SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 13, 2020 – Name the boxer who has held the unified, undisputed division champion titles longest. If you named a man, you got it wrong.
Cecelia Braekhus is the most decorated women’s professional boxer currently active. She puts her five titles on the line Saturday. Unified and undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus of Norway (35-0, 9 KOs), age 38, has held all four titles since September 2014. Called “The First Lady,” Braekhus is currently tied for the record of consecutive world title defenses in the same division as the great American heavyweight Joe Louis. Louis lost his 26th title defense in 1950.
Braekhus has no intention of repeating history, but writing it on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma against challenger Jessica McCaskill of Chicago (8-2, 3 KOs). McCaskill, currently the WBA and WBC World Super Lightweight champion, is moving up a division to take on the challenge of her career.
Braekhus and McCaskill headline the first Matchroom Boxing USA card since the pandemic shutdown this Saturday, August 15 on DAZN, starting at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT.
Add another line to the resume: Braekhus and McCaskill are the first women’s main event for Matchroom in the U.S. Ironically, Braekhus was in the first women’s professional fight and the last winner in the last bout televised on HBO Boxing in August 2018 after 45 years.
Braekhus: ‘I’m living my legacy right now”
Asked about her legacy in boxing, Braekhus told Communities Digital News, “I feel I’m living my legacy right now actually. I feel I’m a part of the development in women’s boxing. I’m the part who has been pushing forward so women can go to the Olympics, so women can headline fights, women can be better paid.=
“When I hang up my gloves, that is something that is going to make me feel very very good about myself and my career. I feel I’m a big part of that and it makes me incredibly proud,” added Braekhus.
What Cecilia has accomplished in the sport is really unparalleled,” said manager Tom Loeffler. “The fact she was able to get professional boxing approved in Norway after a 35-year ban was a huge feat. Headlining HBO after the 45-year history of no female fights, she was able to break that glass ceiling. I think what Cecilia is doing makes her a great ambassador for the sport of boxing and women’s sports in general. “
Braekhus has broken a lot of barriers for her sisters, but she doesn’t intend to step aside for them anytime soon. She’s expressed respect for her American opponent, but remains confident she’ll have another record to her name on Saturday. “I mean, she’s good, but I’m better,” said Braekhus.
McCaskill: American ambitions
McCaskill bounced back from her defeat to undisputed women’s lightweight champion Katie Taylor to win the WBC super lightweight title against the rugged Erica Farias, and beat her a second time in the rematch. She’s brimming with confidence and eager for her shot with the “beat the best to be the best” attitude.
“I’m here to challenge everything she has put on the table,” said McCaskill. “Cecilia wants to hear that I will knock her out and not here to rub her back. She wants me to be the best fighter. You’re going to see the best form of fighting. A lot of brawling, a lot of things you haven’t seen out of me, a lot of fireworks.”
Boxing has come back with a few understandable stumbles since its return to action in July, with some of the best bouts featuring world champions derailed by positive COVID-19 testing. Braekhus admitted she was holding her breath until she and McCaskill tested negative to ensure the fight would move forward.
Both women are offense-minded and will need to use every second of their two-minute rounds to get the upper hand. With her deep experience and the advantage of size, Braekhus is likely to prevail. But nothing has been likely in sports this year, and McCaskill has the drive to change the way women’s boxing history is written.
The winner is likely to get the opportunity to fight the winner of the Taylor vs. Persoon rematch, which would pit two undisputed champions against each other. It could end up being the biggest fight in boxing in 2020, especially if the bigger names on the men’s side defer their major fights to 2021.
Undercard preview: Uzbeks come to take over Tulsa
Two of the four scheduled undercard fights feature fighters from Uzbekistan working with trainer Joel Diaz in Indio, California. In the co-main, Israil “The Dream” Madrimov (5-0, 5 KOs) hopes his dream of a title fight will come true with a victory over Eric Walker of Plaquemine, Louisiana (20-2, 9 KOs), who’s got his own dream in his sights
“I have an opponent in front of me that I have to beat,” said Madrimov. “The ring will show who has a better game plan. We both have goals and we will see what happens.”
Walker, whose father died of substance abuse and whose eight-year sister was killed in an auto accident, was sentenced to prison for armed robbery at age 15, and spent the next 14 years incarcerated. But it was there he learned to box and fought 62 bouts against men from other prison teams, losing only once. When he was released in 2013, he did his best to make up for lost time, placing third on “The Contender” series and winning something more important: respect from the fans, and for himself.
“This is my dream,” said Walker. “It’s coming true and I just have to put it all together on Saturday night. I’ve been through ups and downs, the years I’ve spent in prison realizing this is what I wanted to do when I came back into society I just prepared myself for that mentally.”
For Walker, the coronavirus quarantine is a breeze after more than a decade behind bars. “Being in prison is a lot different from being quarantined in a hotel room where you have a phone and a TV, when you are in prison and on extended lockdown there’s none of that. It can be mentally tough if you haven’t been through anything like that before. But I’ve just been on cruise control.”
Walker respects Madrimov but doesn’t intend to hold back. “He’s ‘The Dream’ so I’ve got to be ‘The Nightmare’.” It would be a major upset and the kind of story movies are made from should Walker win against the heavy-handed Madrimov. Merely being in the ring is a victory for him, but he wants the real thing.
Madrimov’s countryman Shakram Giyasov (9-0, 7 KOs) went through several opponent names before landing veteran Wiston Campos of Nicaragua (31-7, 19 KOs). Giyasov won a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and has been mowing down opponents ever since, including a first-round destruction of Darleys Perez in his last bout one year ago. Now after several bouts were canceled, he is finally getting back on track.“It was the longest camp of my life – six months,” said Giyasov. “I’m prepared for whatever he brings to the ring. I’ve seen all the styles and he won’t bring anything I haven’t seen before. I have great trainers in Joel and Alejandro Diaz, and they prepare me for whatever will happen in the ring. I train every day with sweat and blood, and I’m ready to perform. My plan after this fight is to have nice sweet food.”
Flashy young prospect Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy of Brooklyn (8-0, 6 KOs) faces Jarvis Williams of St, Louis (8-2-1, 5 KOs). The 21-year-old Ababiy also has aspirations of YouTube stardom, but first, he needs to keep taking care of business in the ring before becoming a social media business mogul. Williams has never been stopped, but Ababiy vows to be the first.
Opening the card, featherweight prospect Raymond Ford (5-0, 2 KOs) of Camden, New Jersey fights Eric Manriquez of Tulsa (7-10, 3 KOs). The 2018 Golden Gloves champion chose boxing over the troubled streets of his hometown, just as his fellow New Jersey mentor and sometime sparring partner Shakur Stevenson.
The anticipated debut of Marc Castro of Fresno was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test. Castro’s trainer/father Tony also tested positive. So far, the pair have been quarantined and it’s believed they did not come into contact with any of the other fighters or teams on Saturday’s schedule.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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