Weigh-In Recap and Slideshow | “Hopefully, We’ll See Some Blood”: Braekhus and Shields Prepare to Take Their Places on Historic Stage

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

CARSON, CA. – Seven months ago, Cecilia Braekhus made history.

When her hand was raised in victory at the end of a hard-fought decision over Kali Reis at the StubHub Center in May, on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin’s demolition of Vanes Martirosyan, she became the first female boxer ever to win a fight on HBO.

A little more than half a year later, she will make history again. Her clash this Saturday night (10:20 PM ET/PT) with Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes will be the HBO main event – which for female fighters is unprecedented, and will also be forever unmatched, as theirs will be the last fight of any kind to be aired on the network.

Braekhus, while acknowledging the significance of the event, chooses not to dwell on it, at least not yet. “You know what? When I’m old and retired, I can look back and I can really, really say that I made history.” For now, she is fixing her attention on Magdziak-Lopes, fully aware that her foe is made of stern stuff.

“I have to be focused on my fight,” she said after the final pre-fight press conference this week. “I have a tough competitor, and I need to be 100 percent focused on her, and I cannot allow myself right now to take in the historical event that this is for boxing. The most important thing is that I have to produce my best performance ever.”

That said, on the three previous occasions that Magdziak-Lopes has challenged for a world title belt, she has fallen just short. Braekhus can expect another tough night but will anticipate it ending with her in position to move on to one of the higher-profile challenges that await.

Perhaps that challenge will be in the form of MMA star Cris Cyborg, who has long coveted a bout with the Norwegian, who was ringside when Braekhus fought Reis, and who will be present again on Saturday – and who will in fact be walking to the ring with another possible future Braekhus opponent, Claressa Shields, who opens the HBO broadcast against Femke Hermans.

Shields’ presence on the card – and indeed, her fame and status as the only American Olympian to win back-to-back boxing golds (in 2012 and 2016) – is testament to a rise in the attention being given to women’s boxing in the United States. Such increased attention is exemplified by the fact that, by the end of the broadcast on Saturday, the number of women’s bouts on HBO will have risen from zero in 45 years to four in seven months. (Heather Hardy defeated Shelly Vincent at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in October, in the second female bout on the network.)

“I think what’s happening now in the States is extremely beautiful to watch,” said Braekhus, who has fought most of her career in Germany, where women’s boxing has long had a higher profile – to the extent that she has headlined pay-per-views. “I just hope that this will continue.”

(It is not just women’s boxing that has long battled for the spotlight. Lower-weight male fighters have also traditionally been given short shrift, but the flyweight and super-flyweight divisions have received a shot in the arm over the last couple of years, a consequence of a remarkable concentration of talent in their upper reaches. Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai may be the cream of that particular crop, but Juan Francisco Estrada, who has lost close decisions to both men, is right behind them, and has perhaps been the biggest beneficiary of his division’s moment in the sun. The only fighter to appear on all three iterations of the “Superfly” franchise, he steps in for an injured Gonzalez and takes on Victor Mendez in the middle bout of Saturday’s triple-header.)

For Shields – who is facing Hermans just three weeks after defeating Hannah Rankin to run her professional record to 7-0 – Saturday night is an unexpected opportunity to realize a lifelong dream.

“Growing up in the amateurs, I watched HBO, and I told myself, ‘I want to fight on HBO.’ And then I thought my chance was gone, but boom! Here we are. I’m just so happy that HBO thought of me and gave me the chance.”

At the end of the day, however, boxing is boxing, whoever is filming or calling the action, and what matters most is what happens when the combatants enter the ring. Asked to predict how events will unfold on Saturday night, Shields underlined that when that happens, issues of history, weight class and gender are largely irrelevant, and the attractions that keep people tuning in to watch boxing are fundamental and simple to articulate.

“I’m going to break down her body. I’m going to punch her in the face. And hopefully we’ll see some blood.”

