Both Cecilia Brækhus and HBO made history May 5 when the “unbeaten, undisputed” welterweight champion known as boxing’s ‘First Lady,’ defended her title as the near half-century old premium cable TV giant aired its first-ever female boxing match.
Brækhus told CNN Sports that not only is the match itself a big deal, but it’s a weighty responsibility, too.
“There are a lot of female fighters out there, it will be emotional for a lot of people. It will be a big celebration,” she told the network. “Of course, I want to crown it all with a huge win …hopefully a knockout.”
Braekhus didn’t get the knock-out she’d hoped for but beat challenger Kali Reis in a unanimous decision.
Here’s’ what you need to know about Brækhus:
1.Called Boxing’s ‘First Lady,’ Brækhus Has Now Had 33 Professional Fights. She’s Won Them All
She hoped for a knockout when she defended her four professional welterweight boxing titles Saturday May 5 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California against former middleweight champion Kali Reis, but won in a unanimous decision. The match was the undercard for the main event, Gennady Golovkin vs. Vanes Martirosyan. But Brækhus may be feeling her fight, aired live on HBO, was the main event. She told CNN Sports, that it’s not just a boxing match but “so much more.”
“This was the last barrier and this will open up for more females to fight on HBO in the future. My experience is that someone needs to break down that door and the rest will happen itself,” she said.
2.Brækhus, Now 36, Began Her Professional Boxing Career at 24 in 2007, But She’d Been in the Ring For Far Longer
Brækhus first stepped into a ring when she was 14 but as a kickboxer. And she was good. In 2003 and 2004, she won world and European kickboxing titles, respectively. By 2004, she was boxing-boxing and won silver and gold medals in European and world championships. These female boxing competitions were new having only been in existence four and five years, and included a dozen weight classes. When Brækhus earned gold at the 2005 Women’s European Amateur Boxing Championship she was voted best boxer at the tourney, which was a fledgling competition at the time and was dominated by Russian female boxers.
Brækhus would go on the have 80 amateur boxing matches and she won 75 of them.
3.Braekhus’ Belts, Awards & Accolades Include the Most Prestigious in the World of Women Boxers
When The Boxing Writers Association of America named Braekhus as Female Fighter of the Year in 2017, she became the first woman to be named female Fighter of the Year in the 92-year history of the BWAA. The group said Braekhus is not just a champion, but is “recognized by most women’s boxing experts as the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world.”
The ‘First Lady,’ thrice defended her five world titles. She’s never lost a fight. And in now 33 fights, she’s had 9 knockouts. Braekhus is also the only undisputed champion in women’s’ boxing named by the World Boxing Association (WBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC), the World Boxing Organization WBO), and the Professional Boxing Federation (IBF).
4.Born in Columbia, Braekhus Lived in an Orphanage Until She Was Adopted By a Norwegian Couple at Age 2. Braekhus Would Make History in Norway & Inspire Girls Globally
Braekhus was born in Colombia in 1981. She lived in Cartagena orphanage until just after her second birthday when she was adopted by Jorunn and Martin Brækhus and grew up in Bergen, Norway. Braekhus would end up getting into a sport not often encouraged for young women. She’d change that. As a teen, she said, she’d at night sometimes “creep towards her window, silently climb out and shimmy down the high fire escape on the side of the house to go training. Each time she wasn’t thinking about making history. She just didn’t want her parents to find out,” she told the BWAA in an interview.
But she would go on to make history when she wanted go professional and, “was instrumental in lifting a ban on professional boxing” in 2014 and while making boxing history was huge, even more importantly for her, “…it’s very big for me because of the young girls that may think about boxing in their future.”
“I think also of all the girls whose name should be on this that are a huge part of this; the girls who went to the gym and trained hard twice a day, only because they loved the sport of boxing,” she told the BWAA. “They gave everything and didn’t get anything back: money, fame or anything. They did it because they loved it and wanted to compete and represent their country. It’s been a long road for women’s boxing…”
5.Braekhus Was Dubbed ‘The First Lady’ of Boxing & When the Gloves Are Off, She’s Also a ‘Role’ Model
Women’s Wear Daily wrote a story in 2016 about how some designers were looking to include women as models, rather women as role models to feature their clothing and accessories, like jewelry.
“Role models are more important than models in a new global Georg Jensen campaign aimed at empowering women and encouraging them to be themselves,” the story read. “The campaign message is ‘You can never be too much you.’”
The globally known design house renowned for its jewelry, Georg Jensen featured Braekhus in a 2016 ad campaign. And she’s appeared on sports, fitness and beauty and fashion magazine covers and on cover stories.