Amanda Serrano and Heather Hardy had fans on their feet in Dallas on Saturday night.
Attendees may have bought tickets to see the Jake Paul-Nate Diaz main event, but in the 10th and final round of the Serrano-Hardy rematch, the two Brooklyn friends, rivals and former sparring partners had galvanized the crowd.
Serrano’s unanimous decision win was almost an afterthought for two women who fought so hard to legitimize the sport.
They started the 10th frame by kissing, and after fighting for another two grueling minutes, they did it again after the final bell.
“Heather is one hell of a fighter,” Serrano (45-2), the undisputed featherweight champion, said of Hardy. “She’s as tough as can be.”
Amanda Serrano (right) and Heather Hardy went to war for 10 rounds in the co-main event
The two fight
Dallas was certainly convinced of that on Saturday, when Hardy was allowed to return in the ninth round after referee Laurence Cole asked the fight doctor to examine his swollen face.
She sprinted into the fray, finishing ninth on a high.
“I still feel grateful,” said an exuberant Hardy after falling to 22-3. “I will probably cry.”
Both fighters were active early on, with Serrano landing the hardest of the punches, including a particularly good left on a break from Cole.
Serrano was even better in the third, pushing the tempo and scoring several solid lefts to the face.
Hardy has had his moments along the way – some counters, body work and some impressive combinations.
But Hardy was never known for her defense, and for all her tenacity, she took more abuse than she gave up.
While Serrano averaged 28 punches over the first six rounds, Hardy only mustered 15, landing 42% of his attempts to Serrano’s 51.
At the start of the ninth round, Cole was questioning Hardy’s ability to continue. With both pressed against the ropes later in the frame, Serrano rocked Hardy with a hard right, and his night – and perhaps his career – seemed momentarily over.
After all, Hardy entered Saturday as a 41-year-old fighter for the first time in two years. Additionally, she hadn’t won a fight since her 2018 win over former foe Shelly Vincent.
Since then, Hardy has dropped a pair of unanimous decisions, including one to Serrano. In fact, it was Serrano who won the WBO featherweight title from Hardy in 2019.
But Hardy wasn’t done against Serrano, and proved it with a memorable final, if not a win.
Serrano’s immediate future remains bright, although she declined to name future opponents in a post-fight interview.
The 34-year-old continues to expand her options beyond boxing, where she already ranks among the highest earning women. Saturday’s headliner Jake Paul promoted his April 2022 fight with Katie Taylor during a main event at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, where both fighters earned salaries at seven figures.
Now she has joined the Paul-aligned Pro Fighters League, where she hopes to continue her budding MMA career.
But Serrano’s first love is boxing and popularizing the women’s side of the sport.
And on Saturday in Dallas, she and Hardy did just that.
“Women have fans too,” exclaimed Serrano before leaving the ring.