Boxing’s watershed moment as women fighters headline Madison Square Garden for first time

When you think of boxing, one of the first venues that comes to mind is Madison Square Garden.

New York’s most famous venue been home to the greatest practitioners of the sweet science since it first hosted bouts in the 1890s. 

Headlining Madison Square Garden in New York City means that you are the biggest ticket in town.

And, if you can make it there, well, you know the rest.

It’s boxing’s most hallowed arena and, this Sunday (AEDT), The Garden is set to write a new chapter in its storied history.

For the first time a women’s fight will headline a card at Madison Square Garden when Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano will meet for the undisputed lightweight world title.

Katie Taylor has fought at Madison Square Garden twice before.(Getty Images: Al Bello)

It is not understating things to say that it is a watershed moment for the sport.

It’s not the first time that Madison Square Garden has ever hosted women’s boxing — that honour goes to Christy Martin and Isra Girgrah, who fought way down on the undercard of a light middleweight title eliminator in 1997.

It’s not even the first time that either women has fought at the hallowed theatre — they’ve both fought twice under that famous roof, although both Serrano’s bouts there took place in the smaller, 8,500 capacity Hulu Theatre, where George Kambosos won his unified lightweight belts last year

This fight is taking place in the main arena though, in front of 17,500 spectators in place to witness history — and selling those seats was not an issue.

When tickets for this bout went on sale in February, it was the second-largest boxing pre-sale The Garden has ever had — something that would have been unthinkable even five years ago.

Both women have been featuring regularly on mainstream TV in the USA to help publicise the contest.

Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano pose on top of the Empire State Building
The boxers have visited the Empire State Building ahead of their world lightweight title fight.(Getty Images: Sarah Stier)

This week, the Empire State Building was lit up in the colours of Taylor’s native Ireland and the colours of Serrano’s Pureto Rican heritage after a roof-top face off.

Make no mistake, this is big time.

“It’s incredible to see how far women’s boxing has gone in just five short years,” Taylor said.

The two best fighters going head-to-head 

It is difficult to overstate how wildly popular Taylor, 35, is in her native Ireland, where she is nothing short of a national treasure.

Katie Taylor raises both her arms and holds her head back with her mouth open
Katie Taylor won Olympic gold in 2012.(Getty Images: INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

The softly-spoken star has been credited with boosting the popularity and legitimacy of women’s boxing across the world, but no more so than in Ireland.

Part of that is timing — Taylor fought in the country’s first officially sanctioned women’s bout as a 15-year-old in 2001.

The rest of it is pure hard work and skill.

A five-time World Champion in the amateur ranks, the Bray Bomber’s popularity soared at the 2012 Olympics, when she won a hugely popular gold medal in the lightweight division.

A large crowd of people with Irish tricolour flags stand in a street
Hundreds of people watched Katie Taylor’s fights at London 2012 on big screens in her hometown of Bray.(Getty Images: PA Images/Niall Carson)

When she lost in the quarter finals at Rio four years later, it was almost enough to spark a period of national mourning.

Taylor put that disappointment behind her to by turning professional, sparking interest into the pro ranks.

Taylor has scooped up the WBA, IBF, WBO and WBC titles over an unblemished 20-fight professional career in order to rule the lightweight division, while also claiming the WBO junior welterweight title to become Ireland’s third two-weight world champion.

Serrano, on the other hand, has jumped up and down the weight divisions, winning nine belts across seven different weight classes in her 44-fight career.

The 33-year-old is currently the unified featherweight champion with a record of 42-1-1, with an impressive 30 knock outs.

Amanda Serrano leans back and punches at Yamileth Marcado
Amanda Serrano has won titles in seven different weight divisions in her stellar career.(Getty Images: Jason Miller)

Together, they are women’s boxing’s two biggest stars.

Women’s boxing does not have the same kind of depth that the men’s field enjoys, but the advantage of that is the top fighters look for their biggest rivals in order to get the biggest, highest profile fights.

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