Katie Taylor (L) and Amanda Serrano (R) have been on a collision course for the guts of four years. PA Images
Bad Blood

Katie Taylor demands 'no more excuses', which is all she usually gets from Amanda Serrano

A tweet from Taylor sparked an online war of words between Serrano, Eddie Hearn and Lou DiBella, and female boxing’s biggest fight now looks unlikely.

KATIE TAYLOR POURED petrol on it in an interview with The42 in October 2018.

“I think she’s mentally fragile at times — that’s what her biggest problem is, really,” she said of her pugilistic archnemesis, Amanda Serrano, then a five-weight world champion. “I don’t think she wants the big fights. Maybe she’s afraid to lose.”

Taylor, the unified WBA and IBF lightweight world champion at the time, was gearing up for a title defence against Serrano’s less heralded older sister, Cindy, in Boston — a routine fight specifically designed by promoter Eddie Hearn to get the ball rolling towards a seminal showdown between the Irishwoman and Puerto Rican-Brooklynite Amanda, two of the female code’s leading lights.

But the younger and more formidable Serrano sister had other ideas. Days prior, she informed this writer that she refused to wait for a Taylor fight of her own, that she had ‘done enough’ in boxing, and that she would be pursuing mixed martial arts in whose cage the potential earnings would far outweigh what she deemed obtainable in boxing, the sport to which she had dedicated her life but from which she felt she had never been paid her her dues.

And with good reason: her prospective purse for a Taylor bout around that time would have been in the region of $100,000, roughly 10 times more than she had earned in any of her previous 37 prizefights. Taylor’s paycheck would likely have been two and a half times that.

“A fight between us is one people have been talking about for the last year or so, and the fight has to happen,” added Taylor in that same 2018 interview.

“I’m definitely open to it, and she has claimed that she’s open to it. Whether she actually wants the fight or not, I’m not too sure.”

katie-taylor-before-the-fight Katie Taylor emerges for her fight with Christina Linardatou in November 2019. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Fast forward almost two years: Taylor [15-0, 6KOS] is the undisputed lightweight world champion and has also won a world title in a second weight division, at light-welter. The 33-year-old is still, by a significant margin, the highest earner in women’s professional boxing, and she earns a lot more per fight these days than she did in 2018.

Serrano [38-1-1, 28KOs] does better for herself too these days, albeit not quite in the same financial ballpark. The explosive 31-year-old southpaw has since October 2018 gone on to win boxing world titles in two further weight classes to become a seven-division champion. Less than two weeks after she declared herself finished with boxing, she and her promoter, Lou DiBella, signed a three-fight co-promotional deal with Taylor’s promotional company, Hearn’s Matchroom outfit, the original contract for which mandated that the third fight was to be against Taylor.

And yet we’re still talking about a prospective fight and not the legendary night for women’s boxing that was.

Serrano’s first outing as part of her Matchroom partnership took place in January of 2019, when she beat up Eva Voraberger, picking up global honours in her seventh division. Taylor then fought in March and June, versus Rose Volante and Delfine Persoon respectively.

Serrano, however, citing all sorts of promotional disputes, didn’t box in the interim, meaning she was still contractually a fight short of facing Taylor until September 2019 when, nine months after her first fight under Matchroom’s banner, she dominated Heather Hardy in a featherweight world-title fight dubbed ‘The Battle of Brooklyn’.

By this point, though, Taylor hadn’t fought in three months and so, rather than twiddle her thumbs for another full quarter while waiting for Serrano to wind down and go again, she moved up in weight and took from Christina Linardatou a 140-pound world title in Manchester in November.

Serrano, despite having not boxed at all for two thirds of the year, subsequently alleged that Taylor had “fled the whole division completely” and, for the umpteenth time since 2018, did her best to distance herself from a prospective women’s superfight between the pair. “I’m not going to sit around and wait for Katie Taylor,” she said. “Katie Taylor needs me — I don’t need Katie Taylor. I’ve left my legacy in the sport of boxing, and I’m not just going to continue to be put on the shelf or be sitting waiting for just one fighter.”

boxing-2019-amanda-serrano-defeats-heather-hardy-by-unanimous-decision Serrano lands a left hand to the body of Heather Hardy. Joel Plummer Joel Plummer

Following her victory over Linardatou on an electric night in Manchester, Taylor responded to Serrano’s remarks, as well as recent barbs from scorned fellow rival Persoon, telling this writer: “Eventually, I’ll shut them up. I’m going to have a chance to shut them all up.”

