With a pair of marquee fights on opposite sides of the country, the sport of boxing took center stage in the United States on Saturday, including the biggest women’s match in history.
Undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor (21-0, 6 KOs) edged seven-division champion Amanda Serrano (42-2-1, 30 KOs) by split decision in a Fight of the Year at Madison Square Garden in New York. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Shakur Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) provided a surgical takedown of Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) to unify the 130-pound titles in a battle of undefeated Junior Champions of the light weights.
Let’s take a closer look at the biggest takeaways from a crazy night at the fights.
Can’t get enough of boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including an instant analysis of Taylor vs. Serrano and Stevenson vs. Valdez at the end of the night below.
1. Somehow and somehow Taylor-Serrano exceeded expectations
In the first women’s combat sports main event in the 140-year history of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in midtown Manhattan, Taylor and Serrano did everything in their power (and then some) to elevate their sport. This showdown between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the game was a skillful war with dramatic swings in momentum. But he was also free from chatter and some of the excess often associated with boxing. Even with a disputed result from the judging trio split at ringside, both fighters showed nothing but class and humility as they praised each other after the fight. Better still, everyone associated with this instant classic, including promoters Eddie Hearn and Jake Paul, showed an immediate desire to run at fullback (perhaps in Taylor’s native Ireland). Despite the hype and pressure, Taylor and Serrano refused to step back in a slick and wild display of their future Hall of Fame talents. It was a special night that won’t soon be forgotten and the sold-out crowd of over 19,000 produced one of the most electric atmospheres for a big fight this country has seen in years.
2. However you scored Taylor-Serrano, you were probably right
No, seriously, the fight was really that close. If there was ever a women’s boxing match that deserved equal rules with the men when it came to three-minute rounds and 12-round title fights, this was it. Instead, the two-minute round setup was bound to create potential scoring controversy if there were no knockdowns. Fortunately, in this case, the end result of the split decision was anything but a robbery. With the exception of a dominating round 5, in which Serrano regularly hurt Taylor, there was enough back and forth action in every remaining stanza that it went either way. In the end, the judges favored Taylor’s counter combinations over Serrano’s harder single punches in the big moments. Still, to illustrate just how close this fight really was, Serrano edged Taylor by a 173-147 margin, according to CompuBox, but it was Taylor who was far more accurate landing 39% of his total punches and nearly 47 % of his powerful hits. . The fight could have gone either way and instantly demanded a rematch. There’s no reason this incredible rivalry can’t end up being a trilogy, when all is said and done.
3. Taylor showed the heart of a lion
Although not the bigger hitter of the two, the 35-year-old Taylor showed a mad heart to survive being nearly finished in round 5 and stubbornly refused to leave. Not only did Taylor look on her feet at least twice during the harrowing round, but it was the onslaught she unleashed on the next round to hold her ground and land the bigger, cleaner shots in Round 6 that could have win him the fight. Taylor refused to allow Serrano to build sustained momentum, even with a cut above his right eye and blood pouring from his nose. With both fighters’ raucous fanbases from the Irish and Puerto Rican communities cheering them on, Taylor needed all the determination in her to pull off the most important victory of her career. It was a vintage fight that required a performance of old-school tenacity to get the job done.
4. Boxing’s next big star has arrived
Shakur Stevenson, the 24-year-old southpaw, offered nothing less than a masterclass in punching and went untouched as he comfortably edged Valdez in a unanimous decision that included a knockdown in round 6 Although not known as a power puncher, Stevenson was sharp and quick enough to land just about anything he wanted against Valdez, leaving the Mexican warrior’s face cut and stained afterwards. It’s rare for a boxer to be compared to someone as clinical as Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather, but Stevenson definitely deserves mention in this instance. He controlled the distance with ease against Valdez and replenished it with one combination after another. Not only will Stevenson be in the top 10 of almost every pound-for-pound list going forward, but it’s not out of the question how long it will be before he takes the top spot. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist is a two-division champion and appears to have the speed, IQ and technique to eventually climb as high as welterweight when all is said and done.
5. Give us Stevenson vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko
Talk about a superfight in the making. Lomachenko, who won titles in three divisions following an amateur career that produced a pair of Olympic gold medals, can still easily gain 130 pounds despite struggling at lightweight in recent years. Despite opting out of attempting to fight unified 135-pound champion George Kambosos Jr. in order to dress on the front lines for his native Ukraine in their current clash with Russia, Lomachenko, 34, finds himself always ranked among the best P4P. A fight against Stevenson, no matter what division it takes place in, has high-speed failures written all over it and could continue to be a wizard’s passing of the torch from one generation to the next.
CBS Sports was with you the whole way Saturday for both events, so be sure to tune in for live results and highlights below.