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Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano set for ‘pinnacle’ of women’s boxing

From left: Jake Paul, Amanda Serrano, Tina Cervasio, Katie Taylor and Eddie Hearn. (Michelle Farsi for Matchroom/MSG Photos)

On Saturday, before she stands in the ring opposite Katie Taylor in the first superfight in women’s boxing history, Amanda Serrano will step inside her sanctuary: the local nail salon.

Seated beside her older sister, Cindy, in a massage chair, Serrano will close her eyes as the nail technician paints her toenails red — matching with Cindy. “And,” Serrano said, “I (will) picture me winning.”

It is a pre-fight ritual that has grounded Serrano on her journey to the top of the sport. She enters Saturday’s match, the first women’s bout to headline Madison Square Garden in the building’s 140-year history, with a 42-1-1 record (30 KOs) and the owner of world titles across seven divisions.

She is considered the second-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, behind Taylor, the undisputed lightweight (135 pounds) champion who brings a 20-0 record (six KOs) into the bout. Taylor is a national hero in her native Ireland and, along with Serrano, is credited with helping to elevate the sport’s global profile.

They are a pair of fighters powered by ability, hustle and, most importantly, belief in themselves. But both Serrano and Taylor admitted they never pictured themselves main-eventing MSG.

“This is going to be the pinnacle for me,” said Taylor, who will defend her WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring female lightweight titles.

When Taylor began boxing as a teenager, in the late 1990s, women’s boxing wasn’t allowed in Ireland so she pretended to be a boy with the faux name Kay. By the 2012 Olympics, when women’s boxing was sanctioned for the first time, Taylor was a household name in her home country, winning gold as a lightweight.

Around the same time, Serrano was starting her run of dominance in the United States. A native of Puerto Rico who grew up in Brooklyn, Serrano took up the sport as a way to connect with her sister Cindy, a multiple-time world champion before her career ended in 2018.

As Serrano rose up the ranks, winning championship after championship, she grew frustrated with the gender pay disparity.

“We were fighting for world titles and getting nowhere near what men were getting,” Serrano said. “When I won my title at 135, I got paid about $4,000-5,000. I didn’t get paid much, but we did it for the love of the sport. We were hoping and praying that one day it would get better.”

Serrano found her lifeline in an unlikely source: Jake Paul.

The controversial YouTuber turned boxer, whom Serrano referred to as a “feminist,” signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions in September 2021. With Paul by her side, Serrano has reached even bigger audiences, and both Serrano and Taylor, who’s represented by Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn, are set to earn seven-figure paydays for the fight.

Paul and Hearn during Thursday’s news conference agreed on a $1 million bet for the match, which will air on DAZN and have highlights featured on Buzzer. Paul noted that, if Serrano wins, he’ll give the bet earnings to her.

For all of the hoopla surrounding Saturday’s showdown, neither fighter will be content with just showing up at MSG. It’s one thing to headline the biggest women’s boxing match of all time; it’s another to win it.

“I love these sorts of challenges,” Taylor said. “I was born for these challenges.”

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