Finally, in early spring of this year, it appeared for all intents and purposes as though the undisputed 135-pound champion would get one of the chances she coveted: the biggest fight in the history of women’s professional boxing was finally on.

Challenger Serrano — who tends to veer wildly from speaking of her respect for Taylor to firing verbal grenades in her direction — was talking a big game straight off the bat:

“Once I go in there and show, and prove, that I am the best, and go in there and beat Katie Taylor, it’s going to be a different story — they’re going to be talking about me as the golden girl,” she told The Ak & Barak Show on American satellite radio station SiriusXM.

“She’s an average woman — she’s a girl. I mean, my trainer, Jordan [Maldonado], saw it when she was in there with my sister [Cindy Serrano]. She’s average — there’s nothing really to her. She’s not no superhero like everyone paints her to be. Katie Taylor’s just another female fighter.

“She has a gold medal from the Olympics, she has a great promoter pushing her and everybody knows who she is because of Matchroom Boxing and DAZN [US broadcaster], and articles written about her…

“Her promoter did a great job promoting her.”

The scene was set for 2 May at the Manchester Arena in which Taylor had enjoyed her most recent success to thunderous acclaim. Then, a plot twist: the onset of Covid-19, which forced the cancellation of 2 May’s Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin bill on which Taylor-Serrano was the chief-support bout.

Matchroom rescheduled the card for 4 July but to no avail, which leads us to the latest impasse, during which both parties’ dirty laundry has been aired to a spectacular extent on Twitter.

Taylor was last Friday confirmed once more to be fighting under Whyte-Povetkin on the new-new date of 22 August, this being the final of four Matchroom Fight Camp events which will take place in the garden of Eddie Hearn’s mansion in Brentwood, Essex, with no fans present.

Notable, however, was the lack of any indication as to who will stand opposite her at ‘Matchroom Square Garden’ in two months’ time: Hearn, who had only recently claimed that Taylor-Serrano was ‘on’ again, didn’t allude to the Puerto Rican nor did any of the promotional material released by Matchroom or Sky Sports in the aftermath of the announcement.

katie-taylor-after-her-victory-over-christina-linardatou Taylor celebrates victory over Christina Linardatou in Manchester. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Suddenly, on Sunday evening, came a rare foray by Taylor into the world of Twitter sparring. In a tweet addressed to Serrano with a ‘waving’ emoji, the Bray woman wrote:

We both signed contracts, all financial barriers have been removed and any training/travel issues are the same for both of us as I’m also training in the US. No more excuses, this is a fight to elevate the sport. August 22 is our time to make history. You in?

Then came 280-character war, not between Taylor and Serrano, but in a Venn diagram consisting of Serrano (and her trainer-manager Jordan Maldonado, who purportedly tweets on behalf of his fighter from her account on a regular basis), her full-time promoter Lou DiBella, and her kind-of promotional collaborator Hearn.

A tweet posted from Serrano’s account read: “I signed 4 contracts to fight Katie Taylor & despite what lies Eddie Hearn wants to say he offered us a purse deduction & a change of location in addition to yet another date May 2nd, July 4th now August 22nd my team will handle this.

“I’m Not a Toy I’m DONE WITH THE GAMES!”

An hours-long fallout between Team Serrano, Hearn and DiBella ensued, during which nobody seemed to want to pick up the phone or, more accurately, put it to their ear rather than prod it furiously with their thumb.

There were too many accusations of lies and miscommunication to keep up with, but the dust settled to reveal a few truths, the most important of which is that while Katie Taylor will fight on 22 August, it probably won’t be against Amanda Serrano.

It transpires that after the second postponement earlier this summer, the Puerto Rican accepted an invitation to compete on Exatlón, a Survivor-style reality TV show on the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo. The prize fund for the winner is $200,000.

