Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill dashed Cecilia Braekhus’ dreams of breaking Joe Louis’ 72-year-record of 25 world title defences with an upset victory in a temporary ring on the streets of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night.
Scores were 97-93, 97-94 and 95-95 in a finely-balanced contest that took place at a 145lbs catchweight limit.
With the victory, McCaskill became a two-weight champion, adding Braekhus’ undisputed world welterweight titles to the WBC/WBA 140lbs belts already in her possession
“I don’t want to talk about [the decision] right now. I just want to congratulate Jessica,” said the gracious Braekhus (36-1, 9 KOs). “She really wanted it. She did a great job and I’m proud and happy to pass the torch to her.
“I don’t know what will happen right now, but I’m so proud to be part of women’s boxing right now. If this is my last fight, I can leave boxing saying that I was a part of this. I took part in women’s boxing at this level. That will be my biggest achievement.”
It was a very close fight. McCaskill was far more busy, but less accurate. Braekhus landed 32% of her punches in a conservative 85-of-269 workrate whereas McCaskill scored one shot less but blurred the picture with a whirlwind of blows that mostly missed the target, landing 84-of-499.
McCaskill (9-2, 3 KOs) started brightly, immediately letting her hands go and placing Braekhus under intense pressure. A left hand buzzed the champion in the opener but she relied on her well-schooled boxing and rangy jab to navigate the danger. Yet the aggression broke her rhythm as McCaskill relentlessly poured forward.
A right hand snapped back the head of Braekhus in the fifth as she continued to struggle with the tough and uncompromising McCaskill. The Chicago fighter just walked through her blows before the champion found more space and outboxed the challenger with her more cultured work in the seventh.
Braekhus controlled the tempo with her educated lead in the eighth and ninth, but she was already behind on the judges’ cards. McCaskill fought like a woman possessed in the last with the contest seemingly in the balance as Braekhus relinquished centre ring and fought on the backfoot.
Yet the outcome remained in doubt when the contest headed to the cards.
“I was thinking to myself that it takes a lot to take it away from the champion,” said McCaskill on waiting for the verdict. “I just stay real mellow and wait for the scorecards to be announced. When it’s time to celebrate, it’s time to celebrate. This was a rough fight, it reminded me of McCaskill-[Katie]Taylor I. Now we’re looking for McCaskill-Taylor II.”
In a weird one, Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5 KOs) won a unanimous decision over Eric Walker (20-3, 9 KOs), having seemingly knocked out the American in round nine.
Referee Gary Ritter ruled Madrimov had knocked down Walker with his shoulder and called a foul, giving him five minutes to recover. Somehow, he managed to continue but was floored again in the final round. Madrimov was also deducted a point for a low blow. Scores were 116-110 (twice) and 116-111 in a final eliminator for the WBA 154lbs title.
Wonder Boy Shakhram Giyasov continued his procession to a 140lbs title shot with a third-round, left hook body shot KO of Nicaraguan Wiston Campos who went the full 10 rounds with Josh Kelly last December.
In other action, Brooklyn middleweight hope Nikita Ababiy outscored Jarvis Williams, scores were 59-55, 59-55 and 58-56, while New Jersey southpaw Raymond Ford dropped Eric Manriquez in the third en route to a win on the cards, 60-53 (twice) and 59-54, at featherweight.
Main image: A victorious Jessica McCaskill. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA.