Amanda Serrano defeats Heather Hardy, 'a hell of a fighter'

Serrano defeats Hardy by decision in absolute battle (0:59)

Amanda Serrano wins comfortably by unanimous decision against Heather Hardy. (0:59)

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 friends had known each other for over a decade and as much as the opportunity to win a title, this 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 dominated throughout, outlanding Hardy 278-149 and outthrowing her 739-557.

"Heather is a hell of a fighter," Serrano said in the postfight interview inside the ring. "She's as tough as they come. 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 from a typical title fight. In the lead-up to the fight, Serrano and Hardy discussed how they care for one another and how they often helped each other out throughout their careers.

Even on fight night, the two hugged before the start of the bout. Hardy apologized midfight after her mouthpiece fell out, briefly pausing the action. The bout didn't have a feeling of disdain or hatred, but of a fight between two Brooklyn natives who had been boxing pioneers, who carried the sport before it took off in the past five years, facing off against each other 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 as 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 connected with 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. Hardy landed more than 40% of her power punches in only the seventh.

There were multiple times when 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 referee asked her if she wanted to continue going into the ninth round.

Hardy (24-3, 4 KO, 1 NC), who walked out to Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire," had no doubt -- of course she wanted to continue.

"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.