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Jessica McCaskill Topples Cecilia Braekhus’ Welterweight Reign

David A. Avila

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Chicago’s Jessica “Caskilla” McCaskill mauled her way to a major decision victory over undefeated welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus and delivered one of the biggest upsets in the history of women’s boxing on Saturday.

The 5 to 1 underdog came through once again.

“I’m the one that likes to upset the party,” said McCaskill.

McCaskill (9-2, 3 KOs) erupted with a high-volume offense to snap Braekhus (36-1, 9 KOs) undefeated streak and her attempt to break Joe Louis’s record 25 consecutive world title defenses. Only those watching DAZN saw McCaskill win the IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC welterweight titles in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

From the opening bell McCaskill bored into the taller Braekhus with her head down winging blows from different angles, much like she did when she took the super lightweight titles away from Erica Farias and Anahi Sanchez in previous years.

Braekhus started slowly and attempted to control the action by clinching whenever the Chicago fighter got close. But she couldn’t stop the free hand and McCaskill scored repeatedly.

“It’s just throwing while she’s holding and keep the feet moving and out-punching her. I threw 230 more punches than she did, that tells you that I really wanted to win,” McCaskill said.

After 36 fights in her 13 years of fighting, Braekhus did not seem overly concerned and by the third round found the range for her jabs and combinations. Many landed perfectly but McCaskill continued forward.

In previous battles Braekhus had found success using the jab and a lethal right cross. But whenever she loaded up McCaskill slipped under. And though Braekhus was able to fire off combinations, nothing seemed to slow down the super lightweight champion who moved up in weight to challenge her.

McCaskill had a good round in the sixth with clear shots from long range that snapped the head of Braekhus. But the welterweight champion showed no sign of wilting and continued to fire counters.

“I just didn’t stop. I didn’t expect her to be as rough as she was, but I just didn’t stop,” said McCaskill. “I was as rough as I needed to be.”

Braekhus seemed to regain her footing for the next several rounds as both exchanged big blows and neither refused to give ground. The Norwegian fighter was able to unload sizzling three- and four-punch combinations that were taught to her by her trainer Abel Sanchez in Big Bear.

Still, McCaskill was still standing and each round was close.

In the final round McCaskill seemed to be able to catch another gear and the momentum shifted back to her direction. It was obvious that she had plenty of energy left and she used it in the final round by landing several combinations. Braekhus countered and connected too.

After 10 back-and-forth rounds, one judge saw it 95-95 even, while two others scored it 97-94 and 97-93 for McCaskill who becomes the undisputed welterweight champion of the world.

“I was thinking it takes a lot to take it away from a champion and I was thinking and new and new,” said McCaskill.

The win by McCaskill probably upsets the plans of many who expected a showdown between Braekhus and Katie Taylor who fights Delfine Persoon in a rematch next week. Maybe it’s a harbinger of things to come.

McCaskill said she hopes Taylor wins.

“I want to be the one that beats her,” said McCaskill who now holds titles in two weight divisions.

Braekhus was gracious in defeat.

“I just want to congratulate Jessica, she really wanted it. I’m proud and happy to pass the torch to her,” said Braekhus. “I spent a lifetime collecting those belts. Just take good care of them.”

Other Bouts

Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5 KOs) defeated Eric Walker (20-3) by unanimous decision after 12 rounds and two knockdowns in a super welterweight bout. But it could have ended earlier if not for a knockdown and shove by the fighter from Uzbekistan. Though Walker could not get up after the knockdown, referee Gary Ritter ruled that the shove was illegal and gave the downed fighter time to recover. Another knockdown was scored in the 12th and final round and Madrimov won by unanimous decision to win the WBA elimination fight.

A super lightweight fight saw Shakhram Giyasov (10-0) won by knockout over Winston Campos (31-8-6) at 3:00 of the third round.

Nikita Ababiy (9-0) defeated Jarvis Williams (8-3-1) by decision in a middleweight match.

Raymond Ford (6-0) beat Eric Manriquez (7-11-1) by decision after six rounds in a featherweight bout.

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Tyson Fury Roared and Deontay Wilder Remained Silent at their L.A. Presser

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TSS special correspondent LAUREN RODRIGUEZ was on the scene for the Top Rank Promotions press conference in downtown Los Angeles on June 15 at which the third meeting between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was formally announced. Here is her report.

