Katie Taylor edged Amanda Serrano on points with a split-decision victory in an instant classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Irishwoman retained her undisputed lightweight title in a fight brimming with action, heart and excellence.
Two of the three judges saw it for Taylor in a fight that lived up to every prediction and every hope.
Taylor got the verdict on two cards, by 97-93 and 96-93 margins, with one judge scoring it 96-94 to Serrano.
‘Look what we’ve just done’
It was the first time two females had headlined the famous venue and after the first fight smashed every expectation, an even bigger rematch is surely in the works, with Dublin’s Croke Park mentioned as a potential venue.
“Absolutely. We have to do this again,” Taylor said after the result.
“It was an absolute war for 10 rounds. I’m grateful to be in this position and sell out Madison Square Garden. Look what we’ve just done.
“I said before that when you think Madison Square Garden you think Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier, but now everyone will be thinking of Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano. I knew I was going to have to dig deep and go to the trenches.
“I have the heart as well as the skill. I knew I was going to be able to pull through.
“She’s a phenomenal fighter. A great, great person. It was a privilege to fight her again.”
On such a seminal night for women’s boxing, two of their greatest servants delivered. Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn might talk a big game but he could never have envisioned selling out Madison Square Garden, 19,187 tickets to be exact, with Taylor.
The build-up has been dominated by the significance of the event but Taylor and Serrano’s performance expressed the purest factor of women’s boxing incredible rise. It has been the talent of the fighters and Taylor’s unshakable resolve that has dragged women’s boxing out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
An all-out brawl
The fight quickly took shape in the first four rounds, Serrano the aggressor as the southpaw and Taylor looking to counter at speed.
Serrano would move in close and fire off big shots, with Taylor happy to let the challenger advance on her, falling back on her renowned ability to respond in volume in a blink of an eye.
The dangerous strategy from Taylor appeared to be working as she landed some clean shots, but then came the fifth round.
Serrano cornered Taylor against the ropes and fired off crunching shots, connecting with the head of Taylor and drawing blood. With the referee watching closely, an unsteady Taylor pushed forward in reply and managed to bring the fight away from the corner.
Taylor might have been swinging but for only the second time in her stellar career looked one punch away from hitting the deck. The first time was in this same venue against Delphine Persoon in 2019 when Taylor was lucky to retain her titles. Three years on Taylor was unsteady on the MSG canvas again, but did brilliantly to survive the round.
She met more fire in the fifth round, however, as Serrano was able to plant her feet when she needed to, hurting Taylor repeatedly with heavy hooks. Again the Irishwoman withstood the onslaught and appeared to rediscover her feet in the seventh.
Taylor could control the fight in the middle of the ring if she kept moving and finally it seemed like Serrano took her foot off the gas. After her slowest round, Serrano came out swinging again in eighth, eager to re-establish herself.
Serrano backed Taylor into a corner post but this time the defending champion pivoted away from danger, learning her lesson from earlier exchanges.
Into the final two rounds and Taylor was yet to hurt Serrano but that was soon to change. The ninth round saw Taylor manage to take some sort of control but it was short-lived. The final round was a scintillating affair of back and forth. Serrano swinging from the hips at times while Taylor responded with painful counters.
There was now blood on Serrano’s face. But the Puerto Rican refused to step back and so punches flew from every direction. The final 10 seconds was a remarkable feat of power and cardio from the two women.
Taylor had Serrano hurt but was then cracked by a powerful shot. Both women were unsteady on their feet but swinging when the final bell arrived.
The tension was almost indescribable as both sets of teams stood in the centre of the ring waiting to hear the results. Taylor was lucky to keep her titles three years ago and it was a nervous wait again under the bright lights of MSG.
Taylor edged it in a fight that was in truth very close and Serrano’s victory might have slipped away in the moments she took slowed down.
Opinions will be split on who won the fight and the debate will likely rage on until the two champions step in the ring again.
Deafening noise on a night like no other at Madison Square Garden
Boxing has seen many nights like these, but never for two female headliners. Inside MSG, the noise was deafening. ‘The Fields of Athenry’ rang out moments before the fighters made their ringwalk.
The Puerto Rican fans were not to be outsung, giving a powerful rendition of their anthem before it was the turn of the Irish to belt out theirs.
It was hard to pick a winner of the two sets of supporters even if there was one in the ring by the end of it. The support was feverish, loud and constant. Serrano’s entrance brimmed with emotion for a fighter that has spent most of career out in the cold.
The seven-time champion grinned from ear to ear as she made her walk, accompanied only by her promoter Jake Paul.
Taylor usually so eager to race into the ring, took in every moment of her entrance. Her promoter Eddie Hearn, trainer Ross Enamait and her right hand man Brian Peters followed behind her. Enamait, who has coached Taylor throughout her pro career, is so often an understated man but couldn’t help but beam as his fighter took one last look around.
David Diamante’s introduction for both women was met by rapturous applause. With 19,187 men and women packed into the arena, every punch was cheered like the knockout blow. The noise rose and fell, but never dropped below deafening levels.
It wall of noise was as relentless as the action in the ring. Who wants to watch women’s boxing? Everyone, it seems.