Fighters and promoters have always said the ambiance for boxing at Madison Square Garden can’t be beat with fans and its illustrious history. Las Vegas, of course has the casino/hotel environment and promoters are able to profit with concessions from properties because Sin City is always a fight town.
So, when the pandemic hit almost three years ago, when boxing ceased and resumed with closed door shows to the public, New York and the Garden were out of the picture. Barclays Center in Brooklyn has not recovered and is no longer a viable player in the industry with the exception of one show late last year that played before a sparse crowd.
But Hall of Fame promoter and Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum, a Brooklyn born native, with his company headquartered in Las Vegas, has always believed boxing and Madison Square Garden go together.
“It’s iconic,” Arum recently said about promoting boxing cards at the Garden that have included sold out crowds for championship fights with Hall of Famers Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, and Oscar De La Hoya to name a few.
In the span of two months the Garden will host Top Rank in the adjacent Hulu Theater on March 19 and televised on ESPN platforms. A historic Matchroom Boxing promoted female main event headlined with Katie Taylor and Brooklyn’s Amana Serrano for the lightweight titles, televised April 30 on DAZN, takes place in the main arena and has established record pre-sales.
Brooklyn born super middleweight Edgar Berlanga defends his NABO title against Canadian Steve Rolls in a 10-round main event on the Top Rank card. The co-feature highlights Zander Zayes, the 19-year old undefeated junior middleweight from Puerto Rico, an obvious draw for New York. Top Rank also plans to stage another Garden card in June on the eve of the New York National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“Edgar and Zander are future pound-for-pound superstars and it will be a special evening in front of a sold-out New York crowd,” Arum said. “They are in the toughest fight of their careers, but I expect them to pass with flying colors.”
Ali, Hagler, De La Hoya were an easy sell to promote and sell out the arena known as “The Mecca ” of boxing. Yes, Berlanga has a tremendous following as a Brooklyn born Puerto Rican with a 16 straight knockout record to begin his 18-0 undefeated career.
Zayes, an Olympian from San Juan Puerto Rico, has adopted New York as his second home. He was successful in a December Top Rank debut at the Garden, another stoppage to go with his 12-0 and 8 knockouts, four last year that had him in that Prospect of The Year category.
“I’m so excited to fight in my first main event in my hometown,” Berlanga said. “It’s a dream come true for a fighter representing New York City and Puerto Rico. I can’t wait to show the world what I’m truly about.”
Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano will make history at Madison Square Garden as the first two female fighters to headline a card of boxing and for female boxing this is a milestone for sure. Taylor and Serrano are two of the main female fighters in the sport.
Taylor (20-9 6 KOs) of Ireland defends the lightweight titles for the sixth time since winning them in June 2019. Serrano (42-1-1 30 KO’s) is a seven-weight world champion and came off a knockout over Daniela Bermudez last March. She dominated Miriam Gutierrez on a card that co featured Jake Paul and was the 2021 Female Fighter of the Year for DAZN, ESPN, and the WBC.
“I’ve had my eyes on Amanda Serrano and this is a fight I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time now,” Taylor said at a recent Garden press conference as she faced off with Serrano. “This is history right here and all of our hard work is going to be paid off for at this time.”
Taylor said this was the exciting fight for boxing and not just for the female division and added “We are both great champions. She has a great record and she’s a great fighter. I want to be the best fighter.”
“No time is better than right now,” Serrano said. “Happy women and girls in sports day. Women, we are changing the sport. I am honored to share the ring with Katie Taylor. I don’t want to talk bad about any of my opponents. I do all of my talking inside the ring.”
Serrano said it took her 13 years to achieve this milestone. The historic evening adds to the illustrious history of boxing and Madison Square Garden.
“Never did I imagine making the money I have today. I mean, headlining MSG, like what?” And she can thank YouTube sensation Jake Paul the fighter and promoter who helped promote Serrano as a headliner at his last fight.
The reality, though, is female boxing has arrived. When two world class female fighters headline at “The Mecca” of Madison Square Garden the questions of struggle and recognition have been answered.
And Madison Square Garden is back in the boxing business which only spells good for the sport.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso