Cecilia Braekhus sounded as if she were contemplating retirement after her upset defeat at the hands of Jessica McCaskill last August.
“I don’t know what will happen right now,” she said. “I’m so proud to be a part of women’s boxing right now. If this is my last fight, I can leave boxing saying that I was a part of this. I took part in women’s boxing at this level. That will be my biggest achievement. … Women’s boxing is just in an amazing place right now, they will be just fine without me.”
That remains to be seen, because Braekhus will tangle with McCaskill again on March 13, streaming live on DAZN.
The two fighters sparred pretty hard on a virtual press conference, as promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom queried them on the first fight, and the rematch.
“Shame on your team for not preparing you mentally for defeat and shame on you for pretending to be the victim,” McCaskill said. “You have to be the champion you say you are.”
Braekhus didn’t back off.
“Don’t start comparing resumes, I’ve beaten nine or 10 world champions, so don’t start comparing,” she said. “You are so negative, you talk trash about the other fighters, lighten up!”
Those two will provide support to the Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez junior bantamweight title unification and rematch, eight years after their first bout.
McCaskill, who turned pro in 2015, rose to 9-2 (3 KO) in this underdog special, which unfolded in Oklahoma. She broke Braekhus’ unbeaten streak, and now the 36-1 (9 KO) vet will enter the sequel with some fans wondering if she’ll be able to solve the McCaskill puzzle. All the marbles are in play for this one, once again a true undisputed championship matchup.
“I feel the last fight was the last one of her career,” said McCaskill. “Once someone shows that weakness, shows they are not in it and alludes to retirement, that shows that they are mentally out of the game.”
McCaskill’s win was one of the most buzzed-about highlights of women’s boxing in 2020. The backstory of McCaskill reached many more eyeballs, and scored her a batch of new fans.
“I haven’t been given anything, I don’t want to take on anyone else’s legacy, I’m building my own and making history every step of the day and that’s what I want to continue to do,” the Chicagoan said. “I feel great. Every time I have had to fight for a belt, it’s been from a champion. Cecilia, you have fought for vacant titles, I’ve had to take mine from everyone I fought, I’ve never just fought for a vacant title, and it’s heads or tails on who is going to win it.”
She responded to the jab thrown by Braekhus about “negativity.”
“I’m not saying I don’t get the credit for my last fight,” McCaskill said. “But over the time that I’ve fought and the different hurdles that I have crossed, that’s what I don’t think I get the credit for. That’s not to make excuses. Everything I say is the truth, I don’t talk trash.”
Braekhus, meanwhile, still believes that the judges didn’t see it right in Tulsa.
“I felt I won’t the fight, it was very close, I could have got the decision. A lot of people thought I won and it’s not the way to lose your belts,” she said. “I know I am a better fighter than Jessica. I had a bit of an off-day, but I feel I did what I needed to do to retain my belts. But I was not at home. I was on her home turf and she got the belts.”
Basically, it feels like the rematch needed to happen so fans get a more conclusive ending.
“She says that people are hating on her because of the way she got the belts,” Braekhus continued. “They aren’t hating but people aren’t satisfied because that’s not the way anyone should become an undisputed champion, it should be harder than that. I don’t think she has a good feeling the way she won the belts.”
McCaskill’s reaction to winning and ending Braekhus’ 11-year title reign on the streets of Tulsa stood as a wonderful reminder how this sport can function as a reason for being, and a platform to cementing a legacy by folks who weren’t born with silver spoon in mouth.
And for Braekhus, it looked like maybe she’d wave adios to the sport, leaving the task of building the women’s side to the next generation. I asked her advisor, Tom Loeffler, how much she contemplated retiring.
“She never seriously considered retiring,” Loeffler told me. “She always wanted to get the titles back from every conversation I had with her since the day after the fight, especially after speaking to many people that thought she should have gotten the decision or a draw and keep her titles.”
Readers, you tell me: Do you think Braekhus can make the adjustments and tweak her tactics to avenge the loss? Or will McCaskill be that much better, having gained confidence from the career-best win, and do it again, this time more conclusively?