The mission for Irish star Katie Taylor was a simple one last weekend when she defended her many boxing titles against challenger Firuza Sharipova: Just win and keep hopes alive for a big year in 2022.
Fortunately, Taylor did exact that, outpointing Sharipova via unanimous decision (98-92, 97-92, 96-93) to preserve her unbeaten record and head into the new year with plenty of momentum at her back.
“I wouldn’t say it was a masterclass by any means, but a win is a win at the end of the day, and this sets up a huge year for me next year,” Taylor said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “There’s obviously an awful lot of talk over the last few months about the big fights next year, and I knew that this fight last week was kind of like a banana-slip type of opponent.
“She was kind of like the final hurdle that needed to get passed before these big fights actually happened next year. And so it definitely wasn’t a masterclass, but I thought I did well in spots and there’s certainly lots to improve on, but it sets up a huge year for me next year and I’m actually excited to go into the new year with these big fights ahead. I think it could be possibly the biggest year in female boxing history.”
An Olympic gold medalist from the 2012 Games, Taylor (20-0, 6 KOs) is a superstar in her native Ireland and is widely considered to be one of the top active pound-for-pound female boxers in the world. If 2022 goes to plan, her goal of staging “the biggest year in female boxing history” could begin with a long-awaited matchup with Amanda Serrano, the 33-year-old champion whose accomplishments across seven weight classes stand as the all-time record for the most boxing titles won in different divisions by a woman.
Taylor admitted that the Serrano fight was on her mind in the lead-up to her meeting with Sharipova. That same pressure now falls on Serrano, who first has to handle her business against Miriam Gutiérrez on Saturday on the Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley 2 undercard.
“Just even a little bit of extra nerves even going into fight week, for example, and all everyone was talking about was the Amanda Serrano fight all week,” Taylor said. “I was trying to put the focus back on my job. I had to obviously take care of Sharipova over the weekend, and I obviously had to remain laser-focused throughout the whole fight week, so I definitely did feel the pressure of that. But thankfully I came through.
“Amanda Serrano has to do her job this weekend, and once she does that — everyone obviously expects her to get through that over the weekend — once he does that, it’s going to be a huge fight. It’s probably the biggest fight in women’s boxing history, and what an amazing privilege and honor to be in this position.”
Gutiérrez is an opponent that Taylor knows well. The two previously collided in November 2020, with Taylor winning a 10-round decision in London to defend her lightweight titles.
Taylor said Wednesday that she expects Serrano to handle Gutiérrez in a similar fashion.
“I definitely will be very, very surprised if she didn’t come through with that,” Taylor admitted. “Gutiérrez is a tough opponent. She’s big and she’s tough, but skill-wise I wouldn’t say she’s on Amanda Serrano’s level, so I definitely would expect her to get through that fight. But over the last few years, since I have turned pro five years ago, I think everybody has been talking about this fight, so it’s going to be a huge event.
“Possibly at Madison Square Garden, as well, which is the Mecca of boxing. It’s the most iconic venue that you could possibly be boxing in, so I’m just so excited to be taking part in possibly the biggest fight in women’s boxing history in the mecca of boxing. This is exactly why I turned pro in the first place, to be involved in these big fights.”
Taylor added that she will be “very, very disappointed” if the Serrano bout isn’t next on her docket, and noted that everything right now is lined up for the two to meet early next year.
She also acknowledged the irony of how, if the fight does happen, it will be at least partially because of the involvement of Jake Paul, the controversial YouTuber-turned-boxer whose involvement in the sport has drawn ire from many in the boxing world. Paul’s promotion, Most Valuable Promotions, signed Serrano in September and would be directly involved in bringing the two female stars together for a long-awaited matchup.
“Obviously just there’s been so much controversy and criticism over Jake Paul being involved in boxing and getting these fights going,” Taylor admitted. “If he’s the person to make the fight happen between me and Amanda Serrano, I’m not complaining at all about him being involved in boxing. He’s obviously pretty much promoting Amanda Serrano now, and so he’s obviously going to play a big part in getting this fight over line as well.
“So yeah, like I said, I have no problems with him being involved in boxing if means that he’s going to make the biggest fight in women’s boxing history happen.”