'We have offered her five times more than she has ever earned' - Katie Taylor eyes American sister act
KATIE TAYLOR'S dream of becoming the female face of professional boxing in the United States faces its first acid test in Boston's TD Garden on Saturday night when she defends her two world lightweight belts against one-time world featherweight title holder Cindy Serrano.
Taylor's third fight in the United States has taken on new significance for two reasons.
The first reason is that it is now the Boston show's top of the bill fight following the cancellation of the planned WBO world middleweight title fight between England's Billy Joe Saunders and American Demetrius Andrade.
The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission refused to sanction the bout after Saunders failed a voluntary drugs test. He tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine, which he claimed came from a nasal spray.
Even though Andrade will now fight Walter Kautondokwa for the now vacant WBC middleweight belt in Boston, for the American-Irish audience the Bray pugilist is the big draw with the other three Irish boxers on the card — Sean McComb, Niall Kennedy and James Tennyson — filling the support roles.
The second reason is there will be huge interest in the reaction of the pay-per-view audience in the United States.
This is only the second show which Matchroom has staged in the United States in association with their new media partner DAZN, who will stream the fight worldwide.
Professional boxing in the United States faces increasing competition from the UFC. American TV network HBO, which has been synonymous with the sport for decades, recently announced it was pulling out of boxing coverage.
This leaves a gap in the market for DAZN and they are determined to take on the challenge presented by the UFC.
Earlier this week they ran a fullpage advertisement in the Big Apple's biggest selling daily tabloid, the New York Post, with the simple catchline: 'Here for the Fight Not the Circus.'
Taylor's Irish manager Brian Peters confirmed that Matchroom's/DAZN plan is to make her the poster girl for professional boxing in the United States.
"I firmly believe Katie will not just become a star in the United States, but a superstar — but it will take time and patience. There are really professional people involved in the whole set-up and Eddie Hearn is a truly driven individual.
"In years to come he will be considered one of the all-time great promoters," said Peters.
Of course, the bottom line is that Taylor has to keep on winning to keep the project on target. Cindy Serrano (36) has boxed professionally since 2003, winning 27 of her 35 fights. Though she has suffered five losses, she has never been stopped.
Now based in Brooklyn, the Puerto Rica-born boxer's career has been mostly overshadowed by her younger sister Amanda, who along with Oscar De Le Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, is the only boxer to have won world professional titles in six different weights.
This weekend's showdown for Taylor's IBF and WBA lightweight titles was generally viewed as an appetiser for a future bout between the London Olympic gold medallist and Amanda Serrano.
The Brooklyn-based Serrano recently claimed that she was finished with professional boxing and would concentrate on Mixed Martial Arts in the future.
"Those remarks suggest she is training to be a comedian," said Peters.
"We have offered her five times more than she has ever earned for a fight before and she says she is going off to do MMA. I'm sure that Katie will fight Amanda Serrano down the road.
"But her focus right now is on the Boston fight. The training camp has gone well and she is looking forward to the challenge.
"Every opponent Katie has faced so far in her professional career has raised their game when they get into the ring against her.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them and, having spoken to most of them after the fights, they have all made this point.
"Cindy Serrano has been a professional boxer for a long time, so Katie will treat her with the respect she deserves," said Peters, who confirmed that provided Taylor chalks up her 11th successive win in the pro ranks, she will have one more fight — probably in the United States — before the end of the year.
Unlike Taylor, who has had ten fights since her professional debut 23 months ago, this is only Serrano's fifth fight since early 2016. Regarded as a natural featherweight, Serrano won the WBO version of the 126lb division on a majority decision in late 2016. She successfully defended the belt once with a unanimous points win over Mexican fighter Iranda Paola Torres in May 2017 but was subsequently stripped of her title due to inactivity.
Indeed, she has only fought once since May 2017. In a super-featherweight contest she scrambled to an unconvincing split decision win over Hungarian fighter Edina Kiss last October.
Effectively she is moving up two weight divisions to take on Taylor but she has fought in the 135lb and indeed won a 'world' lightweight title promoted by the little known Universal Boxing Federation in 2014.
If she's on form, Taylor ought to keep her belts – though she might have to go the distance. Her last US fight in Brooklyn's Barclays Center, against Victoria Noelia Bustos, brought the house down.
Eddie Hearn will be hoping for more of the same next Saturday night in a venue synonymous with the Boston Celtics basketball team.