The last-ever HBO boxing broadcast sees Braekhus remain undisputed
Boxing on HBO zzles out, rather than nishing with a ourish
“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.
FINAL PUNCHES: Braekhus spears Magdziak-lopes on the way to becoming the last ghter to win on HBO