Serrano vs Cruz, Baumgardner vs Mekhaled Top Huge Matchroom Card From NY
Amanda Serrano will face Erika Cruz in a Puerto Rico vs. Mexican battle for the Undisputed World Featherweight championship and Alycia Baumgardner takes on Elhem Mekhaled for the Undisputed World Super-Featherweight championship at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday February 4, exclusively live worldwide on DAZN.
Seven-weight World champion Amanda “Real Deal” Serrano (43-2-1 30 KOs) looks to become the first Puerto Rican born fighter to take home the title of undisputed, as she finally gets the opportunity at Featherweight where she has ruled since 2019, after her history-making Lightweight clash with Katie Taylor at Madison Square Garden last April. Serrano faces off against Cruz in her hometown of New York City after a convincing win over Sarah Mahfoud in Manchester, England to add the Dane’s IBF title to her WBO and WBC belts at 126lbs.
The missing piece of the jigsaw is the WBA crown that belongs to Cruz (15-1 3 KOs). The Mexican became WBA champion in April 2021, ending the long reign of Canadian Jelena Mrdjenovich in West Point, New York. Cruz defended the title in Mexico in November 2021 and then met Mrdjenovich in a rematch in September in Mexico and won via shutout on points. The 32 year old, nicknamed ‘Dinamita’ will pose a big threat to Serrano’s hopes of becoming undisputed and put a spanner in the works of the Taylor rematch.
“This is a pivotal moment, not just for me and my own career but for my home island of Puerto Rico,” said Serrano. Earning the opportunity to be an undisputed lineal champion is something most fighters only dream about but becoming the first boxer from Puerto Rico to be an undisputed champion would make it even more special. I look forward to entering the ring on Saturday, February 4th in my hometown of NYC back at Madison Square Garden, taking on a Mexican champion in Erika Cruz and making Puerto Rican history. I encourage all my fans to turn up and tune in!”
“We’ve come to realize nothing is unachievable for Amanda and she is truly setting the tone for a historic 2023 as she goes head-to-head with Mexico’s Erica Cruz in her fight first of the year,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian. “Being the first Puerto Rican born fighter to take home the title of undisputed lineal champion is a goal we have discussed since she joined MVP fifteen months ago.” With an unwavering commitment to boxing, Amanda’s focus has always been to be one of the best to ever step into the ring. The fact that the Puerto Rican greats, like Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez, Carlos Ortiz and Miguel Cotto never achieved undisputed status but that Amanda Serrano will with a win, is a testament to her and her team’s greatness.”
“I am grateful that this opportunity was finally given to me after many years of work,” said Cruz. “I have always gone against everything, but God is on my side, and he has given me the strength to achieve my goals. It’s time to make history and give Mexico its first unified champion at 126 pounds.”
Baumgardner (13-1 7 KOs) had a brilliant 2022, capped by her victorious trip to London where she unified the 130lbs division against bitter American rival and IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine champion Mikaela Mayer in October via split decision. Baumgardner made it three wins on the bounce in the UK having ripped the WBC and IBO World titles from Terri Harper in Sheffield in November 2021 with a stunning KO and defending the belt for the first time in April in Manchester, shutting out Edith Matthysse over ten rounds.
Like Serrano, the Detroit star just needs the WBA belt to complete the full set, and that belt is vacant with #3 ranked Mekhaled (15-1 3 KOs), and the French former interim WBC champion comes into the bout on the back of a slender reversal in a bruising encounter with Belgium’s former World ruler Delfine Persoon in May in Abu Dhabi.
“Naturally, I’m VERY excited to finally be fighting for undisputed to make it official what I’ve known all along – I’m the world’s best fighter in this division!” said Baumgardner.
“To finally return home and debut in MY country as a World champion is something I’ve been so looking forward to and to have all of this come together as a co-main at the legendary Madison Square Garden in NYC is so incredible!
“NYC is an awesome representation of our country’s diversity, the diversity that’s so near and dear to my heritage… so for me, it’s definitely a fitting venue.
“I get to be an ambassador for women’s boxing in America on one of the largest stages for boxing in the world! I plan to use my talent as an athlete to show Americans and the world a level of women’s boxing that many have never seen before.
“Mekhaled is a great fighter. She’s quick, smart, very skilled, and experienced. Her record and her last fight, where she really outboxed Persoon shows that, but neither she nor anyone else in this division are on my level. So, I plan to end this one quick and make an example out of her.
“She’s standing in between me and God’s plan, so I’m going to have to walk straight through her. This won’t be a fight ANYONE can call close. She had a better chance of ending the fight on her feet if she took the offer back in April when it was first offered to her, but now, I feel motivated to silence any remaining doubters and put everyone from 130 to 140 on notice – I’m coming!”
“Since my WBC interim 2019 title, I’ve been waiting for this moment,” said Mekhaled. “Maybe fate has played well: instead of one belt, there are all on the line!
“I am super excited to fight on February 4 at the legendary MSG in New York. God knows how determined I am! It’s my time to shine. Thank you to my advisor Sarah Fina. #ANDTHENEW #UNDISPUTED.” There’s a stacked card in support of the Undisputed double-header, and it’s led by Brooklyn’s own Richardson Hitchins taking on New Jersey’s John Bauza for the IBF North American and USWBC 140lb titles.
