Eddie Hearn believes this is just the beginning for women’s boxing.
This weekend, the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing will take place when Katie Taylor faces off against Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden. And Hearn, who promotes Taylor through Matchroom Sports, has been blown away by the reception thus far.
“The media that are here this week, the different kind of media, it is incredible how big this thing has become,” Hearn told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “When we talk about women’s sport, there is a real consistency among broadcasters and commercial organizations to think, ‘Let’s support women’s sport because it’s a good look. It’s box ticked.’ This breaks through the barriers of that. Katie Taylor has told me that that mindset of ‘it’s a good look’ is not equality. It’s disrespectful to women’s sport.
“Women’s sport and women’s boxing needs to maintain its position through quality, through demand, through viewership, through ticket sales. That’s how you create a sustainable product and longevity in a sport. And that’s the most pleasing thing about this. We won’t sell out Madison Square Garden because all those people are going, ‘Oh, I’ll buy a ticket to support women’s boxing.’ They’re buying a ticket to watch a great fight.”
The fight certainly is that. Serrano is the WBC, WBO, and IBO featherweight champion, has a career record of 42-1-1, and she’s the No. 3 pound-for-pound female boxer according to The Ring. Serrano has also held nine titles across seven different weight classes, a record. Meanwhile, Taylor is The Ring’s top-ranked pound-for-pound female boxer with an Olympic gold medal, five more world championships, and a professional record of 20-0. For all intents and purposes, this is not only the biggest fight in women’s boxing history, it is also the best.
“This is Mayweather against Pacquiao of women’s boxing,” Hearn said. “Undisputed champion against seven-division world champion. It can only be a thriller. But you couple that with the history of Madison Square Garden, never having a female boxer headline, the biggest female fight of all time, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Brooklyn, Amanda Serrano, Jake Paul [Serrano’s promoter], me, DAZN. For the first time in a fight, I’ve never felt so much good will. Even in the boxing community, but particularly outside of that community, in sport, in entertainment. We’ve seen the WWE really get behind this event as well. MMA, everybody. There’s never a feeling of good will in a boxing fight, but this is very different and it feels great to be a small part of that.
“But also, you want to get deeper and you talk about inspiring the next generation, inspiring athletes, young people. I have two daughters. I want to talk to them about this fight and show them two great athletes had a dream and worked so hard and were told this wasn’t possible. Watch them shine on Saturday night. And even beyond young women, young girls, anyone. Anyone who has a dream, who was told it’s not possible, anyone who works hard enough to achieve what no one ever thought could be done. On Saturday night, you’re going to see it.”
If there is one issue with the event though, it’s that the fight will stay take place under the archaic rules structure of women’s boxing, which insists on 10 two-minute rounds instead of 12 three-minute rounds as is standard for men’s championship bouts. It’s something Serrano herself noted in a pre-fight press conference, arguing that a bout this big should also be the one to make history for women’s boxing, but Taylor ultimately rejected. And according to Hearn, that’s because doing so could have distracted from the fight itself.
“I’ll tell you one thing about the pay in women’s boxing: the duration of the rounds has absolutely no regard for the amount of money these fighters get paid,” Hearn said. “The perception is it does, but there’s actually no commercial benefit — other than it’s a nice story. Will a broadcaster pay more for three-minute rounds? No. Will more people buy tickets for three-minute rounds? Not really.
“So right now, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. In time, I agree with you. I think we need to evolve and make sure that the very elite end of the sport is three-minute rounds. But I will also say this, when you’re introducing something into a market, fast-paced content is always good... Two-minute rounds is great action because you’ve got two minutes. You’ve got to win the round. They come out and the pace is much faster, but you will see more stoppages across three-minute rounds.
“I didn’t feel that now was the time we needed to introduce that. There would be a lot more talk about it being three-minute rounds than actually focusing on what this is, which is a huge, huge fight. So I agree with you in time. Now that the audience for women’s boxing is becoming more educated, more invested, I think we can definitely look at that.”
Taylor and Serrano meet this Saturday, April 30, at Madison Square Garden in New York.