NEW YORK — The blood seemed to be everywhere, consistently coming out of the top of Erika Cruz’s forehead, on her arm and also getting on Amanda Serrano, too.
Defense was almost non-existent Saturday night in this undisputed featherweight title fight at Hulu Theater, punches thrown for 10 rounds at a near constant rate. It’s the type of fight Cruz has always fought — the type of fight the uber-powerful Serrano expected.
And in the end, Serrano did enough — picking up a 98-92, 98-92, 97-93 unanimous decision that made her the undisputed featherweight champion of the world and the first undisputed champion, male or female, of the four-belt era from Puerto Rico.
It was a fight that lived up to its intensity inside the ring, flurry-after-flurry from both fighters as blood streamed down Cruz’s face every round due to an accidental headbutt in the third round that opened up a nasty cut.
It didn’t matter. It was the type of punch-trading that was worthy of a headlined fight in New York City for an undisputed title — one culminated with a standing ovation. After the fight, waiting for the scores, Cruz was getting her cut looked at — Serrano was dancing in her corner of the ring.
It’s a fight that will be remembered for its brutality and its near-constant throwing of punches. Serrano came close to knocking down Cruz in the sixth round, which was by far her best. But it didn’t matter how much Serrano threw, Cruz kept coming back, again and again, throwing punches until the end of the fight.
“She’s a Mexican champion, we knew that,” Serrano said. ” … That’s what we expected. That’s what we trained for.”
Serrano said she “went back to the basics” at the second half of the fight, throwing one-two combinations over and over again. As the 10th round started, Serrano raised her arms in the air to egg on the crowd.
And then the two of them just kept throwing over and over again. It looked like Serrano might have knocked Cruz down in the 10th, but it was waved off.
By the end, Cruz’s blood was everywhere — on her shorts, on her top, on Serrano, on Serrano’s shorts, coming down her face and it didn’t matter. She just kept going and going and going.
It was a fight that was anticipated as such.
The Hulu Theater was packed over an hour before the main event, cheering particularly hard whenever a Puerto Rican fighter — including Olympian Yankiel Rivera, who opened the main telecast with a unanimous decision win over Fernando Diaz — did anything of note. Serrano wore trunks with the Puerto Rican flag on it and her name on the front of them in glittering silver.
Serrano, for the second time in a year, headlined a card at Madison Square Garden. Last April, it was against Katie Taylor in the big room. On Saturday, it was more history for her in the smaller Hulu Theater, but the significance remained the same.
As a cavalcade of the best in female boxing watched from ringside, including Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion, undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields and super middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn, Serrano and Baumgardner joined their ranks among undisputed female fighters.
And it ended in a day with two more undisputed champions — Serrano at featherweight and Alycia Baumgardner, who won a unanimous decision in the co-main event for the undisputed junior lightweight title — to their ranks.