Mikaela Mayer plans to be in an unfamiliar place, at least from a boxing perspective Saturday night: in the stands. The WBO and IBF junior lightweight champion is expected to be among those at Madison Square Garden in New York for the Amanda Serrano-Katie Taylor undisputed lightweight title fight (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET).
She’ll be watching with some vested interest — as a potential future opponent for either fighter. But Mayer, ESPN’s No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter, has also taken on the role of an analyst in the past year for both ESPN and Sky Sports. And with the biggest fight in women’s boxing history about to take place, Mayer breaks down for ESPN the two fighters and her expectations for Saturday night.
Editor’s note: Content has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What does Katie Taylor do well?
Taylor grew up in the amateurs and I don’t think she ever grew out of that amateur style. She’s won, and it’s worked great for her. And she does it to a level that even most people, even high amateurs, don’t do it to. She almost created the amateur style because she’s been around it so long and she’s one of the OGs. Taylor’s in-and-out movement will throw you off. It’s hard to time and, if you’re not used to it, can definitely throw you off. That, plus her speed and her punch count.
But she’s vulnerable. If you’re a smart pro, you’re going to catch on that she kind of does the same things over and over again. She doesn’t box behind her jab. I think I tweeted a long time ago that there are a few fighters who never use their jab, and I’ve never gotten more heat than for that tweet in my life. Even some people were like, ‘Tell that to Katie Taylor.’
Taylor is a perfect example of a European fighter that doesn’t use her jab. She leads with her back hand. It’s a pretty amateur-style thing — you lead with that back hand because you’re trying to get these scoring blows, you’re trying to snap that head back, and that’s what you’re trained to do, lead right hand and left hooks. Once in a while, she’ll shift over to the body, but her body work isn’t as consistent as Serrano’s. Taylor’s going to be head-hunting.
You have to remember that Taylor has a lot of experience going up against southpaws. Usually Serrano has an advantage because she is a southpaw, and maybe for her opponents, it’s awkward. I’m at 17 pro fights and I still haven’t fought a southpaw. Taylor has, what, 150, 200 amateur fights? She’s faced southpaws and beaten the top southpaws in the world, so she knows how to fight them. She knows the proper combinations to throw.
What does Amanda Serrano do well?
Serrano has a very sound pro style. She’s proved to have great power and body work. My favorite thing about her style is her body work — she’s very consistent with it. She doesn’t come from the amateurs, so she doesn’t have the tendency to pull out. In the amateurs, you want to score, pull out, score, pull out. She puts everything into those shots.
What are Serrano’s weaknesses?
Serrano can be a little predictable, because if you look at her fights, she has her favorite combination that she likes to throw — left to the body, left uppercut to the body — is something that she does not get away from. So you can always expect it but it works for her. She sometimes falls in love trying to get in with that body shot. You can catch her falling in. Taylor using her space, I think, is going to be key.
What are Taylor’s weaknesses?
Sometimes she makes fights harder than they need to be because she’s so used to those same combinations, that same type of movement. I always see her winning the first few rounds, or even the first half of the fight, but if you’re smart, you can catch on to what she’s doing. She’s able to go up against all different styles, but she doesn’t necessarily adjust to them. She makes what she does work and throws her opponents off their style, which isn’t necessarily adjustments.
How does Serrano win this fight?
She doesn’t get caught up in the movement of Taylor. The in-and-out movement — she hasn’t gone up against styles like that. Taylor’s in-and-out movement is similar to a pro feinting, like feint a jab low and throw a jab high. Taylor’s feints are her in-and-out movements, her hippity-hoppity feet. Serrano has to be aware of that and not get caught up with that movement.
Look at it as her way of feinting and just stay behind the jab and continue to be relentless with the body shots. Continue to back Taylor up and dig to her body — that’s what Serrano does really, really well. She just can’t get away from it because Taylor’s movement is something she has never seen before.
How does Taylor win this fight?
I don’t see her doing anything new or different. Why now? She obviously believes in her style and her coach is not going to magically change because she’s going up against Serrano. I just don’t see her looking much different, so she must really focus on not getting tired. I’ve seen her fade a little bit in the past few fights.
Even though I don’t favor the style that Taylor has, in order for her to win, she has to keep it up the whole 10 rounds — keep up that in-and-out movement, keep the speed. Keep up the punch count and hope to win against Serrano on points.
What’s the X factor for this fight?
They come from such different backgrounds and have such different styles, it’s going to come down to who has the better game plan. There has to be a perfect game plan and it has to last through the whole 10 rounds. I think that this is the toughest, most experienced and skilled woman each of them has faced. You saw Taylor against Delfine Persoon — Persoon was tough, right? — but that was more toughness. We’re talking about more skill and experience.
So how do you beat that? What is our strategy? What are we going to avoid? What are we going to do best? I think, it comes down to true skill.
Close fight for 10 rounds
A good amateur style can beat a pro for a few rounds. I think Taylor will win the first half of this fight solely based on the fact that her style is going to take Serrano a little more time to settle into. It’s going to take Serrano a few rounds to catch on to that in-and-out movement. And then, as most good pros do, they settle in the second half of the fight and are able to close the distance. Everything is a little bit more calculated.
I don’t know. I can tell you it’s going to go to a decision. I know some people expect Serrano to stop Taylor. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I think Taylor is too experienced and tough to go out like that. So I don’t think she’ll get stopped.
Ian Parker’s best bet for Taylor-Serrano
This may be as even of a matchup as it possibly can get with the stakes being so high. For Taylor, she has to avoid the power of Serrano and try to pace herself a little better so she doesn’t fade in the later rounds. For Serrano, the question is can she land her power shots as freely on Taylor as she’s done against her other opponents? Probably not as Taylor has good head movement and does a great job avoiding damage.
The safest bet on this fight, granted there is a decent price to pay, is that the fight goes the distance at -215. Although I do see this fight being an exciting back and forth contest, I don’t see either getting the finish.
Prediction: Taylor-Serrano fight goes the distance.