Friday, February 10, 2023

Women’s Boxing Shines Once Again In Madison Square Garden And Continues To Elevate The Sport

After decades of fighting for acceptance and recognition in the sport of Boxing, Women’s Boxing reached the pinnacle in April of last year when an encounter for the Undisputed Lightweight championship of the world between undefeated champion Katie Taylor and multi-division world champion Amanda Serrano became the first women’s bout in the history of the sport to headline a Boxing card in the main arena in the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden. If that long overdue milestone for women in the sport were not enough, the fight between Taylor and Serrano turned out to be an all-time classic that was a Fight of the Year candidate not just in Women’s Boxing, but in the entire sport. 

Nearly one year later, one half of that epic encounter returned to Madison Square Garden, this time headlining a Women’s world championship twin bill. This observer is referring to Amanda Serrano, who on February 4th returned to The Garden in an attempt to fully unify the 126lb. Featherweight division to become an undisputed world champion. Serrano, who is the only woman in Boxing history to have won world championships in seven different weight divisions would return to The Garden, not in the main arena, but in the more intimate atmosphere of the Theater, which itself has just as rich a history in the sport to put her IBF, WBC, WBO Featherweight crowns on the line against WBA world champion Erika Cruz. 

While many considered Serrano the favorite going into this bout, both based on overall experience, career accomplishments, as well as some feeling that she deserved the decision against Katie Taylor last April, few expected the type of difficult fight that it turned out to be against a very “Game” and determined Cruz. From the opening bell as had been her custom throughout her career Cruz was willing to stand and trade punches with Serrano. Although this is an approach that few opponents had succeeded in implementing against the future Hall of Famer, the sheer volume of punches from Cruz, which was nearly non-stop, proved to be a difficult task for Serrano to combat. Incredibly just as it appeared as though the fight was heating up, Cruz suffered a severe cut in her hairline as a result of an accidental clash of heads in round three. After seeing the cut, this observer was frankly surprised that the fight was allowed to continue, not because of a lack of willingness by Cruz, but because of blood seemingly going into both of the WBA champion’s eyes, which obviously can be dangerous to the long-term health of one’s vision. 

Despite the view of yours truly having seen countless fights stopped because of cuts that seemed less severe, the fight continued and Cruz unaffected by the steady stream of blood going down her entire face, kept throwing punches and seemingly matching Serrano shot for shot. Although I regularly score bouts that I cover, this was one of those fights where I simply sat back and watched what was taking place. I was captivated by the non-stop action as both fighters traded shots as well as the ebb and flow throughout much of the fight. While I made the decision not to score this bout in an unofficial capacity, I did nevertheless feel for the three official judges as due to the two minute round length in which women’s bouts are fought, it is a difficult task to score under normal circumstances, when one factors in the level of action as well as the volume of punches between these two world champions, it made it even more of a trying task. 


After a lifetime watching the sport on every possible level and covering it almost as long, there are times when I will get what one would probably call a gut feeling when watching a fight as to which way the three official judges might be leaning towards. In this case, I felt that even though Serrano appeared to be landing the cleaner, more effective punches, particularly in the latter rounds, it could have been a draw due to Cruz seemingly bringing the fight to Serrano much of the way. After ten grueling rounds and with both fighters having suffered cuts along the way, I was certainly glad that I decided not to score this fight, but I was nevertheless a little surprised to see two of three official judges score the fight by an eight rounds to two margin or 98-92 in points in favor of Serrano, while the third judge had it slightly closer, seven rounds to three, or 97-93 giving Serrano the victory and the Undisputed Featherweight championship of the world. 

Although I was a bit surprised by the scoring, I do not believe that it was controversial in any way, but it does underscore the need for Women’s Boxing to move to three minute rounds, the same as Men’s bouts as among the benefits from a scoring standpoint would be allowing judges an extra minute to determine who wins a round, which would be more beneficial in fights like this where rounds appeared to be determined by moments resulting in relatively lopsided scores that do not serve as an accurate illustration of how competitive this fight was. 

What turned out to be a classic between Amanda Serrano and Erika Cruz was not the only historic event of the evening as there was a second undisputed world championship bout that served as the co-main event. The Undisputed Jr. Lightweight championship of the world was on the line between WBO/IBO/IBF/WBC world champion Alycia Baumgardner and top contender Elhem Mekhaled in a bout where the vacant WBA crown was also on the line making this clash for the undisputed championship in the division. Baumgardner entered this fight coming off of a split decision victory over previously undefeated Mikaela Mayer in a unification bout in October of last year. A fight that was very competitive that had some debate as to who won it. 

On this occasion, with Mayer sitting ringside, Baumgardner, who entered the fight with Mekhaled a significant favorite, dominated the action from start to finish. This included scoring two knockdowns of a very “Game” Mekhaled in the third round on her way to becoming undisputed world champion via ten round unanimous decision.  Although no one can take anything away from the heart Mekhaled showed throughout this fight as she took significant punishment and appeared on the verge of being stopped periodically, but kept coming forward, this fight appeared to be the laying of groundwork for what would be a lucrative rematch between Baumgardner and Mayer. 

As for the Undisputed Featherweight champion of the world Amanda Serrano, her next bout in May will be a rematch between her and Undisputed Lightweight champion of the world Katie Taylor, this time in the Lightweight champion’s home country of Ireland. Obviously, that fight, much like the potential Baumgardner-Mayer rematch, is much anticipated. 

What these two bouts that determined undisputed world champions in two divisions as well as what will follow should show is that not only is Women’s Boxing continuing to grow and take advantage of the long overdue recognition and exposure the sport has received over the last several years, but in doing so, fights that have sufficient public demand are being made in a more timely manner as compared to the male side of the sport and as a result of that, the public is responding favorably. While no sport is perfect and even Women’s Boxing is not immune from the problems that exist for male fighters in the sport, there is a lesson to be learned here that all involved in the sport should take note of. When fights are made in a timely fashion and those bouts have significant interest, the public will respond in kind, which will also have the ripple effect of drawing new eyes to Boxing as a whole and thus will help grow the sport. 

In short, not only did two fights to determine undisputed world champions create another memorable night in Madison Square Garden, but the common sense that was shown in terms of what will follow and what is likely to follow will keep interest in the sport high. It would serve Boxing as a whole much better if egos and other interests that prevent fights of significant interest from being made, let alone being made in a timely manner, were put aside in favor of what is in the best interest of the sport. Clearly, the stars of Women’s Boxing are doing something others in the sport are not, using common sense, which in the long-term no matter who wins or loses will benefit both the fighters individually as well as the sport overall. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.” 

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved. 

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