An unbeaten and outspoken champion against a challenger who has won world titles in a staggering seven divisions. They fight in their home city, at one of boxing’s most famous venues, at the apex of their careers after previously vowing never to step into the ring against each other.
Heather Hardy vs Amanda Serrano is a stunning fight, probably the best women’s boxing match ever scheduled. The winner has an agreement to face Katie Taylor, the darling of female fighting, in a bout that would be even more prestigious.
These are the Joshuas, the Wilders, the Furys of the women’s game and to have Hardy and Serrano share a ring tonight is a watershed moment.
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“This is as good as it gets. They have carried the torch. But we are only beginning to crack the door open – now it’s time to knock the door down,” said their promoter Lou DiBella.
“These women can only do so much to chip away at the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling needs to be broken. They deserve fairness and this is a step in the right direction.
“They are trailblazers. The world is going to see what the ladies can do.”
WBO featherweight champion Hardy first stepped into a gym nine years ago as a young mother and a recent divorcee. She never left and turned pro in 2012, the same year that the Olympics permitted women’s boxing and Britain’s Nicola Adams became the first gold medallist. Hardy is now unbeaten in 23 pro fights and, aged 37, finally will have a fight of the consequence that she deserves.
Importantly she has become the most vocal critic of the gender pay gap that exists in boxing – tonight’s fight will be a career-high payday for herself and for Serrano.
“I’ve become known as the girl who’s always talking about pay and equality,” she said. “That’s no reflection of how grateful I am for where I am.
“At Madison Square Garden I was crying with my mum, saying: ‘we made it’.”
Hardy and Serrano are both Brooklyn girls. All of Hardy’s fights have been in New York. The long-time acquaintances promised never to fight each other until the day that the prize for doing so became too tempting to turn down. That day is today and the prize is the cash, the legacy and the opportunity to next face Taylor – it is worth putting friendship aside for.
Puerto Rico-born Serrano already has some history with Taylor. Ireland’s premier boxer beat the other Serrano sister, Cindy, last year.
Amanda Serrano’s stats weigh up with any male boxer’s. She has won world championships in seven weight categories (that includes lightweight, where Taylor has every major belt, and the division above).
“[Amanda Serrano] is one of the biggest fights out there,” Taylor told Sky Sports earlier this year. “People have spoken about that fight for years.
“She’s very good – a seven-weight world champion, a southpaw, and she’s explosive. That’s an exciting fight.”
Promoter DiBella added: “Amanda is the Arturo Gatti, the Micky Ward, the blood and guts warrior of women’s boxing.”
Serrano wore a Superwoman t-shirt this week and, like Hardy, has fought and won in MMA too. Her only loss in 38 bouts was seven years ago via decision in Frida Wallberg’s home country of Sweden. She is a special fighter and the Taylor fight would be huge.
“It’s not unusual anymore to have a women’s fight on a card,” Taylor reflected earlier this year after a thunderous victory over Delfine Persoon at Madison Square Garden to become undisputed champion.