Cecilia Braekhus Breaks Last Television Barrier, HBO Will Show Female Boxing
By David A. Avila
Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus has broken the last barrier and the undisputed welterweight champion’s defense will be televised by HBO it was announced today. HBO has never shown female boxing in its long history.
Braekhus (32-0, 9 KOs) defends the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF welterweight titles against former middleweight champion Kali Reis (13-6-1, 4 KOs) at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles on Saturday May 5. HBO will televise the 10-round fight.
It’s the last barrier broken for women’s boxing. During HBO’s history of television broadcasting, dating back to 1972, no female bout had ever been shown on its network. Next week that stigma ends.
The female fight will open the broadcast that also will feature middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin fighting Vanes Martirosyan in a 12 round conflict. It’s a telecast that features both a male and female fighter considered by many the top fighters pound for pound.
“I’m honored to fight on the same card as the best male fighter in the world, Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin,” said Braekhus. “I’ve heard so many magnificent things about fighting in Southern California and the passion boxing fans have for great fights. Cinco De Mayo at the StubHub Center will truly be a special night for the boxers and the fans.”
Braekhus, 36, has been training in Los Angeles for several weeks and recently hired former great Lucia Rijker to be her main trainer for this bout against Reis, a fighter out of Providence, Rhode Island.
“I’ve been training in Los Angeles for the last six weeks with Lucia Rijker, and this has been a tremendous camp particularly since I am able to work in the beautiful weather out here. I’ve not fought in America in ten years and this is truly one of the high points in my career,” said Braekhus.
Reis is no stranger to Los Angeles either. After winning the world title against Maricela Cornejo in April 2016, she visited the area following her win for the vacant WBC middleweight title. Now she is willingly dropping down in weight to meet Braekhus in an expected clash.
“I am very excited for this opportunity. I’d like to thank Cecilia and her team for this once in a lifetime chance to fight the No. 1 pound for pound undisputed champion,” said Reis, 31. “My team and I have been hard at work knowing she will bring her A game, so will we. This is such a great card and I am grateful to be a part of it.”
This is the second barrier that Braekhus has broken in a year’s span. Nearly two years ago her country Norway finally allowed pro boxing to take place within its shores after banning the sport for 33 years. Her fight in Oslo was allowed to take place and was televised nationwide. She’s done it again.
In the USA, HBO had been the last major English-language network to not show female boxing. Last year American prizefighter Claressa Shields of Detroit, Michigan became the first female to be shown on a main event on Showtime. The two-time Olympic gold medalist is looking to win a third division world title. She was followed by East L.A.’s Seniesa Estrada who became the second female prizefighter to headline a telecast this past March. She was followed by former Olympian Marlen Esparza whose fight was televised earlier this month.
For the past several years the fear among many networks was the lack of competition for female boxing. That no longer exists in most of the weight divisions. Braekhus in particular has several possibilities should she be successful on Cinco de Mayo including a potential firecracker event against Layla McCarter of Las Vegas who some consider the top female fighter pound for pound. Braekhus has her backers too.
A number of scintillating possible match ups exists.
Will the U.S. become the next Mexico, Germany or Argentina where female boxing dominates?
Time will tell, but don’t blink.