Serrano defeats friend Hardy, ‘a hell of a fighter’

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Amanda Serrano stuck her tongue out after the final bell, looking right at her old friend and sparring partner, Heather Hardy. Serrano had dominated the fight, but this night to them always seemed to be about a little bit more.

Serrano won a unanimous decision over Hardy — 99-91, 100-90, 100-90 — to retain her undisputed featherweight titles in a battle of Brooklyn taking place in Texas. The longtime friends had known each other over a decade and as much as the opportunity to win a title, it was about taking care of one another.

Hardy earned her biggest payday — her first six-figure paycheck at age 41. Serrano got some good work in and was dominant throughout, outlanding Hardy 278-149 and outthrowing her 739-557.

“Heather is a hell of a fighter. She’s as tough as they come,” Serrano said in the post-fight interview inside the ring. “We knew that. Who gets kicked in the face and still wants to fight.

“So, I love Heather.”

Saturday’s fight, which often saw one-sided rounds with Serrano landing 46.9% of her power punches, felt different than a typical title fight. The lead-up to the fight was discussion from both Serrano and Hardy about their mutual caring for one another and their relationship, how they often helped each other out throughout their careers.

Even on fight night, the two hugged before the start of the fight. Hardy apologized mid-fight after her mouthpiece fell out, briefly pausing the bout. The whole bout had not a feeling of disdain or hatred but a fight between two Brooklyn natives who had been pioneers in the sport, who carried the sport before it took off the last five years, facing off against one another one last time.

To wit: When Serrano, ESPN’s No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter, was asked about her performance, she shrugged the question off.

“I’m more happy that I gave Heather an opportunity to make six figures,” Serrano said. “That was my goal tonight, to show that she’s skilled, she’s as tough as they come. Women can fight.”

Serrano, who had Saweetie as part of her walkout where she wore an homage to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders heading to the ring, landed more than 25 punches in half of the rounds. Hardy landed more than 20 in only the seventh round, when she landed 36.5% of her punches — her best percentage of the fight. Serrano landed 68.8% of her power punches in the first round and over 50% of her power punches in four rounds — where Hardy landed more than 40% of her power punches in only the seventh.

There were multiple times where it seemed as if Serrano (45-2-1, 30 KO) was about to stop Hardy – she was staggered in multiple rounds, was bleeding before the start of the second round and the ref asked her if she wanted to continue going into the ninth round.

The 41-year-old Hardy (24-3, 4 KO, 1 NC), who walked out to Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire,” had no doubt — of course she did.

“To have her grab my hand and say, ‘Come on, Heat, let me help you because I know what you went through,’ it just means everything,” Hardy said. “I gave everything I had today.

“I gave everything for three months. I have no excuses. That was everything.”

Earlier Saturday night, Shadasia Green, ESPN’s No. 2 super middleweight, beat Olivia Curry, ESPN’s No. 4 middleweight, by unanimous decision, 99-91, 100-90, 100-89.

With the win, Green, the mandatory challenger for the undisputed super middleweight title held by Savannah Marshall, could be in line for a world title fight.

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