A reamatch at Croke Park in Dublin at the end of the summer is a real possibility after undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor (21-0, 6 KOs) defeated Amanda Serrano (42-2-1, 30 KOs) by split decision at a sold-out Madison Square Garden on Saturday night in a fight of the year candidate.
Taylor, who, with Serrano, became the first woman to headline a boxing match at Madison Square Garden, did not hesitate to commit to a possible second fight with her Puerto Rican opponent at GAA headquarters.
“Absolutely, we all want to see the best versus the best. A rematch would be phenomenal, and if it was in Dublin, we could sell out Croke Park with 90,000 people, so that would be unbelievable. We’ve seen something special here tonight, so imagine fighting in front of 80 or 90 thousand people,” said the 35-year-old at the post-fight press conference.
Taylor’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, echoed those sentiments, saying, “That felt like Croke Park tonight. I am not sure we will get as many traveling Puerto Ricans, but it always and has always been on our mind that it would be a big shame if she (Taylor) didn’t get a chance to fight in Ireland during her (professional) career. If we can do that at the back end of the summer, because it was a tough fight and she is going to need some rest, not too much rest knowing Katie, but that is certainly on our mind.”
Serrano’s promoter, media personality and YouTube star Jake Paul, also seemed up for a trip to the Emerald Isle later in the year.
“Everyone wants to see a rematch. They (team Taylor) came to New York City, so if there is a rematch, I think it makes sense as a team to go to Ireland,” he said.
Serrano’s trainer, Jordan Maldonado, also added that they would be willing to head across the pond. It would be a great year to have a major fight at Croke Park, as July 19 marks the 50th anniversary of the heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and Alvin Lewis fight at the same venue (Ali won via 11th round TKO).
Taylor wore the marks of battle after the fight while addressing the press. She was cut, bruised, swollen and at one stage had blood streaming down the left side of her face from what looked like a nick to her scalp. Despite all the accolades she has won both as an amateur and a professional, she ranked Saturday night’s victory as her greatest achievement.
“It was an unbelievable moment, the best night of my career for sure. I wasn’t sure if anything could reach my Olympic gold medal moment, but tonight was absolutely the best moment of my career,” she said.
If the rematch is anything like the first fight, then boxing fans are in for some treat. In front of an attendance of 19,187, Taylor and Serrano served up one of the most scintillating fights seen at the Mecca of boxing in some time.
Taylor boxed well in the early rounds when she landed and moved, but it was clear to see that Serrano’s power shots were impacting her when they found the mark. Taylor fell into the trap of brawling instead of boxing and nearly got caught in the fifth round when Serrano ensnared her in the red corner.
The 33-year-old unleashed a barrage of unanswered shots on a flailing Taylor. Canadian referee Mike Griffin could easily have stepped in to stop proceedings, but Taylor somehow managed to get out of the corner and hold on to her opponent to reach the bell.
The furious action continued in the sixth when both women slugged it out again, but Taylor managed to avoid the same damage as the previous stanza. The pace slackened a little in the seventh as both fighters drew breath, and Taylor went on to enjoy her best moments in rounds eight, nine, and 10 as Serrano fatigued a little (Taylor won the last three rounds on all judges’ scorecards).
In the last half-minute of the fight, both pugilists threw caution to the wind and traded fearlessly in the middle of the ring. The crowd was on its feet as both ladies lashed into each other, and the decibel level, which was high throughout the fight, was off the charts as the final bell rang.
Once things has calmed down a little, emcee David Diamante came back with the scorecard results and announced a split decision victory to Taylor (two judges scored it 96-93, 97-93 for Taylor, while one had it 96-94 for Serrano).
Serrano was gracious in defeat after the fight and wasn’t drawn in when asked about the judges’ decision.
“I really don’t know. I am in there, and of course every fighter is going to say they won the fight, but I am going to have to watch the fight again,” she said.
“It was a great fight. That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to put on a great fight to show that women can fight and that they can sell. I am glad that I put on a performance, and I gave it what I had tonight. It is what it is.”
Taylor credited her conditioning and mindset when asked how she was able to survive the fifth round.
“I think the courage and the strength to come back is purely from the hard work that I put in in training camp over the last few months. It’s in those moments that the hard work pays off in training. I don’t just show courage on fight night, I show courage every single day in training, in hard spars day after day and week after week, and that is exactly why you train hard for these moments when you are in the trenches,” she said.
The Wicklow woman, who was cheered on by a huge Irish army on the night, in addition to her mother Bridget and other family members, went on to say that she wasn’t in as much peril as those at ringside thought.
“I don’t think I was as hurt as people think. I obviously knew that it was a tough, tough round for me. I knew that it was Amanda’s round, but I wasn’t concerned or anything, I know that I was ok and stable coming back to the corner,” she said.
Taylor’s trainer, Ross Enamait, was succinct when explaining how Taylor weathered that storm. “She’s just built different. Balls of steel, I don’t care what you want to call it,” he said.
The biggest fight in women’s boxing history delivered and then some, and Taylor underlined the importance of the fight being a success for the sport.
“I think that the best part about this journey is being able to inspire young girls and inspire the next generation. I think both myself and Amanda have broken down so many barriers over the last few years for our sport. I guess we are both winners in a certain way tonight for what we do and what we achieved. A lot of girls will be inspired after this fight,” she feels.
It was a great night too for Irish fight fans, who turned up in their thousands to cheer on Taylor. Before the fight, Cathy Maguire sang “Amhrán na bhFiann,” though it was almost impossible to hear her, such was the passionate rendition coming from the stands. They made their voices heard throughout the fight and contributed to an amazing atmosphere.
Hearn confirmed afterward that MSG bosses invited him to stage the rematch there again. With both women earning a seven-figure payday for Saturday’s 10 rounds (according to Paul in the fight-week buildup), a rematch would be potentially even more lucrative for the fighters and much desired by all boxing fans.
In the meantime, Taylor, who was effusive in her praise for all the Irish fans who showed up to support her, was “looking forward to not getting punched in the face for a few weeks” and was planning to spend some downtime with family members who had made the trip to New York.
No one deserves the rest more than Taylor, who confirmed that she won’t be hanging up her gloves any time soon.
“I have no plans of retiring right now. I love my sport. I love fighting, and I just want to keep making history and keep doing what I am doing.”
Still undisputed, still one of Ireland’s best athletes and still one of its greatest role models, Taylor is an all-time great.
*This column first appeared in the May 4 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.