NEW YORK (AP)Amanda Serrano finally has all four belts in her weight class.
Next, she can have revenge on Katie Taylor.
Serrano wore down a bloody Erika Cruz and won a unanimous decision Saturday night to become the undisputed featherweight champion and set up a rematch with fellow champ Taylor.
They fought a thriller last year at Madison Square Garden and are expecting nothing less in Ireland on May 20.
”The last fight was an epic fight and I think the next one’s going to be exactly the same,” Taylor said.
Before that, Serrano got the better of a bout in which the fighters stood close and kept swinging throughout, emerging with the victory by scores of 98-92 on two cards and 97-93 on the other.
Cruz spent much of the fight wiping away blood from near her eyes after a clash of heads in the third round. With the Mexican’s light blue outfit turning progressively redder during the bout, perhaps Serrano was helped find the range with her combinations.
Afterward, promoter Eddie Hearn said Serrano (44-2-1, 30 KOs) and Taylor, who joined him in the ring, would meet again. Taylor, the undisputed champion at lightweight, edged Serrano by split decision last April 30 before a sold-out crowd in the first women’s match to headline at Madison Square Garden.
Back in the Garden, this time in the smaller Hulu Theater, Serrano found herself with another tough test, but this one went her way.
And she thinks her next match will, too.
”I’ve done enough and I will do more,” Serrano said of the rematch.
The match with Taylor was one of the most significant in women’s boxing history and lived up to the hype, earning numerous fight of the year awards. Taylor won most of the late rounds to pull it out, perhaps a little stronger with Serrano moving up two weight classes to fight her.
Back at her preferred weight of 126, Serrano appeared to be the fresher fighter Saturday. She won the final eight rounds on one card and the last seven on another.
Cruz (15-2) held the fourth and final belt that Serrano needed to complete her goal of becoming the first undisputed champion from Puerto Rico, and made her work for it.
The fighters stood close – close enough to bang heads and open a cut on Cruz’s forehead – and traded combinations for what largely an even first few rounds. But the pace appeared to catch up with Cruz in the fifth, and fatigue might have been a factor when Serrano caught her with a good shot in the final seconds of the round.
Serrano than accelerated the pressure in the sixth, the most decisive round of the fight. A quick, short right froze Cruz and Serrano followed up with a flurry that drove the Mexican from one side of the ring to the other.
The 34-year-old Serrano, a champion in seven weight classes who decided late in her career to focus on featherweight, smiled throughout the ring introductions. She pumped her arms to encourage louder cheers from her Puerto Rican fans – who moments later began booing when Taylor was shown on a large video screen in the arena.
Both they were all smiles in the ring together afterward talking about what will be the unbeaten Taylor’s first pro fight in Ireland.
”Now she deserves to fight in Ireland and it’s going to be a bigger and better fight over there,” Serrano said.
Alycia Baumgardner gave the 130-pound division an undisputed champion with a unanimous decision victory over Elhem Mekhaled. Baumgardner (14-1, 7 KOs) added the vacant WBA belt to the three she had held since last year, using a pair of knockdowns to cruise to scores of 99-89 on two cards and 98-90 on the other.
After a couple competitive rounds to start, Baumgardner landed a right in the third round that momentarily buckled Mekhaled’s legs. She quickly pounced and dropped her, and after Mekhaled (15-2) got up, Baumgardner swarmed her with a sustained attack that sent her to the canvas again.
Baumgardner had Mekhaled hurt again in the seventh, driving her back into the ropes and appearing close to stopping her before Mekhaled was able to escape the round and they had a good exchange in the eighth.
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