HBO’s first televised female boxing match breaking ‘the last barrier’

(CNN) — In HBO’s 45-year history, the network has never aired a female boxing match — but that is soon to change.

Punching her way into the history books on Saturday will be undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus.

Braekhus – nicknamed boxing’s First Lady – will be defending her IBF-WBA-WBC-WBO titles at California’s StubHub Center against former middleweight champion Kali Reis on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin vs. Vanes Martirosyan.

“It’s a really big deal and I’m trying not to let that get to me but, of course, you are representing a lot,” the 34-year-old told CNN World Sport. “There are a lot of female fighters out there, it will be emotional for a lot of people. It will be a big celebration.

“Of course, I want to crown it all with a huge win… Hopefully a knockout,” she added.

“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.

“This is not only a boxing match. This is so much more. I’m wishing so much that we’ll see a lot more female fights in the future on HBO.”

But the undefeated Norwegian, widely considered the world’s best pound-for-pound female boxer, finds the pressure to maintain her titles even more intense.

“Climbing to the top, that’s the easiest part. The hardest part is staying at the top,” said Braekhus, her sport’s only undisputed world champion.

“I feel all the hungry girls coming up, they are training and they want to take it all.

“They want all the belts, all the glory and I’m just hanging in there.”

Forced to leave home

The Colombian-born Braekhus began kickboxing at the age of 13 and would jump out the window of her parents’ fourth-floor home to attend training.

In 1981, the year Braekhus was born, Norway banned professional boxing. If fighters were caught violating the “Knockout Law” they faced up to three months in jail.

Braekhus left her adopted home for Germany and became a record-breaking champion, even though she could not compete or train on home soil.

“I had to move abroad, and if I was to go back and do my fights in Norway I would actually be jailed. It was a very crazy situation,” Braekhus remembered.

At the age of 21, she won both the world and European amateur kickboxing titles, establishing herself as a star.

“It’s been a challenge to be a woman in this sport. Also it was hard for all the years when I was not allowed to box in Norway. That was pretty sad because I was excluded from a lot of things. I actually felt my sport was criminalized, and it’s not a good feeling,” she said.

“It took some time, but I was slowly getting from this girl who wanted to box to being a fighter and one of the group.”

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