Hometown heroine: Braekhus vs Farias preview
Luke G. Williams
As 'Women's Week' continues on the Boxing Monthly website, Luke G. Williams speaks to undisputed P4P queen Cecilia Braekhus and previews her showdown with Erica Anabella Farias on Friday night...
Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus, the world’s number one pound-for-pound female boxer, puts her unified welterweight World Championship and unbeaten record on the line on Friday night against dangerous Argentine Erica Anabella Farias in front of an expected crowd of 15,000-plus spectators in a huge outdoor event in her hometown of Bergen.
A superstar in Norway who not only attracts huge crowds but also headlines pay-per-view events and frequently appears on magazine covers, Braekhus has - to the shame of the UK and United States media - received far less attention than recent Olympians turned professionals such as Claressa Shields, Nicola Adams and Katie Taylor.
However Shields, Adams and Taylor have a long way to go before they can match the formidable professional achievements of the ‘First Lady of Boxing’.
With a spotless record of 30-0(8 KOs) Braekhus won her first world title in just her eleventh professional bout and has, since September 2014, held the welterweight titles of all four major sanctioning bodies – WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO.
In the modern era of fractured and multiple titles, the only other pugilists of either gender to have held all four titles at once are Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, neither of whom can match Braekhus’ four defences of her undisputed championship.
After an injury lay-off kept her out of action throughout 2015, Braekhus returned with a bang in 2016, with a new trainer in the form of Johnathan Banks. A unanimous decision victory against Chris Namus in February was followed with an eagerly awaited rematch against Anne Sophie Mathis in October in the Spectrum, Oslo - the first major professional boxing show in Norway since the end of a ban on paid pugilism stretching back to 1981.
The Mathis clash, which Braekhus won by TKO in round two, was an appropriate homecoming for the 'First Lady' of boxing as she was one of the prime forces and campaigners in securing the end of the ban after a vote in the Norwegian parliament.
To cap a memorable evening, Prime Minister Erna Solberg was even in attendance to lend her support to one of the leading icons of Norwegian sport.
Braekhus followed up the Mathis victory with a comfortable points victory against Klara Svensson at the Spectrum in February of this year.
Both of these contests were huge events in Norway, but Friday night's proceedings in Braekhus' hometown of Bergen may top them both in terms of excitement and atmosphere.
The charismatic Braekhus is certainly relishing the prospect of bringing big-time boxing to the picturesque city on the south-west coast, which is surrounded by stunning mountains and fjords.
“It will be absolutely insane,” she told BM recently. “We’re hoping for maybe 20,000 tickets [sold]. It will be outside and it’s against another world champion. We are going to have a lot of music support in between the fights. People from Bergen are really special – they really love their sports. It’s going to be huge.”
Braekhus admits, however, that in Farias she faces an opponent who has not arrived in Norway to roll over.
“She is definitely one of my biggest challenges,” is the 35-year-old’s assessment of her foe. “She doesn’t give a shit about whether there’s 500 or 15,000 people there She’s Argentinian and she just comes to fight.
"She’s a [super lightweight] world champion and is number one in her weight division. She only has one loss against a girl [Belgian Delfine Persoon] who was one of the best pound for pound in the world when I was away [injured]. This is one of my toughest fights to date. There are very high stakes.”
Although Braekhus pinpoints Farias’ aggression and intensity as her leading qualities, she remains confident that she will prevail. “She will fight for ten rounds on a crazy intense level. There will be a very high pace and a lot of trading of shots – I may take her down before ten rounds, it won’t be easy but of course, I will win, there’s no other scenario for me in my home city.”
Certainly Braekhus's movement, footwork, head movement and ability to put combinations together are unrivalled in women's boxing. My prediction, therefore, is for Farias to keep the pressure on the champion throughout, and possibly nick a few rounds, but for Braekhus' superior boxing skills to see her prevail on points - and send the huge Bergen crowd home happy.