CARSON, Calif. — Undisputed women’s welterweight world champion and No. 1 pound-for-pound Cecilia Braekhus made her American television debut in the first female fight on HBO in its 45-year history of boxing coverage, and she finally had a bit of trouble.
Braekhus retained her 147-pound title for the 22nd time by unanimous decision, but she got knocked down in the seventh round and rocked late in the eighth by former middleweight world titlist Kali Reis on the Gennady Golovkin-Vanes Martirosyan undercard Saturday night at the StubHub Center.
Braekhus, however, won by scores of 97-92, 96-93 and 96-93. ESPN also scored the fight for Braekhus, 97-92.
“It was such a hard fight. She is an amazing and tough fighter,” Braekhus said. “I think she gave me a very tough fight and I think it was very close. She had some very good hard punches and actually one or two times I was surprised. I just have to give her all the credit. A rematch, a rematch for sure. Let’s do a rematch.”
The bout was elevated from the non-televised portion of the card on short notice when former pound-for-pound king and four-division world titleholder Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s bantamweight fight with Pedro Guevara was canceled because Gonzalez had issues obtaining a work visa due to political unrest in his home country of Nicaragua. The women made the HBO decision-makers look good with their spirited scrap.
Braekhus took control from the outset, stepping into her jab and landing right hands over the top. Reis (13-7-1, 4 KOs), who dropped down in weight, was a lot slower and had a hard time landing anything solid because Braekhus could see what was coming at her.
But in the seventh round, Reis finally broke through, landing a solid overhand right to the jaw that dropped Braekhus to one knee, though she did not appear badly hurt.
“That was awesome. That was fun,” said Reis, 31, of Providence, Rhode Island. “We were setting her up to be open for the right hand all night long. I felt like I had it, especially with the knockdown, and I do want a rematch. We made history tonight and that was a great thing.”
Braekhus (33-0, 9 KOs), 36, seemed back in control in the eighth round until the final seconds, when Reis cracked her with a right hand that staggered her just before the bell. But Braekhus, fighting in the United States for the second time and the first since a six-round bout in 2008, kept herself together and made it through the final two rounds.
A big part of the lead-up to the fight was that Braekhus, a Colombia native fighting out of Norway, was being trained by women’s all-time great Lucia Rijker, who had been at her side all week. But on Friday night, for reasons that have not been explained, she split with Rijker and brought in her previous trainer, Johnathon Banks, to work her corner.
At ringside was UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, who came to watch Braekhus. Cyborg, wearing a “Cyborg vs. Braekhus 2019” T-shirt, said she has aspirations to fight her in a boxing match. Cyborg, speaking to ringside media, said she has two fights remaining on her UFC contract and then hopes to come over to boxing and challenge Braekhus.
“A boxing fight is my dream,” Cyborg said. “It’s a challenge to myself. I’ve already done wrestling, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai. I never did boxing and I want to do it against the best in the world. I want to challenge myself to be the best I can.”
Martin outpoints Prescott
Junior welterweight Ryan Martin, in his second fight with trainer Abel Sanchez, who also trains Golovkin, scored a convincing unanimous decision against Breidis Prescott, winning 79-71, 79-71, 77-73.
Martin (22-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Cleveland, floored Prescott (31-13, 22 KOs), 35, a Colombia native fighting out of Miami, twice in the fourth round with what referee Jerry Cantu called low blows. But Martin continued to attack Prescott’s body in the sixth and scored an authentic knockdown with yet another body shot.
Prescott, best known for his first-round upset knockout of Amir Khan in 2008, came into the fight after a 2-6 stretch in his previous eight.
Junior welterweight Ruslan Madiyev (12-0, 5 KOs), 25, of Kazakhstan, won a hard-fought though one-sided decision over Jesus Perez (21-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico. Madiyev was awarded the win on scores of 99-91, 97-93 and 97-93.
New York welterweight prospect and former amateur standout Brian Ceballo (2-0, 1 KO), 24, rolled to a shutout decision against Nam Phan (3-6-1, 2 KOs), 35, of Garden Grove, California. Ceballo, who turned pro March 27 and stopped Luis Alberto Longoria in the first round, won his second fight 40-36 on all three scorecards.
Junior flyweight prospect Jesse Rodriguez (6-0, 3 KOs), an 18-year-old southpaw from Los Angeles trained by Robert Garcia, knocked out Armando Vazquez (25-22-1, 6 KOs), 32, of Mexico, with a left hook to the body in the third round. Vazquez went down from the punch and referee Cantu counted him out at 2 minutes, 18 seconds.