NEW YORK (Reuters) – The stage is set for the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing on Saturday when Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Puerto Rican Amanda Serrano clash for the undisputed lightweight championship at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Fifty-one years since the “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, the world’s most famous arena will host another transformative event in this showdown, with two women headlining there for the first time.
The two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world are equal to the occasion, with Taylor the undisputed world lightweight champion and Serrano the unified featherweight champion.
“The fact this is going to be a sellout Saturday night, (shows) there is a great appetite for female fights,” said Taylor, who lobbied for women’s boxing to be included in the Olympic programme before winning gold in London a decade ago.
Taylor, who is 20-0 with six knockouts, told reporters at a Manhattan media event on Thursday that she hoped to use the occasion to inspire the next generation of girls.
“This is just a great boxing match,” she said. “The best fight to see right now – male or female.”
The Empire State Building will light up with the colours of the Irish and Puerto Rican flags as the pair face off for a seven-figure purse.
“We’re making our biggest payday, we’re at the Mecca of boxing, so it’s super exciting,” said Serrano (42-1-1), whom oddsmakers see as a slight favourite after she won by unanimous decision over Spain’s Miriam Gutierrez in December.
“I can’t wait for Saturday night to prove that we’re deserving of this opportunity of this spotlight,” she added.
Serrano will also be fighting for familial pride, after Taylor defeated her sister, Cindy Serrano, in 2018.
Thursday’s affair was largely bereft of smack talk – Serrano noted that the pair were “probably the two nicest fighters” – but their promoters seized the megawatt spotlight for some verbal sparring of their own.
Boxing’s ebullient YouTube star-turned-fighter Jake Paul put $1 million on the line for Serrano, goading co-promoter and Briton Eddie Hearn into a handshake bet in front of throngs of reporters.
“I’ve never seen this amount of media at any fight,” said Paul. “If this fight happens again or one like it, we’re going to have to get these ladies even more of a payday … eight figures.”
Hearn said the event drew considerable interest from across the pond, with roughly half of the tickets already sold going to fans from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“We have to try and push the boundaries as these two great female athletes have done for many, many years,” he said.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)