Cecilia Braekhus retains title amid boos after tough fight vs. Kali Reis

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Cecilia Braekhus poses with her belts after defeating Kali Reis in a unanimous decision at StubHub Center on Saturday in Carson, California. (Getty Images)

CARSON, Calif. — It was hardly a coronation for Cecilia Braekhus, the women’s pound-for-pound champion who was being showcased against Kali Reis on Saturday in the first women’s boxing match broadcast in the 45-year history of HBO.

Braekhus retained her IBF-WBA-WBC-WBO welterweight titles by winning a unanimous decision over the ex-middleweight champion in a bout that got increasingly difficult for her as time wore on.

Reis dumped Braekhus with a sharp right in the seventh round, and hurt her several times after that, but it was not enough to overcome the early lead that Braekhus built. She was quicker, and a better boxer, and that played with the judges.

The official scores were 97-92 and 96-93 twice, as Braekhus improved to 33-0 and potentially set up big fights with super middleweight champion Claressa Shields and UFC featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino, who watched from ringside.

“She’s a top, top fighter and she gave me a tough fight,” Braekhus said. “She was bigger and heavier than me and I could feel her punches. She had good hard punches. Let’s give her credit.”

Cecilia Braekhus hits Kali Reis during their female welterweight championship boxing match Saturday in Carson, California. (AP)

Braekhus was clearly quicker and opened the fight by popping a jab in Reis’ face repeatedly and controlling the distance. Reis was having trouble getting her punches off, or so it seemed, as Braekhus was piling up the points by jabbing and occasionally coming behind it with a right.

It was all part of the plan, though, said Reis, who dropped from middleweight to welterweight for the opportunity to compete for Braekhus’ belts.

“We were setting her up to be open for the right hand all night long,” Reis said. “I felt like I had it, especially with the knockdown. I do want a rematch. We made history tonight and that was a great thing.”

That isn’t likely to be the last time they see each other. The crowd at the StubHub Center lustily booed the decision and drowned out Braekhus’ post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman until she said she’d give the crowd what it wanted.

“Yes, a rematch, a rematch for sure,” Braekhus said. “Let’s do a rematch.”

That will put off fights against Shields and Cyborg, among others for a while. Cyborg attended because she’d sparred with Braekhus and has been campaigning for the bout. She told Yahoo Sports at ringside Saturday that she has two more fights on her UFC contract and that when that is done, she’ll go into boxing with the hope of challenging Braekhus.

Reis, though, summed up the thoughts of most with her post-fight comments following the historic bout. It was another indication of another crack in the glass ceiling that women boxers have been fighting against.

“That was awesome,” Reis said. “That was fun.”

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