NEW YORK (AP) — Minutes after they traded punches during a slugfest of a final round, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano embraced each other and the moment.
With most of the sold-out crowd that watched the first women’s boxing match to headline at Madison Square Garden still standing, Serrano delivered a message.
“Women can sell, women can fight and we put on a hell of a show,” Serrano said.
All three were true on a historic night for women's boxing.
Taylor remained the undisputed lightweight champion in a thrilling fight, edging Serrano in a split decision Saturday.
In the same arena where Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali fought the “Fight of the Century” in 1971, Taylor and Serrano made sure they won't soon be forgotten at Madison Square Garden.
“People will absolutely be talking about myself and Amanda Serrano for years and years to come,” Taylor said.
Both fighters were cut as they fit in plenty of powerful exchanges during the two-minute rounds — one shorter than men's. In the end, Taylor did just a little more to stay undefeated in front of an announced sold-out crowd of 19,187 that seemed spilt between Taylor's Irish and Serrano's Puerto Rican fans.
When it was over, Taylor emerged with scores of 96-93 and 97-93 on two of the judges' cards, while Serrano won 96-94 on the other.
The Associated Press scored it 96-94 for Taylor.
Taylor (21-0) was wobbled and her face bloodied in the fifth round, but she hung tough and found the range on her right hand with excellent counter punching.
Serrano (42-2-1), a seven-division champion who moved up two weight divisions for this fight, lost for the first time since 2012.
A fight that organizers touted as the most significant ever in women’s boxing certainly can take its place among the best, the two longtime champions leaving the crowd standing and screaming deliriously as they fired off power punches that seemed to last almost the entire 10th round.
Taylor pulled it out by winning the final four rounds on the cards of both Guido Cavalleri and Glenn Feldman.
Taylor defended her four titles for the sixth time, having been the undisputed champion at 135 pounds since a victory at Madison Square Garden in 2019 on the undercard of Andy Ruiz’s upset of Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight title match.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist was the main event this time and fans seemed to love every minute of it.
“For sure tonight was absolutely the best night of my career,” Taylor said, ranking it ahead of the victory in the gold-medal match.
Organizers planned for a capacity of around 10,000 seats but had to make more available when those all sold, eventually opening the arena fully. The arena and surrounding area had the feel of an Olympics, with fans carrying Puerto Rican and Irish flags, green visible all over the arena and chants breaking out throughout the night.
Serrano, who lives in New York, danced around the ring with her arms raised after she walked in with Jake Paul, the former YouTube star who quickly raised her profile and pay scale when he began promoting her and having her fight on his undercards.
“I was told to enjoy every minute of it and that’s what I did,” Serrano said.
Maybe they'll do it again. Both sides talked of a rematch, perhaps next time in Ireland.
The southpaw Serrano constantly came forward and found some openings for her left, but Taylor countered well and landed some good rights in the third – though took a good shot after it was over when the fighters and referee didn’t hear the bell over the crowd and Serrano landed a punch.
Taylor came right back and drove Serrano back into a corner in the closing seconds of the fourth and the fight kept going along a similar path, Serrano throwing rapid combinations but Taylor landing in return to stop her momentum. .
The crowd roared as they traded punches during a lengthy exchange in the corner in the fifth, but Serrano got the better of it and Taylor’s face was bloodied by the end of the round. But she came right back with some good work in the sixth.
The women’s super middleweight division also now has an undisputed champion after Franchón Crews-Dezurn bloodied and beat Elin Cederroos of Sweden by unanimous decision. Crews-Dezurn (8-1) added the IBF and WBA titles to the two she already owned by handing Cederroos (8-1) her first loss.
Then, former 154-pound champion Liam Smith (31-3-1 18 KOs) wore down Jesse Vargas (29-4-2) before stopping him in the 10th round.
More AP boxing: https://apnews.com/hub/boxing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports