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'I said to her: 'How many more fights have you got?' She looked at me like she was going to kill me'

Eddie Hearn wants Katie Taylor to headline at Madison Square Garden versus Amanda Serrano, ‘but we’ve got to get it over the f***ing line.’

Eddie Hearn and Katie Taylor.
Eddie Hearn and Katie Taylor.
Image: Steven Paston

“WHAT’S THERE LEFT to do?”

It’s the question promoter Eddie Hearn asks himself these days when mapping out the career of one of his star fighters, undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor.

Hearn loves to reel off the places — and particularly the specific venues — where Taylor has fought since she first convinced him to take a meeting with her in 2016: Manchester Arena, the O2 in London, Wembley Stadium, the Millennium Stadium; various iconic arenas in the States including arguably its most famous: Madison Square Garden, New York. Twice.

An Irish homecoming remains off limits but Headingley Stadium in Leeds will feel like Taylor’s backyard when it’s added to the list this Saturday, as close to 20,000 fans watch Taylor make the latest defence of her crown in her father’s hometown.

With the greatest respect to Taylor’s very capable Texan opponent, Jennifer Han, who reigned as a featherweight world champion for five years before having her second child, hers is not exactly a name that will leap off the Irish icon’s CV in future years — unless she manages to pull off an unthinkable upset this weekend.

But such names are hard to come by when you’re as good as Taylor is — and it’s her promoter’s job to ensure none of them are missed between now and whenever Taylor decides to call it a day.

katie-taylor-and-jennifer-yan-with-eddie-hearn Eddie Hearn helps Katie Taylor with her belts as Jennifer Han watches on. Source: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson/INPHO

“I said to her after she fought Cindy Serrano in Philadelphia — we were planning her future and I said to her, ‘How many more fights have you got?’” Hearn recalls. “‘Five or six?’

She looked at me like she was going to kill me. She goes, ‘What do you mean?’ I genuinely had to pretend I was joking.

Han will make for Taylor’s eighth fight since that night in October 2018.

“If you said to her now, ‘You’ve got another five fights’, she really wouldn’t believe what you’re saying,” Hearn smiles. “She’d go, ‘What are you talking about?’

I think people look at Katie and think, ‘At some point, she’s going to age.’ And maybe it’s Jennifer Han who’s going, ‘Look, I know I’m an underdog, but maybe one night she’s just not going to be the same fighter.’

“But when you look at Katie’s future: Yes, there are these mandatories to take care of. [Jessica] McCaskill is here; if she fights McCaskill she’d be a two-weight undisputed world champion which would be nice.

The Amanda Serrano fight is a must-make fight. That’s the biggest fight in women’s boxing by a country mile. That’s a fight that could headline Madison Square Garden — but we’ve got to get it over the fucking line. And it’s so difficult to do.

ca-jake-paul-vs-tyron-woodley-los-angeles-press-conference Amanda Serrano. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

A clash with Puerto Rican-Brooklynite Serrano, nicknamed ‘The Real Deal’, has been mooted ever since Taylor turned professional five years ago but it has proven for Hearn to be one of the most difficult deals to close in his entire promotional career.

After a couple of years during which Serrano manoeuvred her way out of the fight — whether she was leveraging for more money or simply avoiding it for competitive reasons is open to interpretation — it was finally ‘on’ last spring, when Serrano signed on the dotted line for May.

The Irish undisputed lightweight champion against the American seven-weight world champion: two of the sport’s pound-for-pound leaders in an era-defining showdown at Manchester Arena.

But the pandemic put a kibosh on it, and when Hearn attempted to bring Serrano back over for August, she refused the fight once more — this time citing the restrictions that would incumber her preparation on both sides of the Atlantic. (Mind you, Taylor also lives in the USA and would have faced similar difficulties).

Delfine Persoon stepped in instead, with Taylor closing the book on her rivalry with the Belgian in another classic scrap between them.

Serrano, meanwhile, went in a different direction but has at least done a decent job in raising her own profile in the interim, most recently hitching her wagon to YouTube star Jake Paul and fighting on the undercard of his fight with UFC star Tyron Woodley last Sunday night.

“To be fair to Amanda Serrano, her value has increased significantly since we first negotiated that fight,” says Hearn.

“It’s a bit like when we were talking about doing AJ (Anthony Joshua) against Fury initially. This is a fight that, in my opinion, was a 70:30 split (in Joshua’s favour). But Fury goes over; beats Wilder, really, in the first fight; knocks him out in the second fight, so we turn around and go, ‘Fair enough — it’s 50:50!’

“And I don’t think we’re there yet with Serrano but we were at a point where it was an 80:20, 70:30 split — and the gap is now closing because of what Serrano has achieved. You have to give her the credit for that.

It’s not like Katie is going, ‘I want 70%!’ Or, ‘She’s not worth that!’ Katie don’t work that way. But I still want to be sure that she gets a record payday for that fight.

“She’s just the easiest fighter to represent,” Hearn adds on Taylor. “She’ll go back to Bray, she’ll have a couple of weeks and then she’ll go back to America and she’ll just be saying, ‘When’s my next fight? December?’ And I see her having one more after [Han], if she wins, and then we must make Serrano, March or April.”

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katie-taylor-press-conference-dublin Katie Taylor with manager Brian Peters (L) and promoter Eddie Hearn. Source: Niall Carson

As for December’s bout, provided Taylor first gets the job done this Saturday: “It could be McCaskill. We’ve got about three mandatories. I also like the Estelle Mossely fight — the gold medalist from Rio (Olympics), I’ve reached out to her as well.

We offered Natasha Jonas the rematch — and I don’t think Katie was mad on it, she was like, ‘I already beat her,’ even though I quite liked it. But Natasha didn’t want that fight.

“We’ll see who she fights but there’s no point in under-selling the Serrano fight. That’s the fight we’re desperate to make.”

Taylor typically quips that she hopes she can fight for another 10 years, that she has no intention of putting a time limit — or fight limit — on her game-changing professional career. At Thursday’s press conference, however, she did say “I know I can’t do this forever” — before stressing that she feels as fresh as she ever has.

When the time does come for Taylor to either step away from the ring, or for somebody to put their hand on her shoulder and tell her that she should, Hearn believes she won’t stray too far from her passion.

Until then, from his perspective, it’s all about zeroes: on paychecks but also in the loss column on Taylor’s professional record.

“It’s difficult, isn’t it, because when you’re that dedicated to something in your life, when it goes, it’s quite a massive hole to fill. I do think she’ll stay in boxing in some capacity.

“I think she bought a little speedboat recently. That’s quite lavish for Katie. She’s an amazing, amazing personality. Just so simple in a very peaceful way; she’s so at peace with herself because she’s doing what she loves to do — and that’s this.

As I say, she’ll finish here, she’ll go back to the gym, and Brian [Peters] will phone me up and say, ‘Katie’s on me. We need another fight.’ And I’ll have to find another date somewhere.

“But I want to see her get what she deserves — which I think she’s gotten so far.

But I still feel like headlining in Madison Square Garden, in a fight like Serrano, with a payday like that, would be the icing on the cake.

“But one thing I would love more than anything would be to see her retire undefeated,” Hearn says. “D’you know what I mean? I see her probably fighting Serrano a couple of times to be honest with you. If she can win those fights…she still probably won’t retire! But I would love to see her walk away at some point, undefeated. That would be tremendous.”

About the author:

Gavan Casey  / Reporting from Leeds

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