Our American boxing expert Jake Donovan looks ahead to this weekend's hugely-anticipated female double-header at New York City's iconic Madison Square Garden.
Amanda Serrano and Alycia Baumgardner could one day wind up on a collision course - but for now, the pair of unified champions are on separate but similar paths towards the same goal.
Two undisputed championships are on display this Saturday at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theatre in New York City.
Headlining the DAZN telecast, Brooklyn’s Serrano (43-2-1, 30KOs) welcomes Mexico’s Erika Cruz (15-1, 3KOs) to her home state as the two collide for the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO featherweight titles.
Baumgardner appears in the co-main event, as the Detroit-based WBC, IBF and WBO junior-Since then lightweight champ looks to add the WBA belt to her collection versus France’s Elhem Mekhaled (15-1, 3KOs).
Serrano already holds the women’s record with world titles won in seven weight divisions – 115-lbs, 118-lbs, 122-lbs, 126-lbs, 130-lbs, 135-lbs and 140-lbs - but has always sought to become Puerto Rico’s first-ever undisputed champion.
“We’re finally get this opportunity to fight for undisputed in the featherweight division, my division,” Serrano told bet365 in the build-up to the bout.
“I’m super glad the WBA mandated Erika so we can have the opportunity. Now we have the fight February 4th. I’m so excited to make history for my beautiful island.”
The Puerto Rican southpaw came close in her unforgettable ten-round classic with Ireland’s Katie Taylor (22-0, 6KOs), who won a split decision to defend her undisputed lightweight championship last April in the main room at MSG.
Serrano returned to featherweight, where she still held the WBC and WBO titles. In her first fight back at her natural weight, Serrano defeated Denmark’s unbeaten IBF champ Sarah Mahfoud last September in Manchester.
The bout came less than two weeks prior to her 34th birthday, though with no signs of slowing down in her quest for boxing immortality.
Mexico City’s Cruz won the WBA featherweight title in an April 2021 technical decision victory over long-reigning champ Jelena Mrdjenovich.
She has since successfully defended her title twice, including a ten-round shutout over Mrdjenovich in their rematch last September 3 in Hermosillo, Mexico.
However, the visiting WBA titlist is confident of her second career fight in the United States ending with all the featherweight hardware in her possession.
“I know I am not a favourite,” said Cruz, who is on a 14-fight win streak.
“They think we are going to finish the ten rounds just to get paid, but I trained to beat Amanda Serrano. I have been preparing for a fight of this magnitude for more than ten years and I will give my best.”
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Baumgardner is viewed as having the less daunting task among the two title fights.
The 28-year-old from Bingham Falls, Michigan returns to her home country for the first time as a champion having won the WBC 130-pound belt in November 2021 with a sensational fourth-round knockout of unbeaten Terri Harper in Sheffield, England.
It was the first of three straight title fights in the UK for Baumgardner, who ended the road trip by defeating unbeaten IBF/WBO champion Mikaela Mayer last October in a pulsating content in London.
Baumgardner then sought to fully unify versus Hyun Mi Choi, who was instead stripped of the WBA title for failure to defend due to injury.
The streaking knockout artist still gets to contend for the vacant WBA belt, and is a 1/10 favourite to turn away Mekhaled, who enters as a 11/2 underdog for her first career fight in the United States.
Not even the thought of having to share the stage with another undisputed championship has dulled Baumgardner’s enthusiasm.
“I love it,” said Baumgardner, who has won seven in a row. “It’s huge and builds me as a fighter. Stacked shows like this puts more eyes on my career, on a night when I will become undisputed champion.”
Also of note this weekend on the other side of the US, Emanuel Navarrete aims to become a three-division world champion.
The WBO featherweight champ moves up to junior lightweight, where he will challenge for the vacant WBO belt.
Mexico’s Navarrete (36-1, 30KOs) was originally scheduled to face countryman and former two-division champion Oscar Valdez, who withdrew from their February 3 clash due to injury.
Navarrete instead faces Australia’s Liam Wilson (11-1, 8KOs) this Friday at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“I was disappointed when Valdez pulled out of the fight,” admitted Navarrete, who is 10-0 in title fights at 122-lbs and 126-pounds.
“But we have to move forward. I’m grateful for the opportunity to fight for my third world title.”
Navarrete enters Friday’s main event at 1/10, while Wilson is at 6/1 for his first title fight.
Odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change at any time.
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