In an atmosphere and decibel level not dissimilar to that of the Excel Arena in London, where she won the Olympic gold medal in 2012, Katie Taylor once again did not disappoint her legion of Irish fans in an emotional Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Taylor came through a bruising 10-round fight, survived the fifth round and finally won the contest on a split decision. One judge scored the bout 96-94 to Amanda Serrano with the two others giving it to Taylor 97-93, 96-93.
After 21 professional fights the 35-year-old from Bray remains unbeaten and retains her major belts from the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC.
In Pictures: Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano
It was as everyone had predicted for the first show ever at Madison Square Garden to be headlined by two female boxers, Serrano’s punching power against Taylor’s technical ability, although, after an intense 30 minutes, the champion’s ability to scrap out hard-fought rounds and come through was there for everyone to see.
“What a fighter Amanda Serrano is,” said Taylor afterwards.”I think we’re both winners here tonight. Look at what we’ve just done – sold out Madison Square Garden, the biggest fight in female boxing history.
“Both of us have broken down so many barriers in our career and I’m just grateful to be in this position really. What a fight, what a win, what a night.
Taylor began the bout from a distance using her footwork and shot placement to stay out of range from Serrano’s forward-marching style. Flicking jabs and landing right hands, it was a comfortable opening from the Irish woman.
As long as she moved and scored Taylor looked comfortable and it was in those opening rounds one to four that she built up her points. In the end she needed them. Even so, there were some quickfire exchanges at the end of the rounds that played into Serrano’s hands, although, Taylor was landing the cleaner shots.
In the fifth round Serrano manged to finally chase Taylor down and block her in a corner, the Irish champion forced to take considerable punishment from her hard-hitting opponent.
Taylor looked shaken by the pounding, but she made it back to her corner. Still, it gave a clear shot in confidence for the Puerto Rican American, who dominated in the middle of the fight.
“I knew exactly how deep I had to dig,” said Taylor. “I knew that I was going to be in the trenches at some stage. She’s a phenomenal fighter, a great, great person and I have the heart to go with the skill and I knew I was going to come through.”
The sixth round also belonged to Serrano, Taylor’s nose bleeding and still rattled from the fifth, unlike the earlier rounds she had slowed down her moving and scoring.
In the closing three or four rounds, Taylor regained that composure and stayed out of the firing line as much as she could, keeping clear of the ‘bust up’ exchanges.
Scoring with her right back hand and jabs, for the exchanges Taylor’s faster gloves were impressing the judges. In a final toe to toe with both boxers punching out to the end of the match, it was Taylor as much saying ‘I can do this if I need to’.
But it was a close-run thing and perhaps her tightest and toughest bout since turning professional. A rematch is already being spoken about in Ireland at the back end of the summer.
"I felt it was a close fight," said Taylor's promoter Eddie Hearn. "At the end of the eighth we probably thought it was four-all. I thought Katie just edged the fight but it could have gone either way. But tonight, we were making history for women's boxing.
“They made history with one of the greatest fights in the history of Madison Square Garden. Two women who changed the game but also provided us with a fight for the ages. I see a big rematch later in the year but for now, Katie Taylor, a legend of the sport of boxing and Amanda Serrano, so tough. This is a massive night for the sport.”