The last-ever HBO box­ing broad­cast sees Braekhus re­main undis­puted

Box­ing on HBO zzles out, rather than nish­ing with a our­ish

Boxing News - - Contents - Kieran Mul­vaney

“THIS is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with a whim­per.”

It’s safe to as­sume that when T.S. Eliot wrote those words in 1925, he was not an­tic­i­pat­ing the demise of pro­fes­sional pugilism on a pre­mium cable net­work in the United States; none­the­less, the line could hardly have proven a more pre­scient epi­taph for the Net­work of Cham­pi­ons. Af­ter 45 years and 1,119 fights, HBO broad­cast its fi­nal card from the Stubhub Cen­ter on a cold night in front of a crowd that could gen­er­ously be de­scribed as sparse. None of which is to di­min­ish the ef­forts of the six box­ers who put forth im­mense ef­fort on this fi­nal show; but their per­for­mances un­doubt­edly played sec­ond fid­dle to the

sense of fi­nal­ity that per­vaded the arena.

In the main event on this 360 pro­mo­tion, Ce­cilia Braekhus se­cured the hon­our of be­com­ing the very last fighter ever to win a bout on the net­work formerly known as the Heart and Soul of Box­ing, as she out­pointed an ex­tremely game and re­silient Aleksandra

Magdziak-lopes over 10 one-sided rounds. Undis­puted world wel­ter­weight ti­tlist Braekhus, widely re­garded as the best fe­male boxer in the world, pound for pound, first learned to fight when she shim­mied furtively down a drain­pipe out­side her house at the age of 14 to sneak to a nearby MMA gym. Magdzi­ak­lopes, in con­trast, is a nat­u­ral ath­lete who took up box­ing in her 20s to stay in shape. That dif­fer­ence in back­grounds was ev­i­dent from the off, as Braekhus, from Bergen, Nor­way, moved and slipped and fired com­bi­na­tions from a re­laxed crouch, while Magdziak-lopes stood tall and pushed her right hand be­hind a lengthy jab.

By the fourth round, the com­par­a­tive ten­sion with which Magdziak-lopes car­ried her­self be­gan to man­i­fest it­self as she looked tired and anx­ious in the face of Braekhus’ smooth of­fen­sive out­put. How­ever, she re­mained res­o­lute and by the ninth round had found some­thing of a sec­ond wind. Braekhus closed the show strongly in the 10th, how­ever, and in the end judges Jerry Cantu and Ale­jan­dro Rochin scored the bout 10090, while Ed­ward Her­nan­dez Snr found one round for Magdziak-lopes, orig­i­nally from Gil­wice, Poland but now liv­ing in Marsh­field, Mas­sachusetts, on a 99-91 card. Ref­eree was Jack Reiss.

Mex­ico’s Juan Fran­cisco Estrada stepped in as a late re­place­ment for for­mer ri­val Ro­man Gon­za­lez and steadily picked apart fel­low Her­mosillo res­i­dent Vic­tor Mendez un­til the Mendez cor­ner kept their man on his stool at the end of seven rounds (set for 10).

It was a mas­ter­ful dis­play by ex-uni­fied world fly­weight champ Estrada, who re­treated enough to en­cour­age Mendez to come to­ward him and open up, but then stepped in­side his op­po­nent’s longer punches to launch com­bi­na­tions to the head and body that slowly wore him down. By the fifth, Mendez was look­ing weary and fo­cus­ing on sur­vival; in the sixth, a short right hand be­hind a left hook put Mendez into a re­treat and kept him there for the best part of three min­utes. Mendez made one last ef­fort to fight on even terms in the sev­enth, but to no avail, as his cor­ner sig­nalled to ref­eree Thomas Tay­lor that enough was enough.

Flint, Michi­gan’s two-weight world ruler Cla­ressa Shields dom­i­nated game Bel­gian Femke Her­mans – the WBO su­per-mid­dle boss – to re­tain her WBC, WBA and IBF mid­dleweight straps. Shields’ punches were faster and sharper and landed in com­bi­na­tion with far greater au­thor­ity than any­thing Her­mans, from Lon­derzeel, was able to of­fer in re­turn, and her left hook threat­ened to do dam­age through­out. One hook, which landed at the end of a flurry in the 10th, spun Her­mans’ head around and seem­ingly had her ready to go, only for time to ex­pire just as the Amer­i­can wound up for a con­clu­sive on­slaught. Judges Rudy Bar­ra­gan, Carla Caiz and Mr Her­nan­dez Snr all scored the con­test 100-90. The ref­eree, for the fi­nal time in a lengthy and es­teemed ca­reer, was Lou Moret.

The fight­ers’ ca­reers move on. The fu­ne­real at­mos­phere, how­ever, re­flected the re­al­ity that for the net­work that broad­cast the fights, and so many clas­sics over nearly half a cen­tury, the fi­nal chap­ter has been writ­ten.

THE VER­DICT The net­work that was once the flag­ship of US box­ing ex­its with an un­der­whelm­ing farewell.

Photo: ED MULHOLLAND/HBO

FI­NAL PUNCHES: Braekhus spears Magdziak-lopes on the way to be­com­ing the last ghter to win on HBO

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