Amanda Serrano has racked up quite a bit of history over the course of her storied career.
Somehow, 2021 became a breakout campaign for the 33-year-old southpaw from the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York.
Already two years removed from winning the last of her record-breaking seventh divisional title, Serrano (42-1-1, 30KOs) entered 2021 with the goal of becoming Puerto Rico’s first-ever undisputed champion—male or female, in any weight division. With that came the plan to pursue the remaining featherweight titlists as she looked to defend the WBO strap in her third title reign at this weight.
When none of her divisional peers were willing to share the ring, Serrano looked elsewhere to add to her incredible resume. First up was a pound-for-pound showdown with Daniela Bermudez, a three-division and reigning junior featherweight titlist aiming to become the fourth female boxer in history to win titles in at least four weight divisions. Bermudez also sought to become the first boxer from Argentina—male or female to accomplish the feat.
Serrano never gave her a chance.
Their March 25 Ring City USA headliner from Old San Juan saw Serrano—a Brooklyn-bred champion fighting in her native Puerto Rico for the first time as a boxer since July 2017—dominate the fight for eight rounds before emphatically closing the show in round nine. A pair of body shots forced a delayed reaction knockdown from Bermudez, who took the full ten count.
The win was the 30th knockout of Serrano’s career, leaving her tied for second with Zulina Munoz for the most knockouts in women’s boxing history.
Serrano remains stuck on that mark, though something more important came of her next fight—a prominent step towards mainstream appeal.
For the second time in the year, efforts to land a fight with another featherweight titlist instead gave way to another showdown with a junior featherweight moving up in weight. This time, it was WBC 122-pound titlist Yamileth Mercado who shared the ring with Serrano as part of an August 29 Showtime Pay-Per-View card topped by content creator Jake Paul in an eight-round split decision win over Tyron Woodley in Cleveland.
Serrano pounded out a ten-round decision over Mercado, significantly outworking an opponent ten years her junior. Serrano landed 160-of-577 punches in just 20 minutes of ring action, nearly doubling up Mercado (95-of-302).
Those totals would be far surpassed in her third and final fight of 2021.
Looming overhead was revisited talks of a superfight with undisputed lightweight champ and fellow pound-for-pound entrant Katie Taylor, an event that would require Serrano to fight two divisions above her optimal prime at featherweight. She took the opportunity to acclimate to a fight at her walkaround weight, moving up two divisions for a non-title fight with top contender Miriam Gutierrez who was 14-1 (5KOs) entering their December 18 clash in Tampa.
Gutierrez’s lone defeat came in a ten-round title fight loss to Taylor one year prior, enjoying a significant size advantage over the 5’5 ½” Serrano who confessed to having to eat more than ever just to weigh in at least above the 130-pound junior lightweight limit. Serrano weighed 133.6 pounds for the fight, not gaining another ounce as she entered the ring for the Showtime PPV co-feature versus Gutierrez, who admitted to weighing 160 pounds on fight night.
Serrano atoned for the physical disadvantage with her perfect blend of speed and power. Gutierrez was badly rocked in the opening round, with Serrano never slowing down over the course of their ten-round affair. A near-shutout win came of the night for Serrano, who showed a ridiculously high motor in landing 236-of-667 punches in ten two-minute rounds, including an astonishing 209-of-459 power punches.
The feat wrapped up a three-win campaign for Serrano in arguably the most productive year of a career that has already shattered records and twice made its way to the Guinness Book of World Records book. With that comes proper recognition as the recipient of the first-ever BoxingScene.com Female Fighter of the Year award.
The runners-up for BoxingScene.com’s 2021 “Female Fighter of the Year” award are listed below.
Seniesa Estrada: The unbeaten East Los Angeles native has long talked of eventually becoming a three-division champion, accomplishing two-thirds of that goal in 2021. Estrada (22-0, 9KOs) dethroned Anabel Ortiz, the longest reigning active titlist at the time of their March 20 WBA strawweight title fight. Less than four months later came a hard-fought, ten-round win over Tsunami Tenkai to win the WBO junior flyweight belt before returning to strawweight for a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten Maria Santizo on December 18 in San Antonio.
Alycia Baumgardner: The 27-year-old lights-out puncher from Detroit hit the road for the biggest win of her five- year career. A right hand froze previously unbeaten Terri Harper in place, forcing a fourth-round stoppage to win the WBC/IBO junior lightweight titles last November in Sheffield, England. Baumgardner (11-1, 7KOs)—who three months prior claimed an eight-round points win over Vanessa Bradford on a club show in Orlando—parlayed the win into a commentating gig on DAZN’s ‘Before The Bell’ show and a co-promotional contract with Matchroom Boxing.
Jessica McCaskill: The two-division champ and reigning undisputed welterweight queen added two more wins to arguably the strongest résumé among active female boxers. First up for the Chicago-based pound-for-pound entrant was a repeat win over former welterweight champ Cecilia Braekhus in March, eight months after ending her record-breaking title reign last August. McCaskill wrapped up 2021 with a seventh-round stoppage of late replacement and former title challenger Kandi Wyatt last December 5 in Las Vegas.
Mikaela Mayer: The 2016 U.S. Olympian took her career to new heights even after claiming the WBO junior lightweight title in 2020. Mayer (16-0, 5KOs) lodged her first successful defense with a ten-round win over former titlist Erica Farias last June 19 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, where she returned for what remains the defining win of her young career. Mayer survived a hellacious slugfest to dethrone IBF titlist Maiva Hamadouche, earning a ten-round decision in their unification bout to snap Hamadouche’s 13-fight win streak in arguably the best fight in women’s boxing history last November 5.
Katie Taylor: It says something of the incredible career of the Irish superstar when three more defenses of the undisputed lightweight championship was considered something of a down year. Taylor (20-0, 6KOs)—a two-time recipient of the annual BWAA Christy Martin Award honoring the top female fighter—began 2021 with a ten-round nod over former amateur rival Natasha Jonas in their terrific May 1 clash in Manchester, England. The 35-year-old Bray, Ireland celebrity made her way to Leeds for a ten-round shutout of former featherweight titlist Jennifer Han on September 4 before wrapping up the year with a ten-round decision over Spain’s Firuza Sharipova on December 11.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox