Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali. Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson. Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury. Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano.
One of these fights is not like the others.
When Taylor and Serrano step into the ring at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, they will take part in what their promoters are calling the greatest fight in women’s boxing history.
It’s typically hyperbolic, but with some standing. Taylor is the undisputed lightweight champion and both she and Serrano rank among the best fighters pound for pound. It’s rare to see two boxers of comparable talent compete in the same ring, let alone Madison Square Garden: This will mark the first time in arena history that two women will lead a boxing event.
Each fighter is guaranteed a minimum of $1 million, among the highest purses in women’s boxing, a sport known for its low pay for women.
“Come on Saturday night, you’re going to see two of the best doing it and I think it’s only going to get better from here,” Serrano said Thursday.
Both fighters have faced tough challenges to fight in one of boxing’s most iconic venues.
Serrano, 33, is the betting and home favorite. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, Serrano was introduced to boxing by her sister. She turned pro in 2009 and immediately began dominating multiple weight classes. But she did so without attribution and with paydays measured in three and low four digits.
As of 2018, Serrano became the world champion in seven weight classes, a number rivaled only by Manny Pacquiao, and she goes into Saturday’s bout 42-1-1 with 30 knockouts. Serrano, who has also competed in jujitsu, mixed martial arts, and wrestling, is a southpaw known for going all-in on the ring and jabbing her entire body in sequence.
Taylor, 35, who grew up in Ireland, had to dresses up as a boy at a young age to compete in amateur boxing because girls were barred from competitions. Irish authorities eventually reversed course, and in 2001, then 15-year-old Taylor won the country’s first official women’s boxing match. After a successful amateur career and stint with the Ireland national football team, Taylor helped bring women’s boxing to the Olympics, winning gold at the 2012 London Games.
Taylor has four major lightweight titles and has defended them time and time again. Her quick on-and-off style has earned her a 20-0 record, including six knockouts.
“This is not only the best female boxing match in the world right now, it’s probably the best fight you can watch right now, whether male or female,” Taylor said at a news conference on Thursday. “The best part, the best part of my entire legacy, is being able to inspire the next generation. This Saturday night will inspire many young girls.”
Like many martial arts events, this fight has its own circus. The likes of Billie Jean King, WWE wrestler and actress Rosie Perez helped promote it. But none of the stars were more influential than Jake Paul, the YouTube star and content creator-turned-boxer who promotes the fight under his company Most Valuable Promotions. Serrano is his first customer.
Paul, 25, has spent most of his life trying to get people’s attention. He’s made women’s boxing his next signal push.
Saturday night’s success will come two ways, Paul said, with a winner and a payday.
“As long as she wins we’re happy, that’s the result we’re aiming for,” he said of Serrano. “The icing on the cake would be proof that two women can sell hundreds of thousands of pay-per-views. Then we can go and Amanda can get that payday, Katie can get that payday and the other women in sport can get paid more.”
DAZN sells the fight for a $19.99 monthly subscription or $99.99 annual subscription, and the fight is also sold by others as a standalone event, similar to other pay-per-view events.
Paul says this fight is just the beginning.
“My goal is to get Amanda a $10 million fight before her career is over, which is unheard of,” Paul said. “Of course the business has to be there to be able to do that.”
Eddie Hearn, a longtime promoter of Matchroom Boxing and Taylor’s promoter, said the key to maintaining momentum after Saturday’s fight is to continue to give women the platform to put on a show.
“Many broadcasters and commercial organizers feel that they should get involved in women’s sport because it is a requirement. It’s beyond that,” Hearn said. “We’re not selling the Garden because people are like, ‘Oh, we should go because it’s two women.’ They go because it’s a great fight. This is how you get sustainability.”
A little showmanship could also go a long way. At Thursday’s press conference, Paul Hearn bet $1 million that Serrano would win. Hearn reluctantly shook it. Paul said he would give the win to Serrano.