Amanda Serrano and Heather Hardy had fans on their feet in Dallas on Saturday night.
Attendees may have bought tickets to see the Jake Paul-Nate Diaz main event, but by the 10th and final round of the Serrano-Hardy rematch, the two friends, rivals and former sparring partners from Brooklyn had galvanized the crowd.
Serrano’s unanimous-decision victory was almost an afterthought for two women who have fought so hard to legitimize the sport.
They began the 10th frame by embracing, and after fighting for two more grueling minutes, did so again after the final bell.
‘Heather is a hell of a fighter,’ Serrano (45-2), the undisputed featherweight champion, said of Hardy. ‘She’s as tough as they come.’
Amanda Serrano (right) and Heather Hardy went to war for 10 rounds in the co-main event
The two fighters embrace at the end of the bout as the crowd applaud their battle
Serrano’s arm is raised to the crowd after she defender her belts against Hardy in Dallas
Dallas was certainly convinced of that on Saturday, when Hardy was cleared to return in the ninth round after referee Laurence Cole asked the fight doctor to examine her swollen face.
She sprinted back into the fray, finishing the ninth on a high note.
‘I still feel grateful,’ an exuberant Hardy said after falling to 22-3. ‘I’m probably gonna cry.’
Both fighters were active early, with Serrano landing the stronger of the punches, including one particularly good left on a break from Cole.
Serrano was even better in the third, pushing the tempo and scoring several strong lefts to the face.
Hardy had her moments along the way — some counters, body work, and a few impressive combinations.
But Hardy has never been known for her defense, and for all of her toughness, she was taking more abuse than she was delivering.
While Serrano connected on an average of 28 punches over the first six rounds, Hardy mustered only 15, landing 42 percent of her attempts compared to Serrano’s 51.
Serrano was dominant but the pair put on a show for the sold-out crowd in Dallas
The co-main event did not disappoint as Serrano recorded a unanimous points victory
By the start of the ninth round, Cole was questioning Hardy’s ability to continue. With the two leaning against the ropes later in the frame, Serrano rocked Hardy with a strong right, and her night — and possibly her career — momentarily seemed to be over.
After all, Hardy entered Saturday as a 41-year-old fighting for the first time in two years. What’s more, she hadn’t won a fight since her 2018 victory over one-time nemesis Shelly Vincent.
Since then, Hardy dropped a pair of unanimous decisions, including one to Serrano. In fact, it was Serrano who took Hardy’s WBO featherweight title in 2019.
But Hardy wasn’t finished against Serrano, and proved that with a memorable final round, if not a victory.
Serrano’s immediate future remains promising, although she refused to call out any future opponents in a post-fight interview.
Serrano (left) and Hardy clash heads during the fight at American Airlines Center in Texas
Serrano takes the applause of the sold-out crowd after winning the fight against her friend
The 34-year-old continues to expand her options beyond boxing, where she already ranks as one of the highest earners among women. Saturday’s headliner, Jake Paul, promoted her April 2022 bout with Katie Taylor in a main event at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, where both fighters earned seven-figure paydays.
Now she’s joined the Paul-aligned Pro Fighters League, where she hopes to continue her fledgling MMA career.
But Serrano’s first love is boxing, and popularizing the women’s side of the sport.
And on Saturday in Dallas, both she and Hardy did just that.
‘Women have fans too,’ Serrano exclaimed before exiting the ring.