Taylor and Serrano meet in most significant women’s boxing match ever

Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano - Weigh Ins
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NEW YORK (AP) — Back when Katie Taylor had to pretend she was a boy so she could box, or even not long ago when Amanda Serrano was fighting for thousands of dollars with a resume that in men’s boxing would earn her many millions, it was hard to imagine where they are now.

They meet Saturday night in what has been called the most significant women’s boxing match ever, the first to headline Madison Square Garden. At stake are the unbeaten Taylor’s four lightweight titles, but this bout goes beyond just the belts.

It’s grown even bigger than what organizers hoped, with a sold-out crowd possible, the Empire State Building lighting up in the colors of the fighters’ countries and unprecedented media attention for women’s boxing. Those involved say it proves that if the best fight the best, with the proper promotional push, it doesn’t matter what gender they are.

“Women’s boxing wasn’t even a sanctioned sport in Ireland,” Taylor said. “Now here we are many years later headlining Madison Square Garden, the most iconic venue in boxing, and making history as the biggest fight in female boxing history. This is just incredible.”

How to watch Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano

  • Date: Saturday, April 30, 2022
  • Time: The event starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and Taylor and Serrano are expected to fight around 10:30pm ET.
  • Live Stream: DAZN

Taylor (20-0, 6 KOs) became the undisputed champion with a victory at the Garden in 2019, while Serrano (42-1-1 30 KOs), a champion in seven weight classes who moves up two divisions for this fight, has fought in the smaller Hulu Theater at MSG, but never in the main arena.

Organizers at first considered the Hulu Theater for this fight, but after deciding it was big enough for the big room, planned on configuring the venue for around 10,000 seats. They had to make more available when those were all purchased. About 15,000 already have been sold, with a significant number of Irish fans coming to support the 2012 Olympic gold medalist.

There will be plenty more for Serrano, a Puerto Rican who lives in Brooklyn and is a slight favorite, according to Fanduel Sportsbook.

“I can’t wait until Saturday night to prove that we’re deserving of this opportunity, of this spotlight, just everything all together,” Serrano said.

Promoter Eddie Hearn sees it as a culmination of Taylor’s quest to never stop trying to do more than what seemed possible for her. She would wear headgear into and out of the gym to conceal her appearance and not use her first name when she began fighting, because girls weren’t allowed to in Ireland. He credits her with pushing the International Olympic Committee to make women’s boxing a medal sport and for always seeking the biggest events once she turned pro.

“When Katie came into my office six years ago, we had a dream and we always said, ‘One day you’ll headline at Madison Square Garden and make a million dollars,’ and I’m thinking probably not, but we’ll just keep saying it,” Hearn said. “And here we are.”

Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano - Media Conference
Wearing an “undisputed” jacket, Katie Taylor speaks to media ahead of her fight against Amanda Serrano on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Serrano, despite her decorated career, was earning $5,000 or $10,000 purses not long ago, according to promoter Jake Paul. But once she hooked up with Paul, the YouTube star-turned boxer and promoter, and fighting on his cards, she went to another tax bracket as easily as she bounces between weight classes.

“To think that we are here a year later is massive,” Paul said, adding that the event’s hype “feels like a unification of the heavyweight division.”

Talks fell through for a match a couple of years ago, when they would have fought with no fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. Serrano — whose sister, Cindy, was beat by Taylor in 2018 — figured there was too much demand for the matchup to not be put back together.

“I was pretty confident the fight was going to happen, but not at this magnitude,” she said.

Taylor and Serrano are featured on a billboard in Times Square and atop taxis in New York. They appeared together earlier this week on NBC’s “Today” show and on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, which on Saturday will be lit in a mixture of Ireland’s green and orange, and the red, white and blue of Puerto Rico. Some 200 members of the media are expected a couple of blocks away that night inside MSG.

“This is reflective of a broader trend in sport,” said Joseph Markowski, the executive vice president of DAZN, which will stream the card. “People are starting to realize that women, when they’re given the platform, the marketing, the PR polish that their male counterparts get, the eyeballs come. When the eyeballs come, people are entertained and amazed by what these athletes do. This is long overdue.”

Trailblazing women’s athletes such as tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King and boxers Laila Ali and Christy Martin have gotten in on the promotion. Ali’s father fought the most famous boxing match at Madison Square Garden, with Joe Frazier beating Muhammad Ali in their first fight in 1971.

Now it’s Taylor and Serrano who will write boxing history in the arena.

“No matter what happens Saturday night, I think the real winners are the fans and women in general and the sport of women’s boxing, because it’s only going to grow from now on,” Serrano said.

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.