How the Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano fight was made and what it means for boxing

Eddie Hearn, Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul during a news conference announcing the Taylor vs. Serrano upcoming fight at Madison Square Garden. J. Yim/Getty Images

They can envision April 30 now. Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano walking toward the ring in the main arena of New York's Madison Square Garden, one of the most iconic sporting venues in the world.

Thousands of fans cheering. Irish and Puerto Rican flags flying. A buzz in the air, a fight Taylor and Serrano both wanted on the biggest stage. They have talked about wanting to be involved in the biggest fights, facing the best opponents, and now that moment is nearly here.

"I pinch myself like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to be walking out here and headlining this show on April 30,'" Taylor said. "I can definitely see it: The atmosphere is going to be incredible, passionate Puerto Rican fans, passionate Irish fans. It's going to be such a special occasion and I don't think we'll see this for a very long time."

What is happening is rare. Taylor is No. 1 on the ESPN women's pound-for-pound list. Serrano is No. 2.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time the Nos. 1 and 2 on a pound-for-pound list fought was in 2008, when Manny Pacquiao (No. 1) beat Juan Manuel Marquez (No. 2) by split decision. They finished the year in the top two spots in Ring Magazine's pound-for-pound list because Floyd Mayweather retired.

April 30 is a night full of promise. A matchup years in the making, with multiple contracts signed, an interruption because of a pandemic, the involvement of a social media superstar creating escalating value leading to both Taylor and Serrano earning seven-figure paydays.

And it's a fight, depending on when you asked Taylor, Serrano or their teams, they thought would never happen.

THE INITIAL THOUGHTS about this fight began percolating in 2016, before Taylor turned professional. When the 2012 Olympic gold medalist considered the move to the paid ranks, she had a list of fighters she eventually wanted to face.

At the top of that list were Delfine Persoon and Serrano, who had already been the WBO lightweight champion, the IBF junior lightweight champ and WBO featherweight titleholder.

"These are the fights that I always wanted to be involved in," Taylor said. "Always wanted to fight the very, very best in the sport. That's why I did turn professional in the first place."

Taylor, of course, had to work her way to that. While Serrano was winning titles moving up and down divisions -- she has held belts in seven different ones -- Taylor mostly dominated at lightweight.

"When we announced this fight there were a lot of people snickering and a lot of laughing about going to the main room at the Garden and when they see what they're going to see on April 30, it's going to feel really sweet because everything we believed in will come true." Eddie Hearn

Taylor won her first title, the WBA belt, in her seventh pro fight a year after turning professional -- a unanimous decision over Anahi Ester Sanchez. Two fights later, she added the IBF title. In March 2019, she won the WBO belt. Along the way, Taylor also defeated Serrano's sister and sparring partner, Cindy Serrano, on Oct. 20, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston.

Taylor beat Persoon at Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2019 to become the undisputed lightweight champion. From there, Serrano became the obvious fight to make.

Serrano's then-promoter, Lou DiBella, had been co-promoting some of Serrano's fights with Hearn with the plan of an eventual fight with Taylor. That included a bout against Heather Hardy on Sept. 13, 2019, with DiBella telling The Irish Times that the winner would fight Taylor.

Serrano won by unanimous decision. Serrano then fought a tuneup in January 2020 in Miami on a card where another fighter made his boxing debut: Jake Paul.

By now Taylor-Serrano seemed inevitable, and Hearn was considering the Hulu Theater, a side room of Madison Square Garden, as a potential venue. There had been reports of the O2 Arena in London being another option.

On March 6, 2020, the fight was set for May 2 of that year in Manchester, England. The payday for Serrano, a source told ESPN, was going to be six figures.

"From even when the fight was first offered to me, it's been back-and-forth negotiations," Serrano said. "It's been good negotiations, bad, good. It's been the pandemic stopping the whole fight."

A week after the deal was struck, COVID-19 sent the world into quarantine and shut down sports. By the end of the month, the Taylor-Serrano fight had been postponed.

Hearn considered moving the fight to Matchroom Headquarters in Brentwood, England -- without fans -- as part of his ''Fight Camp'' series. There had been a potential rescheduling in early July, but New York was still shut down, so Serrano had fewer avenues to properly train. It was then scheduled for August at Matchroom HQ.

In June 2020, Serrano and her trainer/manager, Jordan Maldonado, pulled out of the fight, citing a low purse figure, which a source told ESPN was nearly $300,000.

Last December, Serrano told ESPN "you have to know your worth at times," in reference to the initially scheduled Taylor fight.

With Serrano out, Taylor fought a rematch against Persoon in August 2020. Serrano didn't fight again until December 2020.

The two continued to mention each other throughout early 2021 without anything set. At that point, each side was skeptical about the fight ever happening. Taylor thought the potential biggest fight of her career could go the way of Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford or Mayweather-Pacquiao -- either never happening or coming way, way too late.

THE CHANGE IN trajectory for Taylor-Serrano started before anyone realized it was happening. In April 2021, Serrano expressed interest in fighting on a Jake Paul undercard. Months later, when Paul and Nakisa Bidarian were negotiating with Showtime for a potential partnership, they said they wanted a high-level female fighter on their cards.

