Sun, Dec 09, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Women’s card headlines HBO’s final boxing show

AP, CARSON, California

Although HBO has decided to put boxing in its past, the network is leaving the sport by showcasing a possible vision of its future.

Cecilia Braekhus was in the first women’s boxing match on HBO, and the dominant Norwegian champion was to be in the main event of the network’s final boxing show yesterday night, when she defended her welterweight titles against Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes.

On the undercard, two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields defended her middleweight belts against Femke Hermans.

With women’s boxing on a distinct rise over the past two years, HBO is closing out its 45-year history as a driving force in boxing with a showcase for two fighters at the forefront of the sport’s next wave.

“It’s an honor to be in this position right now,” Braekhus said.

“It’s truly a validation for the great year it’s been for women’s boxing all over the world, and how strong the future is. We have come a long way in the sport and I believe there are even more opportunities to come our way,” she added.

The mere idea of an HBO boxing show dominated by women’s champions would have been improbable just two years ago.

Of course, so would the idea of a boxing world without HBO, a dominant financial force behind many of the world’s biggest bouts for nearly a half-century.

After Shields’ dominant run to a second straight gold medal at the Rio Olympics, US boxing purveyors finally began to grasp the fact that women’s boxing is a fertile area for growth if they are willing to invest time and money.

So Shields turned pro and became a rising personality in the sport, while the 37-year-old Braekhus teamed up with promoter Tom Loeffler to raise her international profile after fighting in relative obscurity in northern Europe for a decade.

While Shields would love to fight Braekhus someday, she also respects the veteran former kickboxer.

“I’m happy to appear on this card with her and proud that she is in the main event,” Shields said. “It truly gives me something to strive for, to someday headline a big show like this.”

Braekhus and Shields are favored in their bouts, but both are hoping to put on a show worthy of this milestone in the sport’s evolution.

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