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Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano take women’s boxing to new heights

Serrano and Taylor wave to the Madison Square Garden crowd after their fight went down to the wire Saturday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — “Are you here for the Hulu theater?” the woman asked passersby, in her thick New York City accent, “or da fight?”

Madison Square Garden on Saturday night played host to twin attractions: Franco Escamilla, the comedian, told jokes in the smaller Hulu Theater. Upstairs, in the main building, with the concave ceiling and the championship banners and the 140 years of boxing history, was “da fight.”

The MSG official ended up directing far more people to her left, toward women’s sports history. For the first time ever, two women main-evented a boxing card at the World’s Most Famous Arena, and Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano put on a show for the announced sellout crowd of 19,187.

Taylor successfully defended her WBA, IBF, WBO and WBC lightweight (135 pounds) titles in a split decision over Serrano, but not before a thrilling finish. Both fighters, correctly sensing the decision would be tight, unleashed a flurry of heavy head shots as the final bell approached, foregoing defense as the crowd reached a fever pitch.

Two judges scored the fight 97-93 and 96-93 for Taylor, and a third 96-94 for Serrano.

“I had to produce a career-defining performance to actually win tonight,” Taylor said afterwards, with a cut over her right eye. “Everyone was talking about coming into this fight, it was the biggest fight in women’s boxing history, but I think it actually exceeded everything that people were talking about.”

That was hardly an easy task, given the heavy promotional campaign spearheaded by Taylor’s representation, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, and Serrano’s representation, Jake Paul of Most Valuable Promotions.

Paul and his brother, Logan, are a pair of YouTube stars who in recent years have cashed in on their fame inside the boxing ring. Brash, blond and surprisingly competent as boxers, the brothers have pulled in millions for their fights, against other social media stars and former mixed martial arts fighters and boxers (Logan lasted all eight rounds in an exhibition fight against Floyd Mayweather).

The Pauls, depending on the perspective, have either resuscitated boxing, a sport facing decades of decline, or squeezed it for its last drips of profitability. Either way, there’s no denying the renewed interest and bigger paydays for fighters across the board. Serrano and Taylor, who both pulled in seven-figure purses for Saturday’s bout, aired exclusively on DAZN, can both attest to that after years of being underpaid.

The excitement surrounding the event was clear Saturday night as the fighters walked to the ring.

Serrano, who was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Brooklyn, beamed as her fans sang along in Spanish to her entrance music — “Pepas” by Mau Giemenez Ft. Dj Zeeggo. Taylor, the biggest name in women’s boxing and one of Ireland’s most decorated athletes, was stone-faced as she walked down the aisle. Her fans raised Ireland flags and waved green light sticks.

“Just looking at the packed stadium — unbelievable,” Taylor said later.

The first round was low on histrionics. The fighters were feeling each other out, each landing some notable combinations. Then, Serrano, who holds world championships in seven divisions but is a natural 126-pounder, went on the offensive in the fifth round, busting up Taylor’s nose with a steady stream of powerful blows. At several points in the round, Taylor needed to lean on Serrano to remain upright, and all three judges scored the round for the challenger (10-8, 10-9, 10-9).

Taylor was able to recover, however, and was the clear victor in the final three rounds. With the win over Serrano (42-2-1, 30 KOs), Taylor (21-0, six KOs) remained undefeated in her professional career.

“She’s tough. She’s a warrior. She’s Irish,” Serrano said. “She was able to withstand the power.”

It’s been quite the run for a fighter who was not even legally allowed to box when she began her amateur career. Pretending she was a boy named Kay, Taylor carved her own path and literally blazed the trail for female boxers in her country and abroad.

She faced perhaps her stiffest yet Saturday against Serrano, who looked impressive in defeat. So impressive, in fact, that the boxing world — including Serrano and Paul — is already looking toward a potential rematch.

“We’re going to get the next one,” Paul said, “in Ireland.”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.

Midge Purce-Backed Docuseries ‘The Offseason’ to Drop This Summer

cast of the offseason nwsl reality series
'The Offseason' follows a group of NWSL stars as they prepare for preseason play. (The Offseason)

The Offseason, a reality series created by Gotham and USWNT star Midge Purce, has officially confirmed its streaming debut, Purce announced in Cannes on Tuesday.

The six-episode, half-hour docuseries will stream this summer on X, though a specific premiere date hasn't yet been set.

The Offseason was filmed in Miami, two weeks before the NWSL preseason. It's a crucial time for athletes, a period where they prepare to join their respective teams and compete for both starting and roster spots. Production designed all the facilities, bringing in top-tier trainers, masseuses, chefs, and gym equipment to create a high-level training environment, ensuring the players were in peak condition, per the show's release. Throughout filming, athletes lived together in one house — a reality TV conceit rife for entertainment.

The series follows a number of NWSL stars, including Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Maria Sanchez (Houston Dash), Lo’eau LaBonta (Kansas City Current), Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash), Taylor Smith (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Nikki Stanton (OL Reign), Ally Watt (Orlando Pride), Taryn Torres (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Paige Nielsen (Angel City FC), and Ify Onumonu (Utah Royals).

"We wanted to create a series that truly captures the essence of what it means to be a professional athlete," said Purce. "This series has always been about more than just sports — it's about the human experience behind the athlete, as well."

The show promises a behind-the-scenes look at professional women's sports, teasing major life decisions, on-field tensions, and players taking stock of the environments they'll be entering once their preseason trip is over. The series delves into the real-life challenges faced by the athletes, including club trades, contract negotiations, burnout, and the relentless pressure from outsiders commenting on the players' personal lives.

The Offseason's official trailer, released on Tuesday, shows snippets of Hubly contemplating retirement, Sanchez joining the group after signing a high-profile contract, and a healthy amount of banter about on-field achievements.

The spirit of the series is reflected in its producers: Box To Box Films is known for their sports content (Drive to Survive, Break Point, Full Swing), whereas 32 Flavors is the creative force behind Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The series was funded by Seven Seven Six, and executive produced by Purce.

Lilia Vu adds Meijer LPGA Classic to tour wins record

Lilia Vu won in her first tournament in two months. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lilia Vu won her fifth LPGA Tour event on Sunday, taking home the Meijer LPGA Classic title in her first tournament since March. 

The world No. 2 had been sidelined with a back injury, but returned with a vengeance. She began the day eight shots back of leader Grace Kim, and survived a three-hole playoff against Kim and former champion Lexi Thompson to take the title. 

“I think this is the most meaningful win,” said Vu, “because there was a time two months ago where I was just crying on the range not being sure if I would ever play a tournament again without pain.”

A two-time major champion, Vu hadn’t before won the Meijer LPGA Classic, but a birdie on the third playoff hole helped secure it. She’s now 2-for-3 in LPGA Tour playoffs. 

She said on Sunday that being unable to defend her title at the Chevron Championship was the “breaking point” in her season.

“Not being able to compete there really killed me,” she said. “I feel like I thought I was taking the steps in the right direction, but I’m glad that I was able to take a couple months off and reevaluate my body, let it recover, do what I needed to do to get back out here again.

“And we did the right thing and took two months off. I think it hurt me not to play competitive golf because I literally live for competitive golf, but we did the right thing and that’s why I’m here today.”

Top tennis players pull out of Olympics citing health reasons

Aryna Sabalenka will not play in the Olympics. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka joined a growing list of tennis stars opting out of the Olympics on Monday.

Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and world No. 3, told reporters in Berlin that she was looking after her health while citing WTA tournament participation requirements. The Belarusian had struggled with a stomach bug during the French Open, where she lost in the semifinals of a major for the first time since 2022. 

“Especially with all the struggles I was having last month, I feel like I need to take care of my health. … It’s too much with the scheduling,” Sabalenka said. “It’s just too much. I made the decision to take care of my health.”

Similarly, Jabeur cited the health risks that come with the change of surface. The world No. 10 has been battling knee injuries this season, and lost in the French Open quarterfinals to Coco Gauff. 

Players will spend the next few weeks playing on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, while the Olympics will be played at Roland-Garros and be held on clay. 

“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics. I have always loved representing my country in any competition, However, I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice.”

The two join Emma Raducanu in opting out of the Olympics. Raducanu – who has dealt with a number of injuries since her US Open win in 2021 – cited the changing surface as “not worth the risk.”

Jaedyn Shaw Breaks NWSL Record for Most Goals Scored as a Teenager

Jaedyn Shaw of the san diego wave
Jaedyn Shaw is now holds the record for most NWSL goals as a teenager. (Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports)

Jaedyn Shaw continues to make NWSL history, surpassing Trinity Rodman for the most NWSL goals by a teenager on Saturday. 

She did it in a game against Rodman's Washington Spirit in the 20th minute of the 1-1 draw. It brings her total to 13 league goals, after making her NWSL debut at 17 years old in July 2022. 

The goal is her third this season. Shaw currently leads Wave alongside Makenzy Doniak. 

Shaw has also been a member of the USWNT, alongside Rodman, netting seven goals over 14 national team appearances. If she gets called up to this summer’s Olympics under Emma Hayes, it will mark her first official tournament with the USWNT.

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