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Cecilia Braekhus talks potential Cris Cyborg fight, Holly Holm, women’s boxing growing, and more

Women’s pound-for-pound ruler Cecilia Brakehus discusses a number of subjects, including a potential fight with Cris Cyborg.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

On being boxing’s only undisputed champion and women’s boxing expanding

“I’m extremely proud of it. I love my belts with everything. I work very hard to defend my belts at all times, at all costs. I have a great fan base in Norway, my home country, and in Europe, who have lifted me up. Through the ups and downs, they’ve always been there. I have so much to thank them for.

“Now I feel it’s time to look further. I do have five belts, I am undefeated. I think it’s time to go a little bit more global and see what’s outside Europe. In Europe, we have been very lucky, where female boxing has really gotten the chance to be shown on television networks, we’ve been lucky to have promoters promote us. I hope that this will continue in the States, which are now, luckily, starting to look to female boxing, also. Mexico, Latin America, Europe has always been there. But we need the United States of America. That’s the heart of boxing, you know? For female boxing to really thrive, it has to also come here.”

On women in MMA getting more press than women in boxing in the U.S.

“MMA was a new sport. The UFC, from very early on, they took on the girls, they promoted them. They put on the same effort in promotion as they did the men, and that is unheard of in professional boxing, until now. Recently, we’re beginning to see this in the names and fighters you just mentioned [Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer].

“Also, something else is the Olympics. Women being able to compete in Olympic [boxing] for the first time in London. These things combined make it easier to persuade promoters and television to put on female fights in the United States.”

On watching the sport grow as an established fighter

“I get to experience female boxing and fighting from two different sides. When I started to box, it was unheard of for girls to box where I came from. It was really tough in the beginning. But I’m so lucky, because I grew so much, and I got so strong and so tough out of that. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

“Today, I can look with joy at the girls fighting in the Olympics and getting more attention and money from the sponsors and promoters, and it’s just with big, great joy that I see this development that has happened over the last 10 years.”

On fighting in the United States

“I wanted to see how the market is, and get to know the people in boxing over here. I want to understand the mentality over here. ... I have been so well-received. ... My impression is that things are going the right way, definitely, but there is still some work to do. But I have the feeling that this is the right time to come over here and get some fights and do it, and also hopefully put it on American television. I believe that is a big possibility for 2018. That’s the feeling I have after this week, after having meetings, and meeting boxing people and television people and promoters. This is the right time to do it.

“I’ll go home to Norway, I will think a little bit, let this all sink in, and decide what to do next.”

On her training in boxing

“I think that comes out of the German school. I was the first girl to sign up with Sauerland Event, at a point where they were very reluctant to do women’s boxing. I was the only girl in the gym with 10 guys. There was Arthur Abraham, there was Marco Huck, there were all the world champions, European champions, I was the only girl, and I was fighting for my life to get attention, to get everything.

“I was building the fundamentals, and I got a fan base, I got my TV time, and the rest is history. But back to the training, the German school under Ulli Wegner, the legendary German coach, was very hard. Get up in the morning, 7 o’clock, out in the snow, run, run an hour, back in the gym, do the training there.

“It was from the old German times, when you had West Germany and East Germany. A lot of coaches from East Germany, it was a very brutal training regime. That was still a little bit in our training at that point. It was hard training, a lot of the style was defense. It was good. I didn’t get so much of a beating, you know?

“But I also couldn’t really flourish the way I wanted to, something I have done with my new coach, Johnathon Banks. The German school is definitely a lot of defensive style, and with Johnathon Banks, my new trainer, there’s the American way. ‘We want knockouts!’ It’s just a whole other mentality. So basically I have the best from the German school, and the best from the American school, and we’re putting that together. It’s worked pretty well.”

On possibly fighting Cris Cyborg

“The first interaction we had was on Twitter. She was talking about boxing, this, that, and I said, ‘OK, let’s meet.’ You had the Mayweather-McGregor thing going on. I said, ‘OK, if the guys are doing it, why can’t we do it? Let’s make the female version of Mayweather-McGregor.’

“She knows I’m a very big fan of her, I’m very respectful of her. I’m extremely for all female fighters, and her especially, I have so much respect for the work she does. But we are both professionals, and I can say, you know what, I’m a huge fan of you, I admire what you’re doing, but I still want to meet you in the ring.

