Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano is women’s boxing’s first superfight

Christy Martin remembers the whistles and cat calls, the promoters who dismissed her as a sideshow and the times—so many times—she fought effectively for free. She remembers the dusty auditoriums in Asheville, Johnson City and Greenville, the opponents so unknown they were, in one case, literally unknown: Martin’s sixth professional fight, in September 1990, came against Jamie Whitcomb, though BoxRec, an official record keeper, notes that “some reports say Martin’s opponent name was Vickie Rice.”

When Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano step into the ring on April 30 it will be a watershed moment. Officially, Taylor’s four 135-pound titles, collected over the course of a brilliant, unblemished, six-year professional career, will be at stake. Unofficially, it will signal that women’s boxing has arrived. A women’s boxing match has never headlined Madison Square Garden in the arena’s fabled, 140-year history. When tickets went on sale in February, it was the second-largest boxing presale the building has ever had. When Shakur Stevenson–Oscar Valdez, an anticipated 130-pound title unification fight, was announced for the same date in Las Vegas, the buzz wasn’t whether the women’s fight would move to avoid a conflict, but the men. “This event,” says Eddie Hearn, Taylor’s promoter, “will be a monster.”

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So how, exactly, did we get here? It wasn’t that long ago that Lennox Lewis’s manager described women’s boxing as “a freak show,” or Bert Sugar, the famed boxing historian, opined that most female fighters “looked like women going down in quicksand for the last time, wielding frying pans.” Martin often bristled at attempts to cast her as a trailblazer. “This is about Christy Martin,” she once said. Today’s boxers, though, see her as precisely that. Regular appearances on Don King’s closed circuit cards in the 1990s gave Martin visibility. Her slugfest with Deirdre Gogarty—on the undercard of Mike Tyson’s 1996 rematch with Frank Bruno, a bout that generated 1.1 million pay-per-view buys—gave her credibility. “That fight,” says Taylor, “put women’s boxing on the map.”

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