Showtime president Stephen Espinoza suggested Serrano and they quickly agreed. Serrano fought Yamileth Mercado in August in Cleveland on the first Paul-Tyron Woodley card.

"Jake was very clear from the start, he wanted action-oriented, exciting fighters throughout the card," Espinoza told ESPN last year. "Top to bottom. Focus on young fighters, up-and-coming fighters but most of all, all action. He also made it clear he wanted at least one women's fight on the card. That sparked a conversation and in terms of what he was looking for, all action and a very entertaining style and someone charismatic.

"The name we immediately suggested was Amanda and he immediately agreed. It was a short conversation."

A month later Serrano left DiBella, who had promoted and invested in her fights for years, and became the first client of Paul and Bidarian's newly formed MVP Promotions. Paul knew a fighter such as Serrano would give him and his nascent promotion instant credibility.

"She took a chance and she's helped us grow our business with her name," Paul said. "Because she has one of the biggest names in boxing and has one of the most accomplished careers in boxing, so the fact that she has chosen to stand by my side is massive."

Hearn figured the change in promoter would make booking the Taylor-Serrano fight more difficult. But as part of the conversations between Serrano, Maldonado, Bidarian and Paul, fighting Taylor was the initial target.

"Katie Taylor was the fight that we wanted to make happen and use it as a launching pad for women's boxing," Bidarian said. "To bring an enormous amount of attention to it and hopefully they put on a great show that leads to further fan interest in the sport.

"That was it."

Soon after signing with MVP, the first of at least 50 conversations began between Hearn and Bidarian to try to finally put the fight together.

Both Serrano and Taylor knew the fight was close to happening in December when Serrano prepared to face Miriam Gutierrez and Taylor trained for Firuza Sharipova. Taylor and Serrano discussed it publicly -- not in detail, but with recognition of the real possibility -- before their own bouts. They knew if they both won, the long-awaited fight could be real.

"I think I knew over the last few months that it was going to happen," Taylor said. "It was mad because the last fight, when I was preparing for Sharipova, I was constantly asked about Serrano. And I was like, 'I have a fight to focus on right now.'"

While Bidarian says the matchup wasn't about the money, there was a firm point from the start: Serrano would get seven figures for the fight.

Both Serrano and Maldonado were skeptical at first because they'd been in professional boxing for over a decade. For most of Serrano's 44 professional fights, that type of money was not realistic or attainable.

"When he said a million dollars," Maldonado said, "I looked at him and said, 'Dream on, brother.'"

Hearn's first offer on the latest iteration of Serrano-Taylor would have been a record payday for Serrano, but was far below seven figures, so Bidarian and Paul turned it down. Hearn came back again with a higher offer. Close -- but still not there.

Bidarian said they were prepared to walk away from the deal if they didn't get the financial compensation they were hoping for and had a plan to keep Serrano making six-figure paydays. But not like this.

Hearn had spoken with DAZN, which wanted to broadcast the fight. He knew he'd eventually end up getting to the seven-figure number, but like any good businessman he wanted to see if he could get a better deal first.

"I knew the number, but I hoped I would get it for less," Hearn said. "Once I found out I wasn't going to get it for less I already made up my mind I was going to pay it because I was convinced by then of Jake's involvement and DAZN really wanted to do the fight, so I knew we were going to do the fight. It took a month to really get everything over the line, lots of different minor details."

When Bidarian told Maldonado and Serrano he had gotten them the number they had been promised, they couldn't quite believe it at first. Then it sank in.

She was going to get what she believed she was worth. What her team believed she was worth.

"A lot of back and forth. I have to thank my trainer, Jordan, for not accepting their bull crap," Serrano said. "Of not accepting the first couple offers and sticking to his gun and saying, 'You know what, no, it's off.'

"If it was, I would have fought her at that price and never got to experience what I'm experiencing now."

While the financial terms were decided, a small not-money-related detail that neither Paul nor Bidarian would disclose almost killed the fight. It was concerning enough that Paul was "actually scared" the deal might fall through, but the clear purpose of getting the fight to happen and its potential importance for women's boxing as a whole prevailed.

In March, Paul said he had already met the social media obligations he had agreed to in the contract for the fight, but planned to keep pushing it. It is his first one as a promoter where he is not fighting on the card. Ideally, Paul said, he'd love to sell out Madison Square Garden.

MSG was the target for Hearn once the latest round of negotiations started. Hearn said the Garden was interested in having it in the main arena, too. A fight like this, with the history potentially behind it, Hearn knew MSG was the clear option.

Everyone was aligned. The delays and pushback from Serrano in prior years actually created a bigger atmosphere for the fight. It would have been notable then. It's one of the biggest fights to be made in boxing -- and the biggest fight in the history of women's boxing -- now.

"I'm going to be very proud," Hearn said. "Very proud of Katie. One of my proudest moments as a promoter because there's nothing better than someone telling you it can't be done. When we announced this fight there were a lot of people snickering and a lot of laughing about going to the main room at the Garden and when they see what they're going to see on April 30, it's going to feel really sweet because everything we believed in will come true.

"Not just that, you'll get a fight for the ages as well. I believe the world will stop and watch."