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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Michelle Farsi for Matchroom/MSG Photos Katie Taylor and challenger Amanda Serrano pose at the Fearless Girl Statue on Wall Street, New York.
# meeting the enemy
Taylor: 'This is going to be a career-defining night... But I have been refined in the fire'
Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano stared down for the first time ahead of their 30 April superfight on a hectic media day in New York.

TODAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE in New York wasn’t Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano’s first meeting in person but it was the first time boxing fans saw the pair of pound-for-pound greats turned towards each other for a staredown and, consequently, the first time their landmark 30 April showdown felt real.

When the talking at the top table concluded, the fighters were asked to converge for photographs. Serrano wasn’t shy, strolling straight into Taylor’s personal space and breaking into a typical boxer’s pose, with Taylor following suit.

As they turned to face each other for the staredown shot, there was the most curt of verbal exchanges. Whatever the Puerto Rican Brooklynite said to the Bray woman was met with a simple, ‘Yeah.’ Behind the challenger, an animated Jake Paul — the YouTuber and fledgling pro boxer who has taken Serrano under his managerial wing — clapped and shouted ‘Let’s go!’ And for the first time, however briefly, the whole boxing world was in agreement with its self-styled Problem Child.

Theirs has been a fight more than five years in the making, mostly because Amanda Serrano [42-1-1, 30KOs] and her trainer-manager Jordan Maldonado have refused to take it since Taylor [20-0, 6KOs] turned professional in 2016. For a time, there existed in them a fear of losing, certainly, but more pertinently it was a fear of cashing in Serrano’s significant legacy for less than they believed it was worth.

In 2022, the fear of losing will have largely dissipated on the back of Taylor’s last couple of lacklustre performances and, to Serrano and Maldonado’s credit, the 33-year-old southpaw is set to earn somewhere in the region of a million dollars — probably 10 times more than she would have if they had taken the fight when it was first broached.

Mostly to Taylor’s credit, meanwhile, is the fact that April’s long-awaited lightweight showdown (for which the Irishwoman will earn significantly more than Serrano as the champion and higher-profile fighter) will be the headline act in the 20,000-capacity main room at Madison Square Garden: the first female bill-topper at the iconic venue in its 140-year association with combat sports. Indeed, Taylor-Serrano will be, by any metric, the biggest fight in the history of women’s professional boxing, and one of the biggest fights of boxing’s calendar year — male or female.

A busy media day on Wednesday began with a joint interview on Fox television both fighters and culminated in their ceremonially closing the market on Wall Street, Taylor ringing the bell and Serrano dropping the hammer.

At the official-launch press conference at MSG, Serrano talked finance, thanking her trainer-manager Maldonado for turning down the fight in all of its previous guises and helping to drive her stock upwards. “He knows my worth,” she said, “and now we’re working with MVP (Jake Paul’s company) and they know exactly what I’m worth as well.

“The timing couldn’t be better than right now. Happy National Women in Sports Day — which is today! It couldn’t be a better day than to do all this press.

“We women, we’re changing the sport.

I’m super glad and honoured to share the ring with Katie Taylor: she’s a great champion, and we’re going to prove who’s the pound-for-pound best because everyone’s been asking for it!

“I’m still Amanda ‘The Real Deal’ Serrano and I don’t need to talk bad about any of my opponents,” the Puerto Rican added. “I do all my talking inside the ring. I respect Katie Taylor for what she’s done.

“Between you and her”, Serrano said to promoter Eddie Hearn, “you guys have opened the door for women’s boxing and now, look: we’re headlining at MSG. So, there’s going to be no bad words between us. But in the ring it’s something different,” Serrano laughed.

Thirteen years I’ve been a professional. Every other day, I wanted to quit. The struggle was real: I never had an easy way out in the game. And never did I imagine making the money I’m making today and headlining Madison Square Garden. Like, are you serious? It wasn’t even a thought. But look: we’re changing the game and now, younger girls in the sport can be like, ‘I want to be like those girls, I want to headline The Garden.’ Now, there’s hope for them. I never that hope and I’m excited to open those doors.

Promoter Hearn noted that when Taylor and Brian Peters joined him in his office in the autumn of 2016 in an attempt to convince him that they could do something special with women’s boxing together, he didn’t believe them.

Addressing Taylor, he said: “If we would have sat there at that time and said that one day, you’d be headlining [at MSG], you might have believed it! But I wouldn’t have — and many didn’t.”

A smiling Taylor replied: “I think ever since I turned pro, I’ve had my eyes fixed on two fights: one was [Delfine] Persoon and the other was Serrano. So, this is a fight that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, now.

