what we trained for. We didn’t expect anything less than that.
“I’m glad it went past the fourth (to avoid a technical decision had the fight been stopped due to the cut).”
Referee Ricky Gonzalez called timeouts before the sixth and ninth rounds to have the ringside doctor examine Cruz’s wound but the fight was allowed to continue.
Serrano (44-2-1, 30 KOs), 34, who is Puerto Rico-born and fights out of Brooklyn, New York, hurt fellow southpaw Cruz with a left hand late in the sixth round and dished out considerable punishment. Cruz (15-2, 3 KOs), 32, of Mexico, who had not lost a since a four-round majority decision in her second fight in 2016, was on shaky legs but persevered and even had a brief rally near the end of the round.
“(Trainer) Jordan (Maldonado) kept screaming 1-2, 1-2’s from the corner — go back to the basics,” Serrano said. “My left hand was catching her pretty clear and the jabs. So, I just listen to my corner.”
In the later rounds Serrano and Cruz didn’t even pretend to use defense. It was simply a grinding, smash-mouth, bloody battle of attrition.
Cruz continually pawed at the cut but pushed through it as they closed the fight by brawling though the 10th round.
Minutes after the fight, a video montage played and Hearn announced Serrano’s rematch with Taylor. Last April, they met at sold-out Madison Square Garden in the first female main event at the storied arena as Serrano moved up two divisions to challenge Taylor (22-0, 6 KOs), 36, in what became a huge event.
The fight more than lived up to the hype as they put on an epic battle for the ages, which Taylor won by disputed split decision. They talked about an immediate rematch but instead Serrano took two interim fights and Taylor one. Now they’ll meet again.
“It’s going to be a bigger and better fight over there (in Ireland),” Serrano said. “We have some unfinished business, Katie.”
The fight will mark the first time in the four-belt era that two reigning undisputed champions will face each other in men’s or women’s boxing.
“I was cheering her on because I want this fight. Undisputed versus 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 and I expect nothing less from the next one.
“This is still the biggest fight in women’s boxing and I only want to do the biggest fights. This is exactly what I want.”
It is what Serrano wants also.
“Katie is a true champion. She came here to New York (in April). Now she deserves to fight in Ireland and it will be a bigger and better fight over there,” Serrano said. “(The loss) didn’t bother me too much. Of course, you want to win. But I learned a lot and now I know what I need to do.”
Baumgardner routs Mekhaled
In the co-feature, Alycia Baumgardner scored two third-round knockdowns against Elhem Mekhaled en route to a dominating unanimous decision to become the undisputed women’s junior lightweight champion.
Baumgardner won 99-89, 99-89 and 98-90 in an easy fight to score as she retained the WBC, WBO and IBF titles and won the vacant WBA title to make her the four-belt undisputed champion.
“The process has been great. I worked my ass off to get here,” Baumgardner said. “I showed discipline, grit, hard work. I had to fight who I had to fight and I got here and I came out successful.”
She badly hurt Mekhaled and nearly stopped her in the third round. Baumgardner landed a clean overhand right to score the first knockdown and then moments later dropped her again under extremely heavy pressure.
She continued to pummel Mekhaled and she went down again, but referee Eric Dali ruled it a push. Regardless, Mekhaled was hurt and in bad shape and showed enormous grit to make it out of the round.
“I saw a tough fighter and I had her hurt plenty of times but one thing about her is she got heart and I salute her for that,” Baumgardner said. “She kept coming like a champion should.”
Baumgardner (14-1, 7 KOs), 28, of Detroit, did not try to test Mekhaled (15-2, 3 KOs), 31, of France, in the fourth round, seemingly exhausted from exerting so much energy in the third.
“When you throwing bombs in there you got to get that (wind) back,” Baumgardner said. “I listened to my corner, I used my jab.”
Baumgardner had Mekhaled hurt again early in the seventh round and had her all over the place. But Mekhaled had enough heart and savvy to hang in for the rest of the fight as Baumgardner appeared very tired in the late rounds even if the result was never in doubt.
Baumgardner was very pleased with her performance.
“It was great. I dug deep,” Baumgardner said. “Look, I started my period today, so that should tell you something. That should tell you that us women can do it all.”
Baumgardner was not completely satisfied becoming an undisputed champion. She wants even higher-profile fights.
“Right now we want the big fights. We want the mega fights,” Baumgardner said. “This fight showed me there’s levels to this and I want to continue to climb. We want (undisputed lightweight champion) Katie Taylor. We want those mega fights. I want that challenge. I want to challenge myself. That’s the only way I’m gonna know where I am and how I can better.”
There is also the prospect of a rematch with Mikaela Mayer, who was ringside and who Baumgardner edged by split decision to unify three belts in her previous fight on Oct. 15.
“Mikaela came here for a reason,” Baumgardner said. “I hope she learned something — that I’m coming for that ass. (In a rematch) I’ll knock her the fuck out.”
Photos: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing
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The promo ended for the May 20 Serrano fight and my girlfriend turned to me and declared, “we’re watching it”
men and womens fight of the year so far on the same weekend!!