Women head­line HBO’s last show

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Greg Beacham Greg Beacham is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

CAR­SON, Los An­ge­les County — Al­though HBO has de­cided to put box­ing in its past, the net­work is leav­ing the sport by show­cas­ing a pos­si­ble vi­sion of its fu­ture.

Ce­cilia Braekhus was in the first women’s box­ing match on HBO, and the dom­i­nant Nor­we­gian cham­pion will be in the main event of HBO’s fi­nal box­ing show Satur­day night (7:20 p.m.) when she de­fends her wel­ter­weight ti­tles against Alek­san­dra Magdziak Lopes.

On the un­der­card, two-time Olympic gold medal­ist Cla­ressa Shields de­fends her mid­dleweight belts against Femke Her­mans.

Any dis­cus­sion of the world’s top fe­male fighters must in­clude Braekhus (34-0, nine KOs) and Shields (7-0, two KOs). With women’s box­ing on a dis­tinct rise over the past two years, HBO is closing out its 45-year his­tory as a driv­ing force in box­ing with a show­case for two fighters atop the sport’s next wave.

“It’s an honor to be in this po­si­tion right now,” Braekhus said. “It’s truly a val­i­da­tion for the great year it’s been for women’s box­ing all over the world, and how strong the fu­ture is. We have come a long way in the sport, and I be­lieve there are even more op­por­tu­ni­ties to come our way.”

Su­per fly­weight Juan Fran­cisco Estrada also fights Vic­tor Men­dez in a matchup of child­hood ac­quain­tances from Sonora, Mex­ico, but this show is be­ing car­ried by women — in­clud­ing Aus­tralian atom­weight champ Louisa Haw­ton, who fights Lor­raine Vil­lalo­bos on the un­der­card at Stub Hub Cen­ter.

The mere idea of an HBO box­ing show dom­i­nated by women’s cham­pi­ons would have been im­prob­a­ble just two years ago. Af­ter Shields’ dom­i­nant run to a sec­ond straight gold medal at the Rio Olympics, U.S. box­ing pur­vey­ors fi­nally be­gan to grasp the fact that women’s box­ing was a fer­tile area for growth.

The event should be bit­ter­sweet for many box­ing fans ac­cus­tomed to HBO’s pres­ence in the sport. Long­time HBO com­men­ta­tor Jim Lam­p­ley will sign off from the net­work for which he has worked since 1988 along with Max Keller­man and Roy Jones Jr.

But for one last night, HBO will show­case ris­ing tal­ent on its dis­tinct plat­form.

/ As­so­ci­ated Press

Nor­way’s Ce­cilia Braekhus (left) and Cla­ressa Shields (right) will each de­fend ti­tles on HBO’s last box­ing show Satur­day.

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