Since the fight was announced a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been sitting back just reflecting on these last few years. It’s incredible just how far the sport has come in the last five years where we’re actually headlining at Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of Boxing. It’s being called the biggest fight in female boxing history and it’s such a privilege to be part of such a historic moment. This is history, right here. All of our hard work has paid off and this is going to be a career-defining night.

Hearn then said to Taylor: “I remember going back to your debut at Wembley and people were just… They weren’t sure, were they?

“This event, already in these last few days, it feels like it has people talking about it as a major fight, not just a female fight.

I remember I came to you a few years ago and said, ‘I’m going to headline you on an all-female card’ — and that wasn’t really your vision, was it? It was just about the perception of equality for great fights.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Taylor replied. “I think that this fight genuinely is the most exciting fight in the sport — not just in female boxing but in boxing as a whole. And not just because of our records but I believe that our styles will gel well together and we’ll produce a fantastic fight for the fans.

“We’re both great champions and she has a great record — there’s no doubt about it. She’s a great fighter. We’re both going to be stepping into the ring on fight night believing we’re going to come out victorious.”

Breaking slightly from Serrano’s apparent peace offering minutes earlier, Taylor then appeared to backhandedly propagate the perception that Serrano has cherry-picked many of her opponents, picking up belts in seven weight divisions but without taking on significant challenges.

I do believe that if you look down the lists of our opponents, you’ll see recognisable names on my resumé. You’ll see the likes of [Jessica] McCaskill, Persoon, the likes of [Natasha] Jonas among others. And you’ll also see top-class amateur boxers from when I was an amateur as well. So I have been tested, I have been refined in the fire, and I believe that will stand to me in a fight this competitive.

“We’re both going to go in in the best shape possible”, Taylor concluded, “and may the best fighter win.”

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Joel Fischer, executive vice president at Madison Square Garden, told the assembled press that “the reception for this, and the reaction to this fight since it was announced, has been incredible.

“It’s long overdue. It’s just a great fight that people in boxing want to see. Forget about women — in general, this is just a great fight and it’s going to be a tremendous night.”

“For us, it’s an absolutely perfect event,” added Joe Markowski, executive vice president of fight broadcaster DAZN’s global platform.

I echo a lot of what Joel said about the quality of the fight full stop but you’ve also got the two pound-for-pound best fighters in the world — one Irish, so for our UK and Irish business it’s a huge opportunity, and one from the U.S. as well. A lot of noise is made about this being a historic women’s boxing event but for us, this just makes great business sense. For me, it’s a huge opportunity for the sport — and women’s sport more broadly — to sort of stop and acknowledge and celebrate the progress that’s being made.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for all of us up here, for the people we work with and for our outside partners to use the next two months to push this to become a moment in time, a celebration.”

Jake Paul, referred to as his “co-promoter” by Hearn throughout, won’t fight again until after the dust settles on Taylor and Serrano’s scrap, preferring instead to focus all his energy on 30 April. “Today is about Amanda and Katie, the two best female boxers in the world right now,” he said. “They deserve this stage, they deserve this historic pay day, and they deserve to see who is the pound-for-pound best, which is why I’m excited to see this fight — for real.”

Paul incorrectly stated that women have only been able to box professionally since 1999 but, regaining his footing, he added that Taylor-Serrano was “also about Ann Wolfe, Christy Martin, Laila Ali, Mia St John and many other legendary boxers who helped lay the foundations for these ladies to be sitting here today.

“It’s about Claressa Shields, Mikaela Mayer, Alycia Baumgardtner and other amazing professionals currently in the sport. And most of all, it’s about future young women and girls all over the world who will see 30 April as a moment that made possible for them equality as it’s meant to be.

We’re grateful to Katie Taylor and her team for committing to take this fight and, of course, most of all, we’re proud to stand with Amanda Serrano: a superstar, a woman who has dedicated her whole life to boxing; doesn’t have a phone! Meanwhile, I’m posting TikToks all the time.

“And now, it’s time to start showing how important women’s boxing is — to people like Bob Arum who misspoke when he made his comments earlier in the week,” Paul stressed, referring to the Hall of Fame promoter’s attempts to dismiss the fight’s significance. (Arum’s Top Rank outfit have decided to stage a massive men’s fight between Shakur Stevenson and Oscar Valdez on the same night, although with encouragement from Stevenson, both parties appear to be working on an arrangement to avoid a TV clash).

“He’s going to eat his words on 30 April,” Paul said of Arum, “and he’s going to see how impactful this fight is.”

Taylor and Serrano will take on the second of a two-leg press tour in London next week. There will, however, be no press event in Ireland.

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