The blood seemed to be everywhere, consistently coming out of the top of Erika Cruz's forehead, on her arm and getting on Amanda Serrano, too.
Defense was almost non-existent Saturday night in this undisputed featherweight title fight at Hulu Theater, punches thrown for 10 rounds at a near constant rate. It's the type of fight Cruz has always fought -- the type of fight the uber-powerful Serrano expected.
And in the end, Serrano did enough -- picking up a 98-92, 98-92, 97-93 unanimous decision that made her the undisputed featherweight champion of the world and the first undisputed champion, male or female, of the four-belt era from Puerto Rico.
It was a fight that lived up to its intensity inside the ring, with flurry after flurry from both fighters as blood streamed down Cruz's face in every round due to an accidental headbutt in the third that opened up a nasty cut.
It didn't matter. It was the type of punch-trading that was worthy of a headlined fight in New York City for an undisputed title -- one that culminated with a standing ovation from the crowd. After the fight, waiting for the scores, Cruz was getting her cut looked at and Serrano was dancing in her corner of the ring.
|-- Courtesy of CompuBox|
It's a fight that will be remembered for its brutality and the near-constant punch-throwing. Serrano came close to knocking down Cruz in the sixth round, which was by far her best. But it didn't matter how much Serrano brought, Cruz kept coming back, again and again, throwing punches until the end.
"She's a Mexican champion, we knew that," Serrano said. " ... That's what we expected. That's what we trained for."
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Serrano said she "went back to the basics" in the second half of the fight, throwing one-two combinations repeatedly. As the 10th round started, Serrano raised her arms into the air to egg on the crowd.
And then the two of them just kept throwing over and over again. It looked like Serrano might have knocked Cruz down in the 10th, but it was waved off.
By the end, Cruz's blood was everywhere -- on her shorts, on her top, on Serrano, on Serrano's shorts, coming down her face -- and it didn't matter. She just kept going and going and going.
It was a fight that was anticipated as such.
The Hulu Theater was packed over an hour before the main event, the crowd cheering particularly hard whenever a Puerto Rican fighter -- including Olympian Yankiel Rivera, who opened the main telecast with a unanimous decision win over Fernando Diaz -- did anything of note. Serrano wore trunks featuring the Puerto Rican flag, and her name on front in glittering silver.
Serrano, for the second time in a year, headlined a card at Madison Square Garden. Last April, it was against Katie Taylor in the big room. On Saturday, it was more history for her in the smaller Hulu Theater, but the significance remained the same.
A cavalcade of the best in female boxing watched from ringside, including Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion, the undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields and the super middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn.
And the day ended with two more undisputed champions joining their ranks -- Serrano at featherweight and Alycia Baumgardner, who won a unanimous decision in the co-main event for a fourth junior lightweight title.