Cecilia Braekhus primed for Jessica McCaskill, says all promoters should invest in women’s boxing
“Twenty-five world title defenses.
“The best pound-for-pound fighter in women’s boxing.
“That’s not bad!”
Cecilia Braekhus offers an infectious laugh when I downplay her incredible ring accomplishments for effect. She’s not the boastful type, but the undisputed welterweight champion of the world knows her worth – she always has. It’s that very attribute that has led to her becoming a pivotal pioneer for women’s boxing, and it’s also the reason why she’s enjoyed such colossal success.
And as the aforementioned statistics indicate, she can fight like hell.
On Saturday, Braekhus will defend her undisputed welterweight championship of the world against Jessica McCaskill in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She’s a big favorite to prevail, but the champion never got this far by looking past the opponent in front of her.
“She’s not to be underestimated at all,” Braekhus told The Ring on Wednesday. “She gave Katie Taylor a helluva fight (loss UD 12), and then she fought [Erica Anabella] Farias, who has been a [140-pound] world champion for quite some time, for the belts (loss MD 12). She’s hungry and she believes in herself and that’s the most dangerous thing. She realizes the doors these belts would open for her.
“I’m just a better boxer and that will ensure me the victory. I’ve been in many difficult fights and I have a lot of experience.”
McCaskill (8-2, 3 KOs) spoke to The Ring recently and hinted that Braekhus, a future Hall of Famer, is running out of time. Despite being only three years younger than the 38-year-old champion, the Chicago-based fighter believes that age, a 13-year professional career, 36 fights – including 25 world title defenses – and all those training camps have depleted The First Lady’s resources.
“We can have a long conversation about the advantages and disadvantages we both have,” laughed Braekhus when informed of her opponent’s outlook. “I’ve been training really hard up in Big Bear and if I wasn’t capable of doing that kind of grueling work then I might agree with her. But to do that training you have to be in shape, you have to be fit, you have to be strong, and mentally it’s very tough. It’s the altitude, and the training is known for being brutal. That gives me the confidence.
“There’s been a lot of changes in women’s boxing. There’s opportunities to work with new trainers, we can use better facilities, there’s sports science, plus the sport is always developing. When it comes to training, physical conditioning, dieting, a lot has changed and moved forward. Training is more sophisticated now and athletes can work for longer periods of time.”
As is often the case following a notable women’s boxing match, in this instance Saturday’s WBC 140-pound title affair between Natasha Jonas and Terri Harper that ended in a controversial draw, the subject of switching from two-minute rounds to three-minute rounds was broached. While Braekhus is in favor of the switch, The Ring’s pound-for-pound queen elected to delve much deeper when asked for her opinions.
“The most important thing is that we invest in women’s boxing,” stated Braekhus. “For women to get better pay, whether it be two-minute rounds or three-minute rounds, they need to be promoted. We need a broader platform with more women so that we can make these big fights.
“Eddie Hearn is doing everything right now [in terms of promoting women]. We need to see more promoters doing the same, and not just signing one or two women in order to be politically correct. They need to invest. Look what we have coming up from Eddie Hearn; we have one brilliant fight after another. In these times, when the male fights aren’t happening, the women are stepping up. That wouldn’t be possible if Eddie Hearn hadn’t invested in women. All promoters should invest in women the same way they do men because you can’t say women don’t sell tickets when you don’t promote them enough.”
On Saturday, Braekhus has the opportunity to surpass the 25 consecutive title defense record of legendary former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, a record that has stood for over 72 years. While many boxing historians will pour cold water on the comparison, due to a.) Louis defending the undisputed title 25 times and b.) the talent pool in women’s boxing being inferior, that is still a remarkable accomplishment. Why? Because if making that many title defenses was easy, then more women would have done it.
Despite everything she has accomplished in her career, Braekhus shows no sign of slowing down. A potential fight against undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor – providing Taylor defeats Delfine Persoon in next Saturday’s rematch – is a tantalizing prospect, and “The First Lady” has plenty going on outside of the squared circle, too.
“My main motivation is the love of the sport,” offered Braekhus. “I’m really lucky to be able to do what I love, especially as a women, that’s extraordinary. I’m strict with routine. When I have a fight I’m focused on it, and when I’m off, then I’m off.
“I do other things, other projects that keep me inspired. I’m in a committee in Norway that provides help for immigrants, provides help with nature, for the environment. We have the Prime Minister of Norway on our team for that project, so that’s very exciting. Another project is the school we built in Kampala, Uganda, and I was able to travel there and watch children get an education. I do other things for fun too: travelling, sky-diving, surfing – I’ll try them all.”
And why should fans tune in to see Braekhus-McCaskill?
“It’s going to be fireworks,” responded the champion. “We’ve both been in training camp since January, just waiting and training. Now that the fight is finally happening, we’re both in great shape, and we’re both confident. It’s going to be a really explosive fight, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Braekhus-McCaskill will be broadcast live on DAZN in the U.S.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing