NEW YORK -- The blood seemed to be everywhere, consistently coming out of the top of Erika Cruz's forehead, on her arm and getting on Amanda Serrano, too. Even an hour after the fight, in a post-fight news conference, some of Cruz's blood remained on the shirt of Serrano's trainer, Jordan Maldonado.
Defense was almost non-existent Saturday night in this undisputed featherweight title fight at Hulu Theater, punches thrown for 10 rounds at a near constant rate. It's the type of fight Cruz has always fought and the type of fight the uber-powerful Serrano expected.
And in the end, Serrano (44-2-1, 30 KOs) did enough to earn a unanimous decision (98-92, 98-92, 97-93) that made her the undisputed featherweight champion of the world.
She also became the first undisputed champion, male or female, of the four-belt era from Puerto Rico, a milestone that made Serrano emotional.
"Throughout the whole camp, I manifested, I thought of it," Serrano said. "It was so emotional because I'm such a proud Puerto Rican and to get that back to my island really touched me."
The pro-Puerto Rican crowd saw a fight that lived up to its intensity inside the ring, with flurry after flurry from both fighters. Blood streamed down Cruz's face in every round due to an accidental head-butt in the third that opened up a nasty cut.
Maldonado said he even warned the referee that Cruz (15-2, 3 KOs) often leads with her head and to be cautious of that. After the cut, Maldonado said Serrano's sister, Cindy, actually told them that Serrano should back off for at least a round, fearing the potential of a no-contest being declared if the cut became worse.
"In fact, we took a little time off, backed up a little bit," Maldonado said. "Because Cindy had said, 'It's before the fourth round and she's cut. You don't want it to get stopped and go to a no-contest before four.'
"So she said, 'Pace a little bit,' so we make it after the fourth and then you resume it. It was a great observation by Cindy."
Serrano said she didn't sense a difference in Cruz after the cut.
It didn't matter. It was the type of punch-trading that was worthy of a headlined fight in New York City for an undisputed title -- one that culminated with a standing ovation from the crowd. After the fight, waiting for the scores, Cruz was getting her cut looked at and Serrano was dancing in her corner of the ring.
It's a fight that will be remembered for its brutality and the near-constant punch-throwing. Serrano came close to knocking down Cruz in the sixth round, which was by far her best. But it didn't matter how much Serrano brought, Cruz kept coming back, again and again, throwing punches until the end.
The 968 punches thrown and 202 punches landed by Cruz were both career-highs against Serrano. Despite that, Serrano landed a higher percentage of total punches (27.1 to 20.9), jabs (11.6 to 6.4) and power punches (39.5 to 28-9) throughout the fight. The fighters combined for 1,917 punches thrown and 459 landed, and neither fighter threw fewer than 60 punches in any two-minute round.
"She's a Mexican champion, we knew that," Serrano said. "That's what we expected. That's what we trained for."
Serrano said she "went back to the basics" in the second half of the fight, repeatedly throwing one-two combinations. As the 10th round started, Serrano raised her arms into the air to egg on the crowd.
And then the two of them just kept throwing over and over again. It looked like Serrano might have knocked Cruz down in the 10th, but it was waved off.
By the end, Cruz's blood was everywhere -- on her shorts, on her top, on Serrano, on Serrano's shorts, coming down her face -- but she just kept going and going.
It was the type of fight Serrano expected and one she wanted, beating a Mexican champion to become undisputed.
"We was expecting a nice war," Serrano said. "I wasn't expecting to get my J's [Jordan Brand shoes] so bloody, but I mean, it'll wipe off."
The Hulu Theater was packed over an hour before the main event, the crowd cheering particularly hard whenever a Puerto Rican fighter -- including Olympian Yankiel Rivera, who opened the main telecast with a unanimous decision win over Fernando Diaz -- did anything of note. Serrano wore trunks featuring the Puerto Rican flag, and her name on front in glittering silver.
Serrano, for the second time in a year, headlined a card at Madison Square Garden. Last April, it was against Katie Taylor in the big room. On Saturday, it was more history for her in the smaller Hulu Theater, but the significance remained the same.
A cavalcade of the best in female boxing watched from ringside, including Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion, the undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields and the super middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn.
And the day ended with two more undisputed champions joining their ranks -- Serrano at featherweight and Alycia Baumgardner, who won a unanimous decision in the co-main event for a fourth junior lightweight title.
It was the culmination of a career achievement for Serrano, who now has different goals in mind -- a rematch with Taylor.
"We stopped fighting for outcomes," Maldonado said. "We're fighting for pride. We fight to give our island to give something to talk about and boast.
"After this fight, the relief is we don't have to fight for anything else that we want other than to satisfy the fans."