The third fight between Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury (30-1, 21 KOs.) and Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) will go down July 24th in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena. This continued mash-up between the two comes 16 months since their last bout. The first fight, in December 2018, ended in a draw and their second in February 2020, ended in a victory for Fury in the 7th round.

Fury carried the press conference while Wilder remained largely muted.

The WBC champion Fury remains undefeated, a status he is adamant in maintaining. The heavyweight boasted a white suit patterned with images of himself in a crown and wearing the belt he won off Wilder.

“This is a reminder of what happened to him last time, this is a remembrance suit of Deontay Wilder’s ass-kicking.”

The “Gypsy King,” an entertainer, left little words unsaid as he berated his silent opponent.

“It shows how weak a mental person is, it shows the emotional effect the last fight had on his life… I was worried about him after the defeat I gave him,” said Fury.

An Alabama native, Wilder has a 93% knockout rate, the highest rate for any heavyweight.

Wilder wanted no part in other questions from Q/A moderator Christina Poncher, or the media, as he remained silent with headphones and sunglasses to shield him from questions.

Wilder’s trainer, longtime friend and former heavyweight contender Malik Scott answered very few questions for the fighter as tensions rose.

“He’s very stubborn, like most legends and gifted people they have their things with them. As long as he gives me what I want in the gym, I don’t care about the stubbornness cause we’re going to get this done,” said Scott.

If it’s one thing Fury and team all agree on, it’s that history will repeat itself in this third fight come July.

When it comes to what we can expect this time, Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward stated, “All I have to say is, over time, he [Fury] now has power to knock a man out with one punch. His boxing IQ is one-punch knockout power.”

In Gypsy King fashion, we will have an entertaining show come next month. Fury intends on moving his weight all the way to 300, so he can give Wilder a bigger knockout in the ring and fans a bigger show.

“This time I’m hoping to take him out early, one, two, three rounds max.”

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Tokyo-Bound Aussie Heavyweight Justis Huni Stops Rugged Paul Gallen in the 10th

Arne K. Lang

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Had Justis Huni fought Paul Gallen two months ago, the match would have been trashed as little more than exhibition. During his record-tying 19 years in rugby, Gallen evolved into one of Australia’s most well-known sporting personalities. When Gallen took up boxing in 2014, it was thought that he did it as a lark; as a way of cashing in on his name recognition. And his first 11 opponents were a motley bunch of former rugby players, MMA fighters, 40-somethings, and boxing novices.

Then came the night of April 21, 2021. In a shocker, Gallen demolished former WBA heavyweight titlist Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne in less than two minutes. “Gallen transformed from a rugby league player to a bona fide prize fighter before our very eyes,” said prominent Australian sports journalist Andrew McMurtry.

That knocked Lucas Browne out of a lucrative match with Justis Huni and vaulted Paul Gallen, who turns 40 in August, to the head of the queue. They met Wednesday night (Australia time) at a convention center in Sydney and Huni, five-and-a-half inches taller, 15 pounds heavier, and the younger man by nearly 18 years, saddled Gallen (11-1-1) with his first defeat.

Heading into the fight, Gallen conceded that the heavily favored Huni was faster. However, he thought that he could wear the bigger man down. “If I get through those first four to five rounds, I’ll be in his face the whole time and I think I can knock him out late,” he said.

It proved to be the other way around. Huni dominated the fight and when he knocked Gallen down in the 10th with a big right hook, the referee stepped in and stopped it. But Gallen, who had a bum shoulder from his rugby days and thought that he fought most of the fight with a broken rib, showed tremendous heart.

It was the fifth professional fight for Huni (5-0, 4 KOs) who won the Australian heavyweight title in his pro debut. Of Dutch, Swedish, Samoan, and Tongan heritage, he quit school at age 15 to give boxing his full attention and will represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics which start next month.

Brisbane-born Huni is already being talked-about as the best-ever Australian-born heavyweight. The rap against him is a lack of one-punch knockout power which won’t be a detriment in Tokyo.

In undercard bouts of note, Brisbane middleweight Isaac Hardman (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a 4th-round stoppage of Emmanuel Carlos (12-2) and middleweight Andrei Mikhailovich, a Russian residing in Auckland, New Zealand, advanced to 16-0 (9) with a second-round stoppage of previously undefeated Alex Hanan (13-1).

