This was supposed to be the year women’s boxing, long overlooked and underexposed, was to make a massive breakthrough in the sports world. The emergence of fighters such as Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields has breathed life into the women of the sweet science.
The fighter who is perhaps most deserving of the spotlight, however, is the undefeated Cecilia Braekhus, the first women's undisputed champion.
Unfortunately for Braekhus, her plans for 2020 are on hold because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which forced the postponement of her April 17 title defense against Jessica McCaskill. Assuming Braekhus (36-0, 9 KOs) would have defeated McCaskill, she would have been in line to fight the winner of a highly anticipated showdown between rivals Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano in a mini-tournament organized by Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn to determine who the best women’s boxer in the world is.
DAZN News caught up with the Norwegian, who is stationed in Big Bear, Calif., under the tutelage of trainer Abel Sanchez as she awaits a new date for her fight with McCaskill. Since making her professional debut in 2007, Braekhus has been patiently waiting for the moment when women’s boxing would get the shine that it deserves and is thankful for Hearn's dedication to it.
"Eddie Hearn is the only promoter who actually gets behind the women and actually puts in the work, money and promotion for us to be able to shine," Braekhus says.
While most of the boxing world has focused on Shields' claims of being the greatest female boxer, Braekhus believes the mini-tournament between her, McCaskill (8-2), Taylor (15-0) and Serrano (38-1-1) will determine the true No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter.
"Definitely," she says. "One hundred percent this tournament will determine who the best in the world is."
There's also a little bit of history at stake in this tournament. Along with being the first woman to become undisputed champion, Braekhus has the opportunity to add to her career by breaking Joe Louis' record for most consecutive title defenses (25) should she get past McCaskill.
She has waited this long to prove her worth, so what are a few more months of waiting?
"I guess right now (a date for the McCaskill fight) is pretty much up in the air," she says. "Eddie Hearn wants to make this fight as one of the first shows when boxing is back. So, hopefully, we can get in there in July or August."
At 38, Braekhus is the oldest of the group, and there are questions whether her best years are behind her. The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping fighters from being active; could it do her more harm than good?
Not according to Braekhus.
"I've accepted it, and it’s not so bad," she says of being isolated in Big Bear. "I can’t remember the last time I could actually hear my own thoughts. People are so scared of being by themselves but it's actually healthy to be able to recharge.
"I definitely feel that I'm going to come back much better and stronger than ever."
Part of that belief has to do with Sanchez being in her corner. The longtime trainer of Gennadiy Golovkin has added a few wrinkles to Braekhus'' arsenal, and fans got a sample of what's to come in her dominant victory over Victoria Bustos in November 2019.
"Training with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear really gave me a second wind," she says. "My last fight was my first with him and my next fight will be even better. I feel 18 years old again.
"With Abel and the team I have around me, the best version of Cecilia Braekhus has yet to come."