Serrano's Story: At Least One More Glorious Chapter?

The origin story isn’t anything spectacular. In fact, it’s the stereotypical one that has been attached to prizefighters around the globe for decades. A kid does well on the amateur scene – well enough that someone approaches them with an offer to make some money in a fight, and the kid takes it.

Twenty-year-old Amanda Serrano – the kid, in this case – versus Jackie Trivilino. March 20, 2009, at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany, New York. About a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Serrano’s home in Brooklyn, but it might as well have been a million miles away to this new world she was entering.

“I was definitely the opponent,” Serrano told me in 2022, before her game-changing bout with Katie Taylor. “Someone called us from Gleason’s Gym and said, ‘There’s this fight with this girl, Jackie Trivilino, would you take it?’ I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ I won the Golden Gloves in 2008, and I was like, what am I gonna do? I’m not gonna do the Golden Gloves another hundred times. So I said, let’s just do it and make a little bit of money.”

It was a little bit of money, a recurring theme throughout her career – until she broke the bank against Taylor. But the Trivilino fight was also a win, via majority decision. And although the money wasn’t great, that feeling of winning became addictive. As she fed that addiction, the boxing world slowly started to see that Serrano was pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, on the ladies’ side of the sport, “pretty damn good” didn’t mean much for a lot of years. Maybe, if you were lucky, you got a call to face a champion in Europe or Mexico – places where women’s boxing was accepted and respected far more at the time than it was here in the States. 

“At first, it was all fun and games,” Serrano said. “I wasn’t in the sport to become a world champion. I just did it for the fun.”

In 2012, Serrano got that call to Europe for a world title fight with Frida Wallberg in the WBC junior lightweight champion’s backyard of Sweden. Wallberg handed Serrano her first pro loss by unanimous decision, and, despite the setting, it was a fair verdict.

Fourteen months later, Wallberg was out of the sport, the victim of a brain injury suffered in a title defense loss to Diana Prazak. It was this high-risk, low-reward nature of boxing – particularly women’s boxing – that had Serrano’s sister Cindy and brother-in-law Jordan Maldonado initially discouraging her from the sport. But by this time, the die was cast: Amanda wasn’t just going to fight for fun. She was chasing belts.

By the time Wallberg was injured and forced to retire, Serrano ran off four wins, all by knockout. Maldonado, her trainer, manager and the frontman of Team Serrano, kept his sister-in-law busy in the gym and ring while he handled the PR, with one of the recurring themes throughout her career being that she was so committed to boxing that she didn’t own a cellphone or have a boyfriend.

“I think they’re more fascinated with the no cellphone,” Serrano told me in 2022. “Nowadays, everybody’s stuck on their phones, everybody’s looking down, they’re never looking up, and it’s a headache. It’s a hassle having to answer back to so many people. And there are no distractions. I have my family that keeps me on my Ps and Qs. That makes me happy, and that’s all I need.”

It’s almost comical that it’s still “a thing” these days, but women fighters always had to work harder to get their stories out to the public. If you showed up to fight, it wasn’t enough. There had to be a hook. Serrano’s marriage to the sport was hers – at least until the titles started piling up. Eventually, there were seven division titles in her trophy case, and while she took her share of criticism for often fighting for vacant belts, the truth is that more than a couple champions decided to vacate their titles in lieu of facing the hard-hitting Brooklynite.

And if you did put your belt on the line against Serrano, you lost. 

Soon, though, the world knew who Serrano was, and if she had been like everyone else, it was time to take a breath and be satisfied with what she had accomplished – if only for a minute. Instead, Serrano put her foot on the gas. Because for all the belts, accolades and media attention, she still wasn’t making money commensurate with her talent and increasing drawing power. It seemed like boxing just didn’t get it.

But Jake Paul did. The fighter in the co-main event of Serrano’s Saturday bout against Nina Meinke wanted to work with her, and for her 2021 win over Yamileth Mercado, Paul got her $400,000. A month later, Paul’s MVP Promotions group was her promoter.

Two fights later, in April 2022, Serrano and Taylor each made one million dollars for a headlining fight at Madison Square Garden. 

Game changed.

Taylor took the decision that night in New York City, but there were no losers after an epic 10-rounder that was perhaps the best fight in women’s boxing history, one that many still swear Serrano won.

Then, finally, it was time to ease up, right? Wrong.

Since the Taylor fight, which was held at 135 pounds, Serrano went back to her optimum weight class of 126 pounds, won four fights, unified the featherweight crown, became a face of the sport and even fought back against the WBC because it wouldn’t sanction a championship bout at 12 three-minute rounds. So what did Serrano do? She dumped the green belt and made history by beating Danila Ramos over 12 three-minute rounds last October.

And now it’s time for Germany’s Meinke, on Serrano’s island of Puerto Rico – a celebration that should be just that when the dust settles in San Juan, even though there are whispers that maybe Serrano, at 35, is due to start slowing down.

In truth, she did get hit more than usual in her bloody February 2023 win over Erika Cruz. But when the combatants combine to throw 1,917 punches, that’s going to happen. 

Yet she was as sharp as ever in her next two fights, against Heather Hardy and Ramos, and heading into this weekend’s bout she is fresh from picking up 2023 Fighter of the Year awards from “The Ring” and the Boxing Writers Association of America.

In other words, Saturday night will tell the tale whether Serrano has lost something on her fastball or not. If she has, Meinke likely won’t be the one to take advantage and swipe her belts. That job can only go to one of the elite in the sport – a Taylor, or someone cut from that cloth. Because Amanda Serrano, the kid from Brooklyn who fought Ela Nunez four times just to prove a point, is not an average fighter.

Never has been, never will be.