Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury. Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano.
One of those fights is not like the others.
When Taylor and Serrano enter the ring on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, they will compete in what their promoters are billing as the biggest 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 are considered among the best fighters, pound for pound. It is rare to see two female boxers of comparable talent competing in the same ring, let alone at Madison Square Garden: This will be the first time in the arena’s history that two women will headline a boxing event.
Each fighter is guaranteed at least $1 million, among the highest purses in women’s boxing, a sport notoriously known for its low pay for women.
“Come Saturday night, you’re going to see two of the best go at it and I think it’s only going to get better from here,” Serrano said Thursday.
Both fighters have faced tough challenges to find themselves fighting in one of boxing’s most famed venues.
Serrano, 33, is the betting — and hometown — favorite. Born in Puerto Rico, Serrano grew up in Brooklyn, where she was introduced to boxing by her sister. She turned pro in 2009 and immediately began dominating multiple weight classes. But she did so without name recognition and with paydays measured in three- and low four-digit numbers.
By 2018, Serrano became a world champion in seven weight classes, a number only rivaled by Manny Pacquiao, and she enters Saturday’s fight 42-1-1 with 30 knockouts. Serrano, who has also competed in jujitsu, mixed martial arts and wrestling, is a southpaw known for leaving everything in the ring, putting her full body into jab after jab.
Taylor, 35, who grew up in Ireland, had to disguise herself as a boy at a young age in order to participate in amateur boxing because girls were banned from competing. The Irish authorities eventually reversed course, and in 2001, Taylor, then 15, won the country’s first official women’s boxing match. After a decorated amateur career and a stint on the Irish national soccer team, Taylor helped bring women’s boxing to the Olympics and went on to win gold in the London Games in 2012.
Taylor has four major lightweight titles and has defended them again and again. Herquick in-and-out style has earned her a 20-0 record, including six knockouts.
“This isn’t just the best female boxing match in the world right now but probably the best fight to see right now, male or female,” Taylor said at a news conference on Thursday. “The best part about this, the best part of my whole legacy, is to be able to inspire the next generation. This Saturday night is going to inspire a lot of young girls.”
Like many combat sporting events, this bout has come with its own circus. The likes of Billie Jean King, W.W.E. wrestlers and the actress Rosie Perez have helped promote it. But none of the star power has been more influential than Jake Paul, the YouTube star and content creator turned boxer who is promoting the fight under his Most Valuable Promotions company. Serrano is his first client.
Paul, 25, has spent the majority of his life trying to get people’s attention. He’s made women’s boxing his next signal boost.
Success on Saturday night will come in two ways, Paul said, with a winner and a payday.
“As long as she wins then we’re happy, that’s the outcome we’re looking for,” he said of Serrano. “The cherry on top would be proving that two women can sell hundreds of thousands of pay-per-views. Then we can go and get Amanda that payday, Katie can get that payday, and the other women in the sport can get paid more.”
DAZN is selling the fight for a monthly subscription of $19.99 or an annual subscription of $99.99, and the fight is also being sold by others as a stand-alone 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. “Obviously the business has to be there to be able to do that.”
Eddie Hearn, a longtime promoter with 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.
“A lot of broadcasters and commercial organizers think that they should be involved in women’s sport because it’s a box ticked. This has gone beyond that,” Hearn said. “We’re not selling out the Garden because people are saying, ‘Oh, we should go because it’s two women.’ They’re going because it’s a great fight. That’s how you get sustainability.”
A little showmanship could go a long way, too. At Thursday’s news conference, Paul bet Hearn $1 million that Serrano would win. Hearn shook on it, reluctantly. Paul said he would give the winnings to Serrano.