However, Hearn, citing his right to reschedule Taylor-Serrano for a date of Matchroom’s choosing by dint of the force majeure clause in Serrano’s fight contract, sent legal letters to both Serrano and her longtime promoter DiBella. He also issued at least a verbal cease-and-desist to Telemundo whom he claims were unaware that Serrano had other contractual obligations. She was subsequently pulled from the reality show.

eddie-hearn Hearn and Taylor. Matchroom Boxing / Dave Thompson/INPHO Matchroom Boxing / Dave Thompson/INPHO / Dave Thompson/INPHO

Intertwined within this legal dispute was another debate about pay which had been playing out on more traditional media platforms in advance of the Twitter shenanigans. Serrano and her trainer-manager Maldonado had alleged that to fight Taylor in August, ‘The Real Deal’ had been offered only roughly half of her originally agreed-upon purse, which was believed to be in the region of $300,000, to mitigate against the lack of gate revenue Matchroom would earn from their 22 August bill.

While Hearn denied that such an offer had ever been made, it’s understood that several of the biggest-earning fighters due to box on his Fight Camp series were asked to take 10-20% pay cuts Most of them agreed.

Hearn later stated that Serrano had again been offered her full, originally agreed-upon purse in order to make the fight. Amid the Twitter madness on Sunday, meanwhile, he appeared to additionally claim that Taylor had absorbed the cost of Serrano’s proposed cut as well as that of her own, telling the prospective challenger:

Katie took YOUR purse reduction because she wants legacy. There is no reduction for you- we hope to see you for a great moment for the sport.

In fairness to Serrano, Taylor is comparably better-placed to foot the bill; as the clear promotional A-side and reigning lightweight champion, she would likely have earned somewhere in the region of three times as much as Serrano for their 135-pound fight.

But chances are Hearn and Taylor won’t be seeing Serrano for the long-awaited showdown in August, for whatever about money, she still has bones to pick with the non-financial infrastructure of the proposition.

All indications are that Serrano and Maldonado are vehemently against fighting in the literal backyard of Taylor’s promoter. As to how exactly such a thing could benefit Taylor more so than an enclosed arena containing a thousands-strong pro-Taylor crowd remains anybody’s guess; an empty garden in which judges wouldn’t be swayed by a partisan audience is surely a leveller and not a disadvantage.

Equally, musings from her side of the bargaining table suggest that Serrano doesn’t feel she can adequately prepare for the fight while gyms remain closed in her home state of New York, whereas Taylor has use of a gym she had installed in the basement of her Connecticut home as well as the nearby private premises belonging to her trainer, Ross Enamait. One minor problem with that argument is that it would appear as though Serrano has been training throughout lockdown in the Big Apple: on 20 June, she posted footage of herself using an otherwise-empty gym on Instagram, the caption of which read quite literally: “Feels great to train at home in your own private gym.”

A lack of sparring in the circumstances is, of course, an issue, but one which would have to be navigated by both women and their teams.

Another hitch from Serrano’s point of view is that, as it stands, she would have to quarantine for two weeks upon entry to the UK — again, far from ideal. But again, so too would Taylor who would be landing in from Connecticut.

bonfire-in-north-belfast A mural of Katie Taylor in North Belfast. PA PA

In boxing, as well as in life, the old adage tends to make sense: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. But it’s clear from her originally signing to fight Taylor in the spring that Serrano isn’t ducking her rival — at least not anymore. And with good reason, too: ‘The Real Deal’ is a live dog in the fight, and would appear to believe as much herself even more so having watched Delfine Persoon and Christina Linardatou, two rough-and-tumble operators, take plenty of rounds off Taylor during her last two encounters.

Rather, Serrano’s distaste for terms being dictated to her is once again getting in the way of a fight that would truly move the needle for the sport to which she has given so much.

Of course, it doesn’t help that these terms are being dictated to her by ‘The Big Bad’: the representatives of a fighter who, to her mind, blew in from the Olympics in 2016 and has achieved in a four-year career the kind of status within the professional sport that she has craved across the 11 years of her own.

The prospect of losing to Taylor in a legacy fight would in the past have been too unbearable for Serrano to consider, and so an excuse was always found not to risk it.

In 2020, for three times the money, it might be fractionally more palatable — but not if she feels as though she has been pushed into it on Hearn’s terms, or Taylor’s, or anybody else’s.

And it’s not hard to understand how her watching Taylor become a posterwoman for boxing to either side of the Atlantic has been frustrating. But at the same time, you can’t help but feel frustrated that Serrano seems once more unwilling to grasp her opportunity to rip that poster to shreds.

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