We know that Katie Taylor will defend her undisputed world lightweight championship on August 22. That fight will co-headline the last in a summer series of boxing cards called Matchroom Fight Camp, all arranged to take place in the sprawling garden of Eddie Hearn’s massive estate in Brentwood, England. As it stands now, that’s all we know for sure. Who will be in the opposing corner? That, my friend, is the million dollar question.
Speaking of which, one million dollars is reportedly what Taylor would have been issued a check in the amount of in the event of her presumptive clash with Amanda Serrano. The stars had aligned to bring women’s boxing the mega bout we had long been waiting for, but in recent weeks a gravitational pull has thrown the two shining stars off their inevitable collision course and seen them slowly but surely drifting away from one another, their spectacular ring clash having evidently gone supernova ahead of schedule and reduced to nothing more than a petty Twitter war in which there looks to be no winner, least of all the fans.
Serrano and her promoter Lou DiBella had signed a three-fight agreement with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing in October 2018 which was designed to feature Amanda in two showcase bouts on DAZN, a hard-fought featherweight title win over Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy and a stay-busy knockout of Simone Aparecida Da Silva, culminating in the highly-anticipated showdown with Taylor. Right around the time that Amanda inked the deal with Hearn, the first shots were fired in the Taylor/Serrano conflict when Katie not only dealt out a one-sided beatdown to Amanda’s older sister Cindy, a former world champion herself, at the TD Garden in Boston but openly criticized Cindy’s trainer and husband Jordan Maldonado for allegedly belittling Cindy throughout the course of their title fight.
In the wake of Amanda Serrano’s victory over Heather Hardy at Manhattan’s Hulu Theatre, Madison Square Garden’s 5600-seat satellite venue, both Hearn and DiBella liked the idea of hosting the Taylor/Serrano bout there come March 8. The fact that this fight was slated for International Women’s Day was no coincidence. The setting itself also made perfect sense. Serrano, the fan-friendly knockout artist of Puerto Rican nationality, resides in and fights out of Brooklyn, and Taylor has strategically established a tremendous following in New York, well beyond the scope of the city’s many Irish supporters, dating back to her U.S. debut at the Barclays Center in 2017 with a return visit nine months later and two subsequent appearances at Madison Square Garden.
When this concept fell through, Hearn offered Serrano a substantial purse increase to come across the pond for a title fight at the Manchester Arena on May 2. Serrano’s aforementioned trainer, manager, and brother-in-law Jordan Maldonado is on record as saying that Amanda eagerly accepted the proposed terms, and the bout was set to be the co-feature to the WBC interim heavyweight championship skirmish between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin, which is still the case. And then the spread of the coronavirus pandemic put those plans, and everyday life for that matter, on indefinite hold. The date of July 4 was then bandied about and supposedly agreed upon by all interested parties until Matchroom’s tentative schedule went to hell for various reasons, shuffling Taylor/Serrano initially to August 15 before recently announcing the official date of August 22.
It now appears entirely likely that Serrano will not be making the trip to Manchester after all. Like the date of the bout itself, the narrative told by its participants is constantly shifting and leaving everyone uncertain as to who or what to believe. Eddie Hearn initially denied Team Serrano’s claim that Amanda was recently told she was subject to a pay cut, presumably due to significant loss of revenue seeing as though the fight will be held in a fan-less environment. The amount of the decrease differs in the telling, but Maldonado alleges that it was as great as 50%. The Matchroom promoter has since more or less fessed up to the allegation and put his original $300,000 offer back on the table. Great, now that the purse is settled, the fight’s on, right? Well, not so fast. It appears we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.
Lou DiBella, who was not safe from his own fighter’s social media slings and arrows, has now said that even though the financial wrinkles have been ironed out to everyone’s apparent satisfaction, Serrano is not prepared to compete, citing a prolonged lack of access to proper training facilities, not to mention sparring partners. For what it’s worth, Katie Taylor reminded Amanda that she too is in a similar predicament, additionally throwing down the gauntlet by stating that she is nevertheless willing to go ahead with their contracted fight if Serrano is.
And then there is the matter of Amanda having signed on for the sports-based reality TV show Exatlón Estados Unidos which airs on the Spanish-language network Telemundo. Hearn views this as a conflicting breach of contract and has sent Serrano a cease and desist order to prevent her from participating on the program. No word yet whether or not she will abide by this. Lou DiBella suggests that this is an opportunity for Serrano to bring in some much-needed income, although this is something of a contradiction in terms as doing the reality show obviously puts her guaranteed payday against Katie Taylor in jeopardy and, thus, her reputation on the line.
This tangled web has some pundits and keyboard warriors speculating like crazy, as they are wont to do. Some argue that Amanda and Lou DiBella’s comments give a clear indication that they are using the pandemic and the resulting promotional entanglements as a convenient stalling tactic whereby Serrano can bide her time until she is later able to leverage her way into a far more lucrative arrangement once the covid-19 threat subsides, whenever that might be, and the fight with Taylor can be held in a packed stadium. Admittedly, this is not all that farfetched. What does seem utterly preposterous is the supposition that Serrano is attempting to weasel her way out a fight she never wanted in the first place. All things considered, the sorry situation that this has devolved into is a frustrating obfuscation of fact from fiction with all sides claiming to be on the right side of the story and no one willing to give any ground.
If Serrano does indeed bow out, Eddie Hearn has extended an overture for a rematch to Delfine Persoon, the former WBC lightweight world champion who many observers—and Delfine herself, it goes without saying—feel was robbed of her belt in a controversial majority decision loss to Katie Taylor in their unification bout at Madison Square Garden last June. This offer is still pending, meanwhile undefeated Chantelle Cameron (12-0, 7 KOs), who is Taylor’s WBC mandatory challenger, has stepped up to the plate, offering her services as a potential replacement for Serrano. Cameron is confident that she will be able to exploit weaknesses she has perceived in Taylor’s technique to not only make a competitive fight, but take Katie’s four title belts home with her to Northampton.
A return bout between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon is one us fans would love to watch, not to mention one that Persoon badly deserves, and a fight pitting Taylor against Chantelle Cameron will undoubtedly be an exciting scrap whenever it happens. But, make no mistake, Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano is the fight that we want to see and that women’s boxing needs to have happen, even if the circumstances are less than ideal. It will be a damn shame if this matchup exists only as a hypothetical what-if beyond August 22.