Cecilia Braekhus Defends Welterweight Titles Against Kali Reis in Los Angeles
By David A. Avila
Cecilia Braekhus enters the gauntlet and it truly begins for her this weekend.
Known as the “First Lady,” the serenely confident Norwegian now tries her skills against America’s best and now it begins.
Braekhus (32-0, 9 KOs) risks her unified welterweight world championship against Rhode Island’s Kali Reis (13-6-1, 4 KOs) on Saturday May 5, at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles. HBO will televise a female bout for the very first time.
“I’ve been successful against the European girls now I look forward to fighting in the U.S.,” said Braekhus, 36, who was born in Colombia but has lived most of her life in Norway. “I love the new challenges.”
When it comes to prizefighting America has always been the destination for ultimate proof of talent. Even for female boxers the U.S. has a large pool of prizefighters of varying styles and strengths that can topple any champion.
A few months ago Ireland’s Katie Taylor discovered that when she was nearly capsized by Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill. Could the same happen to Braekhus against Reis?
Reis, 31, is a former middleweight world titlist who lost the belt to current holder Christina Hammer by decision. The Providence-based fighter agreed to drop down in weight to meet Braekhus.
“She will be particularly bigger of course. She will force me to fight at my top level. And I think that’s what I have to do to take America,” said Braekhus.
When the welterweight world champion first signed with K-2 Promotions it was expected that Braekhus would be fighting in the U.S. and a number of options were considered.
“We were looking at Layla McCarter, Claressa Shields, Cyborg and we kind of found out that this was not really the right way to start the adventure,” said Braekhus who entered negotiations with McCarter last December but both were not satisfied. “We started to search for some way to break into the American market. We needed a good fight.”
Enter Reis, an aggressive fighter who will definitely be the bigger and heavier fighter when the first bell rings.
“She is ranked number two and she is a former middleweight champion. I have a good name in Europe I don’t have a good name in America at all,” Braekhus said. “I could find some girl to just knock out in the first round and make me look good. We’ve found out that’s not the way it goes. We need a competitive fight. We need someone who can take me all the way and get the best out of me. And I have no doubt that Kali Reis will do that.”
Braekhus, for those not familiar with her fighting style, is a boxer-puncher blessed with elite athleticism. For many years she was primarily a boxer who used speed and agility to out-fight the opposition. Lately, the Norwegian fighter has learned to use her power and has added the knockout element to her arsenal. She knocked out two champions Mikaela Lauren and Anne Sophie Mathis in two of her last four fights.
But American fighters offer a myriad of styles and present a different danger.
Out there waiting their turn are a number of dangerous foes such as Layla McCarter, who some claim is the best female fighter in the world. The Las Vegas-based fighter currently rated as a welterweight can also fight in the lightweight division. Others waiting for Braekhus are Claressa Shields and Hanna Gabriels who are set to fight each other next month.
But first, it’s Reis turn.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity,” said Reis who held the middleweight title briefly in 2016. “My team and I have been hard at work knowing she will bring her A game, so will we.”
The battle lines are set. California awaits the “First Lady” and she begins her trek at the famous StubHub. It’s become synonymous with grueling and bloody battles and several “Fights of the Year.”
“All this gives me goosebumps you know. I could still be in Europe and be comfortable, making money, winning fights, but this just gives me goosebumps,” said Braekhus with a nervous giggle. “The opponent, the arena, the historical part of five belts on the line. being along with Gennady Golovkin, one of the biggest fighters on one of the biggest stages you can be on.”
Another challenge facing Braekhus will be pleasing the Latino fans. Though she is Colombian descent it’s something she has never encountered in Europe.
“Like I mentioned my market before has been primarily for the European fans. This is a totally new market and I just hope they will receive me in a good way. The only thing I can do is show what kind of boxer I am, what kind of fighter I am,” she said. “I hope I can connect with Latino fans. I definitely hope I can connect with them on another level. There are always new worlds to conquer. And I can’t wait to do this.”
It all begins this Saturday.
For more information (310) 630-2020. Doors open at 4 p.m.
(Photo by Tom Hogan)