CompuBox Preview and Prediction: Braekhus vs. Magziak-Lopes

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

At age 37, Cecilia Braekhus has built a strong case for being the greatest female boxing champion ever to walk the earth. If one's criteria for determining that status is performance under championship conditions, her qualifications are beyond question: She has held at least one major world title since March 14, 2009, and in that time she has made 23 defenses of the WBC title, 22 of the WBA strap, 20 defenses of the WBO title, eight defenses of the IBF strap and eight defenses of the undisputed championship, the most ever recorded by anyone -- man or woman -- in the four-belt era. Add to that her reported 75-5 amateur record and victories over 12 opponents who have held titles at some point in their careers, and one can see why she is called boxing's "First Lady."

braekhus-vs-lopes-compbox.jpg

Braekhus will be making her second (and final) HBO appearance against Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes, a 38-year-old Pole who has lived in the U.S. since age 16, is a full-time lawyer, and who is challenging for 147-pound honors after two failed attempts at the vacant WBC super welterweight title against Mikaela Lauren (a common opponent) and Ewa Piatkowska. Will moving down the scale give Lopes the needed strength advantage to overcome Braekhus' skills or will Braekhus prove once again that she is (as WWE legend Bret Hart often said) "the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be"? 

A Testing Win

In her first HBO appearance against Kali Reis (who also was moving down in weight to challenge Braekhus), the Norway-based Colombian was tested more severely than usual in that Reis scored a knockdown in the seventh and followed up with a strong eighth and ninth before Braekhus rebounded in the 10th. Still, the final numbers favored Braekhus as she was more active (37.7 punches per two-minute round to Reis' 35.7), landed more in each phase (115-78 overall, 38-12 jabs, 77-66 power), connected more accurately (31%-22% overall, 20%-9% jabs, 42%-29% power) and led the CompuBox round-by-round breakdowns 9-1 overall, 9-0-1 jabs and 6-4 power en route to capturing all three judges' scorecards (96-93 twice, 97-92).

Including the Reis victory, Braekhus has earned statistical leads over her four CompuBox-tracked opponents in that she has been more active (38 per two-minute round to her foes' 33.8), landed more (11.9 to 6.4 total connects per two-minute round, 4.1 to 1.5 landed jabs per two-minute round and 7.8 to 4.9 power connects per two-minute round) and landed much more frequently (31%-19% overall, 22%-11% jabs, 40%-24% power). But Father Time (and Mother Nature) eventually snares everyone, and one must wonder if that time will come when Braekhus is inside a boxing ring? Yes, the 38-year-old Lopes is 17 months older than Braekhus, but she hopes that her size and relative freshness (25 fights to Braekhus' 34 and 162 rounds to Braekhus' 264) will provide adequate compensation.  

Falling Short

In her second chance at the WBC super welterweight title, an all-Polish match versus Ewa Piatkowska, Lopes' counterpunching kept her in the fight throughout the first half of the contest. But one moment midway through round six damaged Lopes' hopes: A jab and right to the chest that scored the fight's only knockdown. With each fighter recording 60 total connects through seven rounds, Piatkowska nailed down the decision -- and the vacant title -- by out-landing Lopez 40-26 overall, 18-16 jabs and 22-10 power in the final three rounds to extend her final leads to 100-86 overall and 52-32 power to off-set Lopes' narrow 54-48 lead in landed jabs. Also helping Piatkowska's cause was her constant aggression, her superior accuracy in all phases (28%-18% overall, 24%-19%

PODCAST: StubHub Tripleheader Preview (Ep 283 )

SoundCloud Block
Enter a SoundCloud track, playlist, or profile URL. Learn more

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney preview Saturday's Boxing After Dark tripleheader from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, featuring top female fighters Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields and "Super Fly" stalwart Juan Francisco Estrada.

Cecilia Braekhus and Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez Star in December 8 Doubleheader

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Cecilia Braekhus and Roman Gonzalez make their respective returns at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA. on Saturday, December 8 for an action packed doubleheader. Braekhus (34-0, 9 KOs), will face two-time world title challenger, Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes, (18-4-3, 1 KO), a native of Gilwice, Poland, now based in Marshfield, MA in the ten-round main event.  Meanwhile, Gonzalez, (47-2, 39 KOs) will face off with Pedro ‘Jibran’ Guevara. The event will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:20 PM ET/PT. 

“I’m thrilled to be announcing my next title defense against Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes,” said Cecilia Braekhus, currently training in Southern California with the renowned Johnathon Banks. “I know Aleksandra very well and this will be a very tough challenge for me.”

“It’s great to be back in Los Angeles, it’s starting to feel like my second home now. Right now, it’s pretty cold now in Norway so the sun and warm weather are treating me very good and I expect a lot of fans from Norway to come to my fight and experience the Southern California sunshine. My trainer Johnathon Banks and I have already started working very hard in the gym.” 

“A big thank you to Tom Loeffler and 360 Promotions for putting together this great event. Thanks very much to HBO for putting me on the network again. I promise to deliver another big fight, my last fight was very exciting and this one will be as well, I don’t do boring fights.”

