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Shields expects Braekhus to take 'easier' fight with Taylor in undisputed champion triangle

‘In my opinion, Katie Taylor is going to beat her, but she will not knock Cecilia Braekhus out. And Cecilia can live with that.’

Left: Katie Taylor and Cecilia Braekhus pose with all their titles at lightweight and welterweight respectively. Right: Three-weight world champion Claressa Shields takes to the ring.
Left: Katie Taylor and Cecilia Braekhus pose with all their titles at lightweight and welterweight respectively. Right: Three-weight world champion Claressa Shields takes to the ring.

CECILIA BRAEKHUS, CLARESSA Shields and Katie Taylor are the first and only three undisputed world champions in female boxing history.

Shields, the second to achieve the feat, and Taylor, the third, both want to fight ‘First Lady’ Braekhus. But they will never fight each other.

This golden triangle of unequivocal divisional rulers is of the obtuse variety. Shields has won world titles at super-middleweight (168 pounds), middleweight (160, undisputed) and light-middleweight (154). Taylor has won world titles at lightweight (135, undisputed) and light-welterweight (140).

The weight discrepancy between them — even with Shields at her lightest and Taylor at her heaviest — is simply too great for them to even attempt to meet in the middle. Shields once joked with this writer that she would have to “cut off an ass cheek” in order to face her fellow former Olympic champion.

Norwegian Braekhus is the long-reigning undisputed queen at welterweight (147), and so operates in that sweet spot between the fight weights of both the American Shields and Irish icon Taylor.

imago-20171018 Female boxing great Cecilia Braekhus. Source: Imago/PA Images

The latter pair enjoy an amicable relationship but find themselves in a race of sorts to square off with Braekhus in what would be an unprecedented undisputed-versus-undisputed women’s superfight.

It’s a race which Taylor looks set to win, even if another landmark female fight with Amanda Serrano remains at the forefront of her plans.

One major factor in Taylor’s favour is her promoter, Eddie Hearn, who last October signed Braekus to his Matchroom stable, and whose deal with US broadcaster DAZN dictates that he can offer Braekhus more money for a Taylor clash than anyone else can for a prospective showdown with Shields.

A Taylor-Braekhus fight looks increasingly likely to take place in the second half of 2020, particularly with a Taylor-Delfine Persoon rematch on ice while the Belgian bids to fulfil her dream of fighting at the Olympics.

“We want a big fight against Katie Taylor”, Braekhus told Norwegian outlet Dagbladet in an interview published on Monday, “but we agree that before the summer there will be a run-up match. Both Taylor and I need it, and then it will be building up to this mega-fight over the summer.

The fight against Katie Taylor becomes the greatest in women’s boxing ever. It is a battle that will be shown around the world, in the States and in Europe. It will be a global megafight.

The issue for Shields [10-0, 2KOs] is that she might miss the boat on a meeting of female boxing greats altogether. While the outspoken Flint, Michigan native has time on her side at 24, Braekhus [36-0, 9KOs] — her most viable option for a dial-turning fight in the short- to medium-term future — is 14 years her senior and has been fighting professionally since 2007. For the First Lady of Boxing, a big-money scrap with Taylor [15-0, 6KOs] could prove to be her last — win, lose or draw.

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“I think that can be a worthy end to a career,” she told Dagbladet. “If that is the end then, we’ll see.”

shields-habazin-boxing Claressa Shields celebrating her 154-pound world-title win against Ivana Harazin on 10 January. Source: Matt Rourke

Shields took aim at Braekhus on the latest episode of Max Kellerman’s Max on Boxing ESPN show, describing Taylor as a “great fighter” but claiming Braekhus would be taking the easy way out by dropping seven pounds to face the Bray woman instead of tacking on seven to challenge her at 154.

Shields herself has shed 14 pounds and won multiple world titles — including all of the marbles at 160 — as she has plunged through the divisions in search of both history and bigger-name opponents.

She expressed to Kellerman her belief that Braekhus could stomach a points defeat to Taylor, but that the Scandinavian wouldn’t be able to tolerate a more destructive, violent loss at her own heavier hands.

“The thing with Cecilia is if she wants to fight, we can fight — we’ve got a million reasons to make the fight happen,” Shields said. “Braekhus told me at 168 that my weight was a problem. Okay: I won titles at 168, I became undisputed at 160, now I’m at 154.

“Now, you don’t hear about her no more. She’s not calling me out. So my thing is, look, they can think what they want to think. Braekhus don’t have skills like me. I would school her. I would knock her out. That’s why she’s going down to 140 to fight against Katie Taylor.

Like, first of all, you (Braekhus) are undisputed champion at 147 — for years. What reason do you have to go down to 140? [Because] it’s the easier fight. It would be undisputed against undisputed, her against Katie Taylor. In my opinion, Katie Taylor is going to beat her, but she will not knock Cecilia Braekhus out. And Cecilia can live with that. Cecilia would not be able to live with me going in there, coming down three weight classes when I’m supposed to be drained and tired, but fighting way better than her, and I’m from the new era. She wouldn’t be able to deal with that.

“But I’m open to a fight with her,” Shields stressed. “Her and her team know that. And we have a million reasons to make the fight happen, and the reason it’s not happening is because Cecilia doesn’t want to fight.”

boxing-manchester-arena Taylor jabs Christina Linardatou during their 140-pound world-title fight in November. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Before any Taylor-Braekhus fight comes to fruition, the Irishwoman’s team of promoter Eddie Hearn and manager Brian Peters will attempt to seal a deal for her to finally face longtime rival Amanda Serrano, the hard-hitting Puerto Rican ‘Real Deal’ who has won world-title belts in seven weight divisions — albeit most of them were vacant WBO baubles.

An April date in New York, and a potential headline billing, have been earmarked for what would be the biggest women’s fight of all time — at least until later in the year.

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