“Boxing Tonight” is i‘s weekly look ahead to the Saturday night action in the UK and beyond, with the details on how to watch and what to look out for
To understand the Katie Taylor story, which reaches the heights of Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, you have to look back a little further than Bray Boxing Club, the old boat shed that father Pete converted into a gym.
The undisputed lightweight champion puts her titles on the line against Amanda Serrano in the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing in New York. Yet her impact on the sport cannot be quantified by this weekend’s crescendo, historic as it will be, nor can it be fully appreciated by looking at Taylor’s rise from her over the past 15 years.
In Dublin, which is yet to witness a professional Taylor fight, the hope is that she can return to a boxing scene recovering from the remnants of Daniel Kinahan’s crumbling empire. Taylor is now based in Connecticut, but she returns to Ireland periodically.
She has never been associated with MTK, the company co-founded by Kinahan (the alleged crime boss with a $5m (£3.98m) bounty out for his arrest imposed by the US government) and as such, Taylor has been a refreshing reminder that there is life beyond the murky waters that have muddied boxing’s reputation for so long.
Born in Ballywaltrim, as the daughter of the former Irish light-heavyweight title champion, it is only with hindsight that Taylor’s path to becoming a two-weight world champion and before that, a winner of six European Championship golds and five World Championship golds, looks so clear.
When she first started pad-work, her interest seemed insatiable. There was no legislation that would allow a professional women’s boxing match in Ireland; indeed she was just 15 when she answered the first. It was almost entirely down to her team from her that the laws were changed.
That is why Saturday’s opponent Serrano, who herself has a formidable record of 42-1-1 with 30 KOs, believes this is “not just about me and Katie Taylor”. She is correct; Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields’ forthcoming showdown is often described as the pinnacle of women’s boxing, but none of it would have been possible without Taylor. Barry McGuigan has talked up the chances of his latest prospect, Chantelle Cameron, but there would have been no Camerons, Shields or Marshalls in this position without the pioneer that went before them.
Eddie Hearn deserves credit too. The Matchroom promoter made no bones about his reservations about him when signing Taylor, accepting that there was no existing precedent for women’s professional fighters. Again, the tenacious lightweight fought her own corner, messaging Hearn privately and persuading him she could sell fights.
At the age of 35, she is in greater demand than ever. Incredibly, this is not the first time she has fought at Madison Square Garden – she has graced Wembley Stadium too – but both those occasions came on the undercards of Anthony Joshua fights.
When Taylor beat Viviane Obenauf, it was always going to be overshadowed by Joshua’s victory over Wladimir Klitschko. Her victory over Delfine Persoon went under the radar, because it was on the same card as Andy Ruiz Jr’s stunning stoppage of Joshua in the summer of 2019. The rematch against Persoon then similarly came in Brentwood, when Alexander Povetkin knocked out Dillian Whyte with to brutal uppercut (sound familiar?).
Despite suggestions she no longer fights with characteristic aggression and speed, she is still a huge puncher; that she only has six knockouts on her record of her is slightly misleading.
If there are chinks in the armor, Serrano stands well-poised to find them and her promoter, Jake Paul, is right to talk her up. Taylor may be easier to hit than she once was, though it is hard to measure exactly what kind of shape she is in until she faces a fighter closer to her caliber. Both have fought Miriam Gutierrez in the last two years, but there hasn’t been a clear or natural path of progression.
Hearn believes there could well be a rematch. First, the winner will be awarded a special belt, the “Celtic-Boricua Belt” designed by the WBC. There is little else for Taylor to achieve so long as she successfully defends her titles on the biggest stage of all.
Taylor vs. Serrano
- Date: Saturday 30 April
- Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 3.15am UK time – crucially, Hearn has stated they won’t clash with the ring walks for Oscar Valdez vs. Shakur Stevenson, which takes place on the same night
- TV/live stream: DAZN, with subscriptions from £7.99 a month
- Undercard highlights: Liam Smith is back against Jessie Vargas after beating Anthony Fowler last year, while Team GB’s gold medalist Galal Yafai also continues his budding pro career against Miguel Cartagena
- i predictions: Serrano is in the top three of pound-for-pound rankings and she is Taylor’s biggest opponent yet – she may be able to hurt Taylor, but the Irishwoman’s body work can prove the difference. Taylor to win on points.
- Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano
- Jessie Vargas vs. Liam Smith
- Franchon Crews-Dezurn vs. Elin Cederroos
- Galal Yafai vs. Miguel Cartagena
- Austin Williams vs Chordale Booker
- Reshat Mati vs. Joe Eli Hernandez
- Skye Nicolson vs. Shanecqua Paisley Davis
- Khalil Coe vs William Langston
Valdez vs Stevenson
Before his super-featherweight unification bout with Shakur Stevenson, Oscar Valdez seemed perfectly relaxed.
So much so, in fact, that he was filmed swimming with a pet crocodile called Steve days before fighting for the WBC world championship, the WBO world junior championship and the vacant The Ring junior championship.
Stevenson may be the more defensive fighter, but he is also the favorite after his hugely impressive performance against Jamel Herring – the man who effectively retired Carl Frampton.
- Date: Saturday 30 April
- Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
- Fight time: Ring walks are expected between 4.15-5am UK time
- TV/live stream: Sky Sports Arena, Sky Go or with a NOW pass
- Undercard highlights: There’s been a lot of excitement about lightweight prospect Keyshawn Davis, who takes on Esteban Sanchez. Muhammad Ali’s grandson Nico Walsh is also in action against Alejandro Ibarra
- i predictions: Stevenson to win by unanimous decision
- Oscar Valdez vs. Shakur Stevenson
- Keyshawn Davis vs. Esteban Sanchez
- Nico Ali Walsh vs Alejandro Ibarra
- Raymond Muratalla vs Jeremy Hill
- Andres Cortes vs Alexis del Bosque
- Abdullah Mason vs. Luciano Ramos
- Troy Isley vs. TBA
- Charlie Sheehy vs. Burnell Jenkins
- Antoine Cobb vs. Jaylan Phillips
Any other business
The recurring question from Fury’s sixth-round knockout of Whyte is whether this really is the end of the road for the WBC heavyweight champion.
Fury insisted “this is it” and later added that it was the “gospel truth” that he was retiring. Within days, however, he had teased a fight with IFB, WBO and WBA champion Oleksandr Usyk, who declared he would ease past due to the former cruiserweight champion’s disadvantages in terms of size.
A date for Usyk’s rematch with Joshua is yet to be confirmed this summer, so all this can wait. The one certain British interest in the heavyweight division this summer will be Joe Joyce, who is all but confirmed to be facing Joseph Parker.