‘I’m defending all the belts as you see in front of me. They represent a life-time of hard work. Hopefully when it becomes time to retire I can do so undefeated, that is my dream, that is my goal. I thank you for all your support and to the fans here in the United States and those attending the fight internationally.”

“It’s been my dream to fight Cecilia and I can’t wait to fight her,” said Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes. “She is the best women’s fighter in the world and has been for many years but on December 8 I will be up to the challenge and come out victorious with her titles.”

Stated Roman Gonzalez, “Thanks very much to God, Mr. Honda, Teiken Promotions, HBO Boxing and 360 Promotions. I know Pedro Guevara very well, he’s a very tough fighter and I will have to be at my very best to continue my pursuit of a fifth world title.”

“It’s an honor to be on the same card as Cecilia Braekhus, we’re very blessed to be here.  I was very happy with the knockout victory of my last fight and look forward to fighting in Los Angeles again in front of my fans.”

“Chocolatito was the best fighter in the world not too long ago and that is the fighter I am preparing for,” said Pedro Guevara. ‘It’s an honor to share the ring with him but on December 8 it will be another victory on my path to again becoming a world champion.”

Said Tom Loeffler, “This card truly is a tribute to HBO where the biggest stars in boxing have been made for decades. As we have seen with the ascent in popularity with Gennady Golovkin and as we continue to see with Cecilia and Roman their international popularity and marketability continues to increase with each appearance on HBO.”

“We’ve promoted some outstanding and record-breaking memorable nights of boxing at the Stubhub Center and we look forward to another great event on Saturday, December 8. We hold the record for the 3 largest gates at StubHub Center with GGG in his two fights at StubHub and Chocolatito with his sold out fight there last year.”

“Thanks to Dan Beckerman at AEG and everyone at StubHub Center for their support and for working on this show with us and to the California State Athletic Commission who have always been very fair while keeping the health and safety of the fighters as their number one priority.”

Fighting for the first time in Russia, Cecilia Braekhus won a 10-round unanimous decision over junior middleweight world champion Inna Sagaydakovskaya on July 21, 2018 in Moscow. The victory took place in front of over 25,000 spectators at the Olympic Stadium and an international televised audience. Prior to that, Braekhus was victorious in the first women’s bout televised by HBO in their 45-year history on May 5, 2018. Defeating Kali Reis by unanimous decision at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA, the fight drew an average of 904,000 viewers in the United States, the second highest viewership by the network for boxing in 2018.

Braekhus is currently ranked the #1 Pound-for-Pound Female Boxer by Ring Magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America. She was presented with the first women’s Ring Magazine Pound-for-Pound Title belt in Las Vegas on September 15, 2018. Since September 2014, Braekhus has held the WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO Welterweight World Titles and was just awarded 3 Guinness Book of World Records Awards this year at the WBC Convention in Kiev, Ukraine.

Magdziak-Lopes has twice previously challenged for world title. On September 17, 2016, she traveled to Gdansk, Poland to face Ewa Piatkowska for the vacant WBC Super Welterweight World Title, losing a hard-fought ten-round decision. In 2014, Magdziak-Lopes battled Mikaela Lauren in her hometown of Rocklunda, Sweden for the vacant WBC Super Welterweight World Title. At the end of a highly competitive ten rounds, Lopes would come up just short losing a majority decision to Lauren. 

Magdziak-Lopes is unbeaten in her last 3 fight, including victories over Paty Ramirez and Lisa Noel Garland.

Returning to battle less than three months after a knockout victory, Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez looks to continue on his path towards a fifth world title. On September 15, 2018, the hard-hitting Nicaraguan dismantled Moises Fuentes with a ‘Knockout of the Year’ stoppage in the fifth round on the HBO Pay-Per-View®Undercard of the World Middleweight Championship between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.

Gonzalez has held world titles in four weight divisions; minimum weight, junior flyweight, flyweight and super flyweight. From September 12, 2015 to March 18, 2017, he was the Consensus #1 Pound-for-Pound Fighter in the World. 

The 29-year-old Guevara first became a world champion on December 30, 2014 with a seventh-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi in Tokyo, Japan, winning the vacant WBC Junior Flyweight World Title. After making two successful defenses in Mexico, Guevara would return to Japan losing a split-decision to Yu Kimura on November 28, 2015.

In 2018, Guevara has recorded two stoppage victories, an eighth-round knockout of Angel Guevara on May 18, 2018 followed by a tenth-round stoppage of Roberto Sanchez on September 1, 2018.