“She was intrigued. When she heard I was coming over to do this week in the U.S., she invited me over to her gym to talk more about this. My feeling is this is something that can happen.

“To get the biggest fight — female fighting, male fighting, it doesn’t matter, there are always a lot of dots that need to be connected. It won’t be my next fight, but it definitely can happen in 2018 or the beginning of 2019.”

On Cris Cyborg facing Holly Holm in UFC

“I think it will be a very interesting fight. It will be a huge fight. I love this, and I’ll be there, also. I love this matchup. They’re such different fighters, I think in this fight it’s all about the mental part. If you can stick to your game plan. If Cyborg doesn’t rush Holly Holm, or if Holly Holm can get her defense down. It’s all about who keeps the coolest head. This will be quite a chess game, I think. I love it.”

“I hope Cyborg wins, of course. I want to fight Cyborg next year, and I don’t want her to come into the fight with a loss against Holly Holm. I know Holly Holm doesn’t want to meet me in the ring. I honestly believe, if it weren’t for me, she’d still be doing boxing along with MMA. So I do hope Cyborg will pull this off.”

On Cyborg translating to boxing

“I saw her doing some sparring with Claressa Shields, and I was impressed. Of course there was a lot of brawling in that video clip, but I was actually impressed with her stance, she hit Claressa with some shots. They were really going at it. She’s definitely not afraid. That’s one thing. She’s the kind of person, when she gives herself a goal, she will do anything to reach that, and be ready at 100 percent to give her all.”

“When I met her at the gym, she’s so fit, she always trains, she’s always in shape. She’s so professional, from what she does in the gym, to what she eats, to her mentality. You can just feel it when you meet her. I was very impressed by her, her gym, and her whole team. It was very nice of them to invite me in.”

On when her next title defense will be

“I’ve had a long career and so many huge fights. Right now, I’m just going for the biggest fights, biggest arenas. It needs to give me something — make me want to do this, make me want to go into training camp for two months and give my all.

“We have the mandatory, Layla McCarter, I think that can be a very interesting fight. She’s a great fighter, a veteran, but she’s still a top-notch fighter. We need to build her up a little bit, because she’s not so known outside of Las Vegas, and I would like her to be. I think a good idea would be to maybe do two shows on Showtime, or a K2 Promotions show, where I fight and she fights, and we build up the fight, and we maybe meet each other in the summer, a big clash between Europe and America.

“The other options, you know, I’d love to fight the winner of Hammer and Claressa. With Hammer, the weight is no problem. Claressa would need to — she’s a bit higher in weight, so she’d have to go down, and I’d have to go up [for a catchweight]. Cyborg, of course, we’re working on. Who else? That’s what’s so amazing right now in female boxing, there’s so many ways to go.

“There’s the girl from Costa Rica, Hanna Gabriels. She promised me a fight a long time ago. She has not stuck to her word. But right now, I’m on top of the world. I have five belts. I’m number one in the world pound-for-pound in RING Magazine. I can relax and see what the best options are for me, the fans, and for women’s boxing to push forward.”

On the Mikaela Lauren kiss incident

“In Norway, I’m actually promoting my own shows in Norway under my own company. With that in my head, I knew if I knocked her out at the weigh-in, I would lose a lot of money. [laughing]

“I was extremely surprised. I would welcome an earthquake more. It was not very pleasant, it was not very romantic [laughing]. It was just — I think it was a little bit rude. And right there, there was the press and media, there was so much happening, so I just thought, I have to finish up this press conference, get ready for the fight. But after I came back to the hotel, I was really angry. Once everything settled down and I got to think about it and see it, I was pissed.

“I don’t normally go for the knockout. I love boxing. 10 rounds or a knockout, I just love being in the ring. But I wanted to knock her out. ... I’ve been in boxing for a long, long time, I’m like a grandmother in boxing. I have seen almost everything, you know, from Arthur Abraham breaking his jaw, to this, to that, but this actually took me by surprise. The girls know I’m very mentally strong, and everybody is trying to do anything and everything to put me off. It hasn’t been successful until now. She did that. So, you know, she’s a fighter and she tried to get some kind of advantage in the fight. I have to give it to her, she actually put me off. But it was for, like, two minutes.”

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