The ‘Godfather’ of Soul James Brown’s lyrics read “This is a man's world, this is a man's world. But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.”
Boxing has not bought into these lyrics as it has been a sport dominated by men since…almost forever. The tides are changing as HBO, for the first time ever, will showcase a female fighter in the co-main event to Gennady Golovkin vs. Vanes Martirosyan this Saturday.
Cecilia Brækhus, the undefeated and undisputed women's welterweight world champion will face off with former women's middleweight world title holder Kali Reis.
For boxing fans who may not know, let me introduce you to Cecilia Carmen Linda Brækhus. Her boxing moniker is ‘The First Lady’ and although she isn’t the first lady in boxing, she may very well go down as the greatest woman boxer ever. To exemplify her sheer greatness, she is one of only four boxers – male or female – to EVER hold the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles all at once. She is in the company of fellow boxing greats Bernard Hopkins, Jermaine Taylor and Terrence Crawford.
Brækhus was born in Cartagena, Colombia, and raised in the Sandviken area of Bergen by Norwegian parents who adopted her at the age of two. She began her pugilistic career with kickboxing at 14-years-old. She went on to win the 2002 WAKO European Champion and 2003 WAKO World Championships.
She then switched over to amatuer boxing and amassed a 75-5 record and attained Silver and Gold Medals at the 2004 and 2005 European Championships, and a Silver Medal at the 2005 World Championships. She caught the eye of the more than capable German Promoter Wilfried Sauerland and turned pro in 2007. Per the Wayback Machine digital archive, it was his mission to make her the first Norwegian Women’s Champion.
After winning her first 10 professionals fights with the utmost of ease, Sauerland’s prophecy came to fruition when Brækhus won her first title in 2009 over Vinni Skovgaard, winning the vacant WBA and WBC titles. She went on to capture the WBO strap four fights later with a UD win over Victoria Cisneros in 2010. She notched fourteen straight wins thereafter before adding the IBF title to her stack of belts by beating Ivana Habazin vis UD in 2014. Since then, she has defended her titles six more times and rarely has been tested. Her career record stands at 32-0 with 9 KOs.
Brækhus has overcome obstacles her whole life from an early age, i.e., she was raised by non-paternal adoptive parents as well as lived in a country (Norway) where they banned boxing the year she was born (1981). Think about this – Brækhus had to leave her adopted country of Norway to learn boxing in Germany. If she returned and fought on Norwegian soil, she risked certain arrest for a so called crime – boxing! She not only chose a career of boxing that was outlawed in her country, Norway- called the ‘Knockout Law’ (which was later overturned in 2014 after 31 years) but a sport dominated by men.
Saturday night is a momentous night for women's boxing which begins with a female boxer getting center stage on TV with one of boxing’s biggest stars, Gennady Golovkin. Brækhus now has the added pressure of delivering a performance that will sway some of boxing's’ crusty sycophants who believe it’s a man’s world, a man’s world….but like Roy Jones Jr. said, “Y’All Musta Forgot” because the most important verse is “But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”.
Brækhus carries the weight of womens boxing on her shoulders Saturday night.
Something tells me ‘The First Lady’ will usher in an overwhelming desire for more after boxing fans get to see a true boxing great, not just a woman. And just like she has overcome many obstacles from an early age- she will do so with eloquent brutality and put the boxing world on notice.
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