It’s a second fight under the Matchroom banner for Hitchins (15-0 7 KOs) and the unbeaten 25 year old will defend the IBF belt he won on his first fight with Eddie Hearn in Cleveland in November, his first title fight in the paid ranks and look to add a second strap in the process. Hitchins fights in New York for the first time since March 2019, and fellow unbeaten man Bauza (17-0 7 KOs) will want to spoil his return to action in the Big Apple. The Puerto Rican from NJ faces both his first title bout and first battle over ten rounds in the paid ranks on the night. Bauza was a national champion the same year that Hitchins represented Haiti in the 2016 Olympics and the pair are familiar with each other having sparred in the past.
“I’m excited to come back home and showcase my talent in front of my city and my #1 fans,” said Hitchins. “When I signed with Eddie, he promised he was going to turn me into a star and having the opportunity to come back so quickly after my last fight, and do it at home, man I’m just so grateful for this.
“Bauza is no joke, we know each other, but these are the type of fights I want. I’m fighting a young, hungry, undefeated prospect like myself, but I truly believe I’m the best 140 pounder in the world and come fight night I’m going to show him I am on a whole other level. February 4th is going to be a very special night for me, and I just can’t wait to be back in front of my hometown fans and show the world that I am a problem at 140 lbs.”
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while now and finally it’s here,” said Bauza. “On February 4, I graduate from prospect to legitimate world contender. This is a huge opportunity for me to showcase myself and I plan on putting on a spectacular performance.
“I know Richardson well, we’ve sparred before. I respect him as a fighter but he’s simply not on my level and at MSG, he’s going to realize that awfully quick.”
Staten Island talent Reshat Mati lands a big step up in his second title fight as he challenges on fellow New Yorker Cletus Seldin for his WBA NABA Super-Lightweight title.
Mati (13-0 7 KOs) picked up the WBC Youth title at 140lbs in Mexico City in October in a tough tussle with Eduardo Rodriguez, outpointing the Mexican in his first ten round action.
Experienced banger Seldin (26-1 22 KOs) will provide an even tougher test in Mati’s second bout with a belt on the line, with ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ will want to extend his five fight KO winning streak as he returns to the ring for the first time since October 2021 when he knocked out William Silva in his Brooklyn backyard.
There are two more female title fights on the card, as Australian star Skye Nicolson looks to take a big step towards World title action against fellow unbeaten fighter Tania Alvarez for the WBC Silver Featherweight title and there’s another all-undefeated belt battle as Ramla Ali faces title action for the first time in the paid ranks as she meets Avril Mathie for the IBF Intercontinental Super-Bantamweight strap.
Nicolson (5-0) will look to bag belt number two just one month shy of a full year in the paid ranks having bagged the Commonwealth title on home turf in Queensland in October, completing a unique double having won Commonwealth gold for her country in the same state in 2018.
It will be a night of firsts for Spaniard Alvarez (7-0 1 KO) as ‘La Violenca’ fights outside of Spain for the first time and in her first ten round bout for a belt.
Ali (7-0 2 KOs) and Mathie (8-0-1 3 KOs) also fight for their first title in the paid ranks, with Somali Olympian Ali heading into the contest after recording her second KO win and second in the first session of a fight in Saudi Arabia, the first female fight held in the country, while Florida based Aussie Mathie kept her unbeaten record intact with victory in her only fight of 2022 in June in Atlanta.
Two more undefeated fighters taste action on the card as Aaron Aponte (6-0-1 2 KOs) looks to get back to winning ways against Joshua David Rivers (8-1 5 KOs) following his entertaining split draw on the Canelo-GGG card in Las Vegas in September, and Brooklyn’s Harley Mederos (4-0 3 KOs) fights in New York for the first time against Mexico’s Julio Madera (4-2 2 KOs).
“What a start to 2023 we have in store in New York,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “The women continue to lead the way in undisputed fights, and we have two of the very best in action on February 4. “Puerto Rico vs. Mexico fights always deliver fireworks, and we can expect nothing less when Amanda and Erika meet. Their clash of styles will make for a brilliant spectacle as Amanda and her army of fans returns to the scene of her history-making fight of the year with Katie, and we can expect a similar atmosphere to one of the greatest nights the sport has ever seen. “Alycia was one of the standout fighters in 2022 and she has the undisputed battle she wanted the moment she ripped the titles from Terri in the UK – but what a golden opportunity for Ehlem to upset the odds. “Reshat is in deep with the big hitting ‘Hebrew Hammer’ Seldin and Skye and Ramla both have big title fights that could be crucial on their paths to World title action.
“I cannot wait for February 4, it’s a stacked card from top to bottom and a great way for us to kick off a huge year for Matchroom on DAZN.”
“What a way to kick off our US boxing schedule with two blockbuster undisputed fights at the Garden! We are incredibly excited to be working with Amanda, Jake, Nakisa and the MVP team once again, and to have one of the best around, Alycia Baumgardner, back on DAZN. Both are truly exceptional fighters. Watch this brilliant fight night, live worldwide on DAZN”, said Joe Markowski, CEO DAZN North America.
SERRANO VS CRUZ AND BAUMGARDNER VS MEKHALED STAR IN UNDISPUTED
Edited by Darshan Desai