Jessica McCaskill will defend her undisputed WBO World Welterweight title against Cecilia Brækhus in early 2021 after former champion Brækhus activated the rematch clause.
McCaskill ripped the titles from Brækhus in a tightly fought contest on the streets of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma in August as Matchroom returned to action in the US, with one judge unable to split the pair but challenger McCaskill getting the nod on the other cards, 97-94 and 97-93.
The win meant that McCaskill (9-2 3 KOs) became a two-weight World champion in just her 11th pro outing, and was another chapter of a phenomenal rise for the Chicago ace, from traveling to London, England in her seventh pro fight in December 2017 and giving Lightweight champion and Irish sensation Katie Taylor a run for her money in McCaskill’s first World title fight, before picking up the WBA World Super-Lightweight title in her next fight on home turf against Erica Farias in October 2018 and then unifying the 140lbs division against Anahi Sanchez in May 2019.
Brækhus (36-1 9 KOs) suffered her first career defeat in Tulsa and that loss prevented the Norwegian from making history by breaking Joe Louis’ 72 year record of 25 consecutive World title defenses, but ‘The First Lady’ of boxing was denied by the Chicagoan – and hinted at retirement in her post-fight interview. Now both former champion and defending ruler are ready to lock horns once again, with an early 2021 date and venue to be announced later in the year.
“That’s the fastest retirement I’ve ever seen in boxing history – she’s back!” said McCaskill. “We knew she would be back and that it would only be a matter of time. Usually those types of conversations straight after a fight to direct the audience’s eyes away from the loss. In this sport, so many people have said that they are retired and then come back to have fights.
“I gave her the belts back and just wanted to be the one to do that. There’s never been any bad blood, I could have had my team send the belts back but there was no reason not to give the belts back myself so we went over to her room and she was on the phone to her family, when she got off the phone, she made comments to passing the torch and with her being beaten for the first time I think she expects someone else to carry on her legacy and I have my own legacy to fulfill and that’s where my focus is.
“Tulsa is over with and now I have to get up for the rematch which is part of being professional and part of the gameplay. The only rematch I’ve had in my pro career was with Erica Farias so it’s part of it and you cannot expect anything to motivate, you can’t expect your team to hype you up for a workout, what if they are not there that day? You can’t expect the fans to get you hyped for the fight because what if there are no fans? I am a very mentally strong person, I can control how to get from point a to point b so I will be ready for it.”
“It was the weakest performance in my whole career,” said Brækhus. “I still feel I won, or could have got a draw, and when I thought about that, I knew I could beat her in a rematch. I didn’t want to go out with a career-worst performance either, I definitely owe that to my fans. If this was a fight where I lost to a better fighter, had been in my best shape and had given it my all, then fine, I could retire, but that was not the case here.
“She gave her everything in the ring and I wanted to give her props for that, I knew what I was going through and what I was struggling with, for everyone this was just a tough time. But we need to meet again under different circumstances.
“It’s hard to explain exactly how I was in the ring that night for everyone that has watched my other fights and been following me for a while they saw that something was very wrong. So for me to come back after getting some time in Norway with my friends and family, spending time on my other projects and gaining my strength back and going back to training camp, I don’t need to do anything different to get the win.
“I learnt how good I am! I was in bad shape and I still feel like I beat a great fighter like Jessica, so my self-esteem is very high right now. A win or a draw would be OK but I also understand the emotional aspect of giving Jessica the win because she fought her heart out, if you were a judge and saw this I can understand that.
“We never underestimated Jessica at all, these are unprecedented times and there’s no blueprint here, I didn’t have anyone that I could call and ask ‘what do I do in this situation?’ This had never happened before so I just had to try my luck, there’s no-one to blame it just didn’t work out for us.
“The situation with no crowd didn’t bother me so much, it’s good in a way because it’s completely neutral! But it would be good to have fans for the rematch, it gives us more energy and a little extra, we don’t want three American judges next time that’s for sure! I think if it’s in America I will have to get the KO for sure, after meeting Jessica in the ring, I was never near getting KO’d so I’m definitely not worried about that.”