Undisputed title fights set: Serrano-Cruz & Baumgardner-Mekhaled
Matchroom Boxing kicks off DAZN schedule Feb. 4 in New York
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Amanda Serrano and Erika Cruz will get their chance to become the undisputed women’s featherweight world champion.
They will meet to unify the four 126-pound titles in the main event as Matchroom Boxing kicks off its 2023 schedule on Feb. 4 (DAZN) at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Tuesday.
The card will also include an undisputed women’s title bout in the junior lightweight division in the co-feature as three-belt champion Alycia Baumgardner will defend her titles against Elhem Mekhaled with the vacant WBA belt also at stake.
“This is a pivotal moment, not just for me and my own career but for my home island of Puerto Rico,” said Brooklyn resident Serrano. “Earning the opportunity to be an undisputed lineal champion is something most fighters only dream about but becoming the first boxer from Puerto Rico to be an undisputed champion would make it even more special. I look forward to entering the ring in my hometown of NYC back at Madison Square Garden, taking on a Mexican champion in Erika Cruz and making Puerto Rican history.”
The fight will be the second for Serrano (43-2-1, 30 KOs), 34, since a disputed split decision loss to undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor in April in an instant classic at the sold-out Madison Square Garden main arena. A win over Cruz likely set up a rematch between Serrano and Taylor later in the year in Taylor’s home country of Ireland.
“What a start to 2023 we have in store in New York,” Hearn said. “The women continue to lead the way in undisputed fights, and we have two of the very best in action on Feb. 4. Puerto Rico versus Mexico fights always deliver fireworks, and we can expect nothing less when Amanda and Erika meet. Their clash of styles will make for a brilliant spectacle as Amanda and her army of fans returns to the scene of her history-making fight of the year with Katie.”
Cruz (15-1, 3 KOs), 32, of Mexico, has not lost a since a four-round majority decision in her second fight in 2016.
“I am grateful that this opportunity was finally given to me after many years of work,” Cruz said. “It's time to make history and give Mexico its first unified champion at 126 pounds.”
Baumgardner (13-1, 7 KOs), 28, of Detroit, is coming off a split decision over Mikaela Mayer to unify three belts on Oct. 15 in London and now can add the fourth with a victory over Mekhaled (15-1, 3 KOs), 31, of France.
“Naturally, I’m very excited to finally be fighting for undisputed to make it official what I’ve known all along — I’m the world’s best fighter in this division,” Baumgardner said. “To finally return home and debut in my country as a world champion is something I’ve been so looking forward to and to have all of this come together as a co-main at the legendary Madison Square Garden is so incredible.
“Mekhaled is a great fighter. She’s quick, smart, very skilled, and experienced. Her record and her last fight, where she really outboxed (Delfine) Persoon, shows that. But neither she nor anyone else in this division are on my level. So, I plan to end this one quick and make an example out of her.”
Mekhaled lost a competitive unanimous decision to former title challenger Persoon in her last fight in May.
“God knows how determined I am,” Mekhaled said. “It’s my time to shine.”
The WBA title is available because longtime titlist Hyun Mi Choi, of South Korea, has been reclassified as a “champion in recess” due to an injury and the world title was vacated.
Hitchins-Bauza also on card
Also on the card, Brooklyn welterweight Richardson Hitchins (15-0, 7 KOs), 25, will have his second fight since signing with Matchroom Boxing in 10-rounder against southpaw John Bauza (17-0, 7 KOs), 24, a Puerto Rico native fighting out of North Bergen, New Jersey.
“I’m excited to come back home and showcase my talent in front of my city and my fans,” Hitchins said. “When I signed with Eddie, he promised he was going to turn me into a star and having the opportunity to come back so quickly after my last fight, and do it at home, man I’m just so grateful for this.
“Bauza is no joke. We know each other, but these are the type of fights I want. I’m fighting a young, hungry, undefeated prospect like myself, but I truly believe I’m the best 140-pounder in the world and come fight night I’m going to show him I am on a whole other level. I just can’t wait to be back in front of my hometown fans and show the world that I am a problem at 140 lbs.”
The fight will be Bauza’s first fight since being released by Top Rank following disagreements over opponent selection.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while now and finally it’s here,” Bauza said. “On Feb. 4, I graduate from prospect to legitimate world contender. This is a huge opportunity for me to showcase myself and I plan on putting on a spectacular performance. I know Richardson well. We’ve sparred before. I respect him as a fighter but he’s simply not on my level and he’s going to realize that awfully quick.”
The card will also include:
Staten Island junior welterweight Reshat Mati (13-0, 7 KOs), 24, versus popular Long Island brawler Cletus Seldin (26-1, 22 KOs), 23, in a 10-rounder. It will be Seldin’s first fight since October 2021.
Featherweight Skye Nicolson (5-0, 0 KOs), 27, a 2020 Australian Olympian, against Tania Alvarez (7-0, 1 KO), 20, of Spain, in a women’s 10-rounder.
Junior featherweight Ramla Ali (7-0, 2 KOs), 33, a 2020 Olympian from Somalia based in England, against Avril Mathie (8-0-1, 3 KOs), 35, of Australia, in a women’s 10-rounder.
Junior welterweight Aaron Aponte (6-0-1, 2 KOs), 21, of Hialeah, Florida, versus Joshua David Rivers (8-1, 5 KOs), 28, of La Mesa, California, in an eight-rounder.
Brooklyn’s Harley Mederos (4-0, 3 KOs), 22, taking on Julio Madera (4-2, 2 KOs), 24, of Mexico, in a six-rounder.
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Dan the 1997 Grolier boxing 12 card set? You got it? lol