Braekhus title defense to close HBO boxing run


The 45-year history of boxing on HBO that began with the George Foreman-Joe Frazier world heavyweight championship showdown as fight No. 1 in 1973 will end with its 1,118th bout on Dec. 8 — with undisputed women’s welterweight world champion Cecilia Braekhus defending her title for the 24th time when she meets Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Tom Loeffler of 360 Boxing Promotions announced the card on Thursday, which will also feature former pound-for-pound king and four-division world champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez squaring off with former junior flyweight world titlist Pedro Guevara in a 10-round junior bantamweight fight that will open the “Boxing After Dark” broadcast (10:20 p.m. ET/PT).

HBO, the home to most of boxing’s biggest fights for nearly a half century, announced on Sept. 27 that it would end its association with the sport at the end of 2018.

There are two more shows to go. In addition to the Dec. 8 finale, there also is a Nov. 24 doubleheader topped by light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol defending his belt against former world champion Jean Pascal at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Braekhus (34-0, 9 KOs), 37, of Norway, widely considered the best female fighter in the world pound for pound, starred in the first-ever women’s fight on HBO on May 5 when she survived a seventh-round knockdown and retained her title by unanimous decision over Kali Reis on the Gennady Golovkin-Vanes Martirosyan undercard, also at the StubHub Center.

Now Braekhus is back for the network’s third women’s boxing match after featherweights Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent met in a rematch on Oct. 27 on the Daniel Jacobs-Sergey Derevyanchenko undercard.

“I know Aleksandra very well and this will be a very tough challenge for me,” said Braekhus, who is training in Los Angeles. “It’s great to be back in Los Angeles. It’s starting to feel like my second home now. Right now, it’s pretty cold now in Norway, so the sun and warm weather are treating me very good and I expect a lot of fans from Norway to come to my fight and experience the Southern California sunshine. My trainer, Johnathon Banks, and I have already started working very hard in the gym.

“Thanks very much to HBO for putting me on the network again. I promise to deliver another big fight. My last fight [on HBO] was very exciting and this one will be as well. I don’t do boring fights. I’m defending all the belts. They represent a lifetime of hard work. Hopefully, when it becomes time to retire, I can do so undefeated. That is my dream; that is my goal.”

Magdziak-Lopes (18-4-3, 1 KO), 38, a Poland native fighting out of Marshfield, Massachusetts, lost a four-round decision to Reis in her pro debut and has also come up short in decision losses in a pair of women’s junior middleweight world title opportunities. Now she is getting another title shot.

“It’s been my dream to fight Cecilia and I can’t wait to fight her,” Magdziak-Lopes said. “She is the best women’s fighter in the world and has been for many years, but on Dec. 8, I will be up to the challenge and come out victorious with her titles.”

Gonzalez (47-2, 39 KOs), 31, a national in his home country of Nicaragua, has won world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight. He is seeking his second win in a row following back-to-back losses in junior bantamweight world title fights to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017.

Gonzalez returned from those defeats on Sept. 15 and scored a blistering fifth-round knockout of former strawweight world titlist Moises Fuentes on the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin II undercard in Las Vegas.

“I know Pedro Guevara very well,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a very tough fighter and I will have to be at my very best to continue my pursuit of a fifth world title. It’s an honor to be on the same card as Cecilia Braekhus. I was very happy with the knockout victory of my last fight and look forward to fighting in Los Angeles again in front of my fans.”

Gonzalez was supposed to fight Guevara on May 5, but the fight was called off when Gonzalez had issues getting a visa in time to come to the United States, which opened the door for HBO to elevated Braekhus’ fight, which was originally not scheduled to be on the broadcast.

Guevara (32-3-1, 19 KOs), 29, of Mexico, won a junior flyweight world title by seventh-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi in Japan in December 2014 and made two successful defenses before losing to Yu Kimura by split decision in November 2015 in Japan.

Guevara got an opportunity to challenge junior flyweight titlist Ken Shiro, also in Japan, 13 months ago, but lost a majority decision. Guevara has since won two fights in a row by knockout but will be returning to face elite opposition against Gonzalez.

“Chocolatito was the best fighter in the world not too long ago, and that is the fighter I am preparing for,” Guevara said. “It’s an honor to share the ring with him, but on Dec. 8, it will be another victory on my path to again becoming a world champion.”

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