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Katie Taylor retains world title on split decision after epic tussle with Amanda Serrano

Katie Taylor celebrates victory after her undisputed world lightweight championship fight with Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden in New York, USA. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Katie Taylor extinguished any doubt about her ranking as the best pound-for-pound female boxer in the world this morning at Madison Square Garden.

The ‘Fight of the Century’ for women turned into a classic in the mecca of boxing as Taylor retained her WBA, IBF, WBO, WBC and Ring Magazine World lightweight belts

The 35-year-old Bray pugilist proved she was the ‘Real Deal’ against Amanda Serrano, who had claimed nine world titles across seven divisions in a distinguished career.

But she had to go into the trenches.

Ring announcer David Diamante uttered the words the Irish heroine wanted to hear after the fight lasted the scheduled ten rounds… “and still …”

It was the signal for Irish fans in the sell-out attendance of 18,000 to erupt.

Taylor had looked in serious trouble at the midway point of the contest. Serrano came close to stopping Taylor in a gruelling fifth round but the champion showed incredible courage by staying upright. She recovered and took the final four rounds to win on a split decision 97-94, 96-93 and 94-96.

Eddie Hearn described it as one of the greatest fights in the history of Madison Square Garden. Both fighters verbally agreed in the ring afterwards for a rematch. “Let’s do it again,” said Taylor to her opponent. What a contest it will be.

Hearn said he wanted the rematch to be in Ireland and Serrano’s manager Jake Paul accepted the challenge of coming to Ireland for Taylor-Serrano 2.

Taylor will bring home a new belt from the Big Apple as the World Boxing Council commissioned a Celt-Boricua Belt for the winner in recognition of the fact that it was the first female fight to top the bill in the 140-year storied history of MSG.

In her previous 44 fights the Porto Rican born Brooklyn based fighter had never faced an opponent of the calibre of Taylor. But she rose magnificently to the challenge and certainly deserves another chance. The two scores of 97-93 against didn’t reflect in full her contribution to arguably the best ever women’s championship fight.

As is customary with all Matchroom shows the build-up to the big fight began with Neil Diamond’s classic ‘Sweet Caroline’ which certainly got the Katie Taylor fans in the packed MSG in the mood. And their rendition of Ole, Ole Ole drowned out the Porto Rican fans. The atmosphere was electric for the ring-walks but whereas Serrano relished the attention, Taylor — who had looked nervous in her dressing room — had her game face on.

Canadian Michael Griffin was the third person in the ring as the action got underway. Taylor stayed out of range for most of the first two minutes and snapped out successive left shots which caught her opponent. The speed of the champion’s punches were noteworthy.

They clinched for the first time early the second as Taylor used her footwork to make the ring as big as possible. Serrano did get though with a couple of punches and started to focus on Taylor’s body.

The action intensified in the third as the pair traded punches and already the fight had all the signs of developing into a classic. Serrano found her range at the end of the third and caught Taylor with a powerful left hook, though it was hardly sufficient to give her the round.

Taylor dominated the fourth round with the accuracy of her punches giving her the edge and she caught Serrano with one classic right straight to the jaw.

Taylor was caught in the corner for a prolonged period at the start of the fifth round and shipped a succession of punches; she finally managed to move off the ropes but was virtually overwhelmed by Serrano.

It is probably no exaggeration that she took more punishment in the round than in any round she ever fought during her professional career. She deserves immense credit for staying on her feet. Avoiding a standing count ultimately won her the contest.

But she was in deep trouble at this point. She bravely fought back in round 6 but Serrano now had her measure. As blood poured from Taylor’s nose only her innate bravery was keeping her in the fight. She looked shell-shocked in her corner.

The action slowed somewhat in round seven as Serrano was moving forward relentlessly but Taylor did enough to at least stem the momentum Serrano had established through the middle rounds.

As the contest entered the championship rounds the momentum shifted decisively in favour of Taylor as she landed with scoring punches in rounds eight and nine. Amazingly, having looked doomed at the mid-point of the fight, she had fought her way back into the contest. It was a near miraculous recovery from the champion.

Everything hinged on the two final minutes. Taylor dominated the first minute and a half, but Serrano stormed back, and the two fighters stood in the middle of the ring and exchanged a flurry of blows in the final 30 seconds of the round.

It was a magnificent finish to a magnificent contest.

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