How Amanda Serrano Is Paving the Way for Women In Boxing One Record at a Time
The powerhouse is making history as the only woman to ever win world championship titles in six different weight divisions.
Amanda Serrano just made history in the ring of women's boxing. The 29-year-old Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, NY, was already the only woman to ~ever~ win world titles in five weight classes. Now, she's earned a title in her sixth (!) weight division-something no woman has ever done before-in a recent fight against Argentinian fighter Yamila Esther Reynoso that took place on September 8. The win means she's joined the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya who are the only boxers, male or female, to reach this unbelievable mark.
"Even having my name next to those guys is an indescribable feeling," Serrano tells Shape exclusively. "They are the best in the world, and to be a woman and be put on the same level as them is truly incredible. I've got a lot to live up to."
It goes without saying that Serrano is one of, if not the most talented female boxer. There's a reason her nickname is "The Real Deal" after all. But unlike some of her competitors, she didn't always know that boxing was the sport for her. (Related: The Boxing Yoga Mash-Up Workout for a Fierce Body and Calm Mind)
Serrano spent some pivotal years growing up around boxing. "My sister is also a world champion boxer," she says. "I grew up going to the gym with her ever since I was 12 years old."
At first, Serrano was just a bystander, babysitting her niece while her sister trained. Eventually, though, she got a job at the same gym babysitting other fighters' kids as well. "While I spent years watching from afar, I was always drawn to boxing and wondered what it would be like to be a fighter myself," she says. (Related: The Beginner's Boxing Workout You Can Do at Home)
It wasn't until she was 18 years old that Serrano decided it was time to give the sport a chance. "I don't know why but after I graduated high school, it seemed like the right time to see if boxing was something I could really do," she says.
So, she started on her journey in 2008, unsure of whether she'd ever match up to her sister's skills. Ironically, it was when she lost her first fight that Serrano says she realized boxing was the sport for her. "Losing sparked a fire in me," she says. "I'm naturally competitive, and I knew that I never wanted to experience the feeling of losing ever again."
Serrano has never lost a fight since.
By 2009, just one year later, Serrano had already made her pro debut and was named Rookie of the Year. Since then, she's held championship belts at bantamweight (118 lbs), super bantamweight (122 lbs), featherweight (126 lbs), super featherweight (130 lbs) and in the lightweight division (135 lbs)-making her the only woman to accomplish championships in five different weight classes.
The surprising part? None of it was planned. "I just picked up the sport, not really knowing what would become of my career," says Serrano. "For instance, I never thought I'd be able to fight at 118 pounds, since that's quite a bit lower than my natural weight. Eventually, I just realized that there really wasn't a limit to what my body could do so as the opportunities presented themselves, I took full advantage of them."
Switching to different weight classes is one thing, but doing so and winning every time is something Serrano has become exceptional at. While many wonder what her secret is, she says her training doesn't change much, regardless of whatever weight division she's trying to make it into. (Did you know the UFC added a new weight class for women? Yes, that's important.)
"My trainer is a very intense man, and he's never taken it easy on me," she says. "And while I'm always learning and working to better my skills, training is pretty much the same every time."
To break it down, Serrano works out three times a day seven days a week leading up to a fight. Her training focuses on weight training to put on muscle and build overall strength; conditioning and cardio that involves resistance training to help increase explosive power; and sparring sessions that build the stamina needed to fight an entire match.
"The only thing that's changed with my training is that I've been lifting heavier weights to build muscle," says Serrano, adding that she's always surprised and grateful for what her body is able to accomplish.
"It's an incredible feeling every time I'm able to hit a goal in the gym," she says. "I never thought I'd be able to squat 225 pounds or bench 135 pounds-especially when I've been at a lower weight, but I worked for it, and now I can. It's just amazing to realize that there isn't a limit to what my body can do."
For her recent fight, Serrano moved up four weight classes (122 to 140 lbs, a.k.a. light welterweight), which is so much harder than you'd think. But her goal to crush records doesn't end there.
"Who knows? After this fight, I might want to take a stab at earning a title in my seventh weight division at 115 pounds," she says. "Getting to 118 was so much easier than I expected, so I know that fighting at 115 is not out of the question." If Serrano does end up setting her sights on that goal, she'll have to go back down seven weight classes, losing 25 pounds in the process-which would be quite the impressive feat.
On top of all the record-breaking and glass ceiling-crushing, Serrano also made her MMA debut earlier this year. "I was working with [UFC fighter] Holly Holm for a film and remember her saying that she regrets not going into MMA sooner," says Serrano. "There's just so much more respect for women in MMA and that's what got me interested in it."
While boxing will always be close to Serrano's heart, she dishearteningly admits that as a woman, it's difficult to make a living off of it. "Even winning a title in a fifth weight division didn't do much for me, which is incredibly frustrating," she says. "It's unfortunate, but the promoters and networks don't give women in boxing a chance. We simply don't get the same attention, respect, or reward as our male counterparts even though we are making the same sacrifices."
In fact, Serrano explained that she made more money from winning her first MMA fight than she did after some high-profile boxing matches. "It's just a different world," she says. "It's brutal, yes, but at least both men and women are on more of an equal playing field."
That said, Serrano still plans to continue her boxing career simultaneously with her new MMA endeavors. "My ultimate goal would be to become the first woman to be a boxing and MMA champion at the same time," she says.
If there's anyone who can pull that off, it's her.