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Three Pros are Joining the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, Ruffling Some Feathers

Arne K. Lang

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USA Boxing, the agency that controls amateur boxing in the United States, has a rule that prohibits professional boxers from competing in their tournaments. That rule remains in effect, but yet three pro boxers – middleweight Troy Isley, lightweight Keyshawn Davis, and featherweight Duke Ragan – will suit up for the United States in the forthcoming Tokyo Games. The announcement, which fell largely under the radar, came on June 7.

USA Boxing is subservient to AIBA, the sport’s international governing body, and to the International Olympic Committee. The Boxing Task Force of the IOC changed the rules to allow Isley, Davis and Ragan to compete and the honchos at USA Boxing are none too happy about it.

Blame the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the postponement and ultimately the cancellation of several qualifying tournaments including the “Americas” tournament in Buenos Aires at which boxers from 42 national federations – including the United States — would be competing for the Olympic slots allocated to this region. A total of 286 boxers from around the world will compete in Tokyo in the eight men’s and five women’s weight divisions with the coveted slots dispersed among four Continental Regional Divisions.

With no tournament, the Task Force redesigned the quota allocation process using world rankings to determine the national squads. The rankings were formulated using a point system from events held between January 2017 and October 2019.

The re-jiggering opened the door for Isley, Davis, and Ragan to rejoin the team. Isley and Davis had their first pro fight in February of this year. Ragan turned pro in August of 2020.

Team USA protested that the BTF allocation was unfair to the boxers that finished first in the final domestic qualifying tournament (December 2019 in Lake Charles, Louisiana), but their claim was denied. Isley and Ragan were knocked out of that tournament before reaching the finals; Davis finished first when his opponent in the finals took ill and had to pull out, but he was subsequently booted off the team, reputedly for missing too many practices which he attributed to a family health emergency. That unfrocking has been rescinded.

Before he left the team, Keyshawn Davis was considered the U.S. boxer with the best chance of winning a gold medal in Tokyo. A southpaw, he earned his spurs at the Alexandria Boxing Club in North Alexandria, Virginia, which was also the home gym of Troy Isley who lived right down the street.

The common thread between all three of the returnees is Kay Koroma who coached Davis and Isley at the Alexandria club where he was the top lieutenant to the club’s patriarch Dennis Porter and at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where he served as an assistant to Billy Walsh. Duke Ragan, who hails from Cincinnati, is Koroma’s nephew.

Koroma came to the fore in 2016 when he earned raves for his work with Olympians Claressa Shields. Shakur Stevenson, Charles Conwell and others. But Koroma, one of the hottest young trainers in the sport, won’t be available to work with the 2020/21 team before it heads off to Tokyo. “My plate is too full,” he told The Sweet Science.

Koroma, like many of his former pupils, turned pro himself. He continues to work with Shakur Stevenson, whom he has known since Shakur was 13 years old, he assists veteran coach Al Mitchell with Mikaela Mayer and he recently replaced Ronnie Shields as the head trainer of rising heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba.

Isley, Davis, and Ragan comprise three-fifths of the men’s Olympic team. Super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr and welterweight Delante “Tiger” Johnson flesh out the quintet.

USA Boxing released a letter to its membership expressing frustration over the decision of the IOC Task Force which killed the dreams of seven boxers who hoped to snare an Olympic berth at the Buenos Aires tournament or, barring that, the Last Chance tournament in Paris which was also a casualty of the pandemic. The letter can be read at the USA Boxing web site.

The seven boxers who were fenced out are:

Darius Fulgham (heavyweight, Houston, TX)

Rahim Gonzalez (light heavyweight, Las Vegas, NV)

Joseph Hicks (middleweight, Lansing, MI)

Charlie Sheehy (lightweight, Brisbane, CA)

Bruce Carrington (featherweight, Brooklyn, NY)

Anthony Herrera (flyweight, East Los Angeles, CA)

and

women’s flyweight Andrea Medina (San Diego, CA).

USA Boxing insists there are no plans to allow professionals to compete for the United States in the 2024 Olympiad and beyond. This is a one-shot exception forced by a unique circumstance. But, needless to say, when it comes to amateur boxing, nothing is etched in stone.

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