Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano are all set to go in a DAZN main event on April 30 at Madison Square Garden, and women’s boxing fans are psyched about the fight — and should be, it’s arguably the two best pound-for-pound women in boxing for the undisputed lightweight championship of the world.
But asked about staging Shakur Stevenson vs Oscar Valdez on that same night, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he’s not concerned about it, and more than that, ESPN aren’t concerned about having a head-to-head opposition from the streaming service.
“I mean, as good a fight as that is — come on. You know, whatever reason it is, people don’t particularly pay attention to the women’s fights,” Arum told iFL TV. “The answer is ESPN made the schedule and they couldn’t care less. I don’t want to denigrate fights, I don’t want to be accused of being anti-women in sports, but I’m telling you, this is like the Premier League against women’s football.”
This is tricky to approach with honesty and not be met with seething anger by fans and some fighters and others connected to those fighters, but while it’s unfortunate, Arum isn’t necessarily flat-out wrong here, and the bigger point he’s making is that the network he works with aren’t worried about that fight as opposition. And the truth is, if you get right down to it, you wouldn’t expect them to be. Women’s boxing is still growing, and it has been making solid progress since the pro debuts of the likes of Taylor and Claressa Shields, the emergence of some top British names like Savannah Marshall and Chantelle Cameron, plus the likes of Seniesa Estrada and others. There are still strides being made, and it’s encouraging.
But does the general interest level in top-end women’s boxing equal even mid-tier men’s boxing? No, not yet. Again, it’s not a knock on anyone, and Arum was trying to say it without tearing anyone down. It has, of course, received some backlash, and I’m sure my saying something kinda similar will get a little, too, but I enjoy women’s boxing, we cover women’s boxing, I’m psyched for Taylor-Serrano. It’s just the reality of the numbers we’ve seen from coverage of many, many events. I wish it weren’t the case; I’d love for the fights to be bigger events, we’d do better numbers on them. And I hope the progress will keep being made, and these fighters get the attention, credit, and paydays their risk and skills deserve.
One of the people trying to help them get there is Jake Paul, who has done an excellent job helping raise Amanda Serrano’s profile closer to where it’s deserved to be for years, and is working with Matchroom and DAZN to make the big fight possible. Obviously, he took exception to Arum’s words.
“Men like this dinosaur are the reason women haven’t been given a fair shake in many parts of society. I feel sorry for Mikaela Mayer — she deserves better,” Paul said on Twitter. “And he says ESPN doesn’t care about the biggest women’s boxing event in history? Taylor-Serrano will make history with or without you.”
Arum has steered the aforementioned Mayer to main events on ESPN outlets, two world title belts, and a high-profile name in women’s boxing. But Mayer is also the only women’s fighter Top Rank promote, and as best anyone can tell, they haven’t shown too much interest in expanding that roster.
Also keep in mind it’s just Arum saying this that got Paul addressing him in particular, but he’s also saying it’s those like Arum, and that’s a fair assessment of the boxing industry as a whole over the years, including networks like, as Arum is saying, ESPN. DAZN really have been the first platform available in the U.S. to routinely feature women in prominent spots, on both Matchroom and Golden Boy cards. That said, ESPN have shown real support to Mayer, but it kind of ends there, too. Showtime had a run with Claressa Shields that they gave up on, PBC and FOX have shown no interest in women’s boxing, and when they were in the game, HBO didn’t showcase the women until the very end, when their boxing brand was known to be taking its final breaths.
One way or another, Taylor-Serrano is happening and will have a chance to put a dent in ESPN’s numbers that night. And while it stinks to have two big, really good fights going head-to-head, at least we’re getting two big, really good fights.