McCaskill wins controversial decision, ends Braekhus’ 11-year reign

Efg2GoxWoAAlHWk.0 - McCaskill wins controversial decision, ends Braekhus’ 11-year reignEd Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing

Jessica McCaskill put an end to Cecilia Braekhus’ long reign on top, but not without controversy.

Cecilia Braekhus was looking to break a longstanding record and make history tonight in Tulsa, Okla., but a controversial decision by the judges prevented her from doing just that.

Jessica McCaskill scored a big upset and became the new undisputed welterweight champion of the world via majority decision, on scores of 95-95, 97-94, and 97-93. Bad Left Hook scored the fight 97-93 for Braekhus.

Braekhus (36-1, 9 KO) certainly had her troubles in the first six rounds of the fight with McCaskill (9-2, 3 KO), but judges David Sutherland and Gerald Ritter — who scored the bout for the challenger — apparently preferred the greater output and work rate from the Chicagoan, even as Braekhus seemed to take control of the fight in the final four rounds, distancing herself from the game McCaskill on our card.

At 38, Braekhus is now faced with the first loss of her 13-year pro career, the loss of all four of her welterweight titles, and maybe a decision to hang up the gloves, even. She’s been in the sport a long time, had a lot of fights, and has really done as much as she’s going to do.

For the 35-year-old McCaskill, who came in holding two belts at 140 pounds, this is obviously a huge, career-changing win. A rematch with Braekhus would make sense, but so would a rematch with current undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor, who fights next Saturday in her own rematch with Delfine Persoon. Taylor beat McCaskill by decision in Dec. 2017, and McCaskill has repeatedly stated her desire for a rematch with the Irish star, and certainly has the momentum now.

“This is for the fourth grade homeless Jessica, this is for the little girl who just didn’t care what people thought about her even though she was really weird,” McCaskill said after the fight.

“I just didn’t stop. I didn’t expect her to be as rough as she was, but I was prepared to be as rough as I had to be,” McCaskill said of the tactics that got her win. She also reiterated her desire to rematch Taylor.

Braekhus did hint at a possible retirement.

“I just want to congratulate Jessica. She really wanted it, and I’m proud and happy to pass the torch to her,” Braekhus said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen right now, but I’m so proud to be a part of women’s boxing right now. If this is my last fight, I can leave women’s boxing and say I was a part of this, I was a part of taking it to this level. That will be my biggest achievement of all.”

Braekhus also didn’t take any issue with the decision, to be fair.

“She threw more punches than me and really, really wanted it,” Braekhus said. “I’m not going to say anything more. I want to congratulate her. Take good care of the belts. I know she will do that.”

Asked about her chances of fighting again, Braekhus didn’t commit to anything, but certainly sounded ready to possibly hang up the gloves.

“I’ve done so much, and I miss my friends, my family. You know, women’s boxing is just in an amazing place right now, so they’ll be fine without me.”

Israil Madrimov UD-12 Eric Walker

EfgpfilWkAEC9 q - McCaskill wins controversial decision, ends Braekhus’ 11-year reignEd Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing

For good and bad reasons, this was a fascinating fight.

Two things to make very clear:

  • Eric Walker fought very well and gave Madrimov, a legitimate rising contender, a hell of a lot of problems through eight rounds.
  • Madrimov knocked Walker out in the ninth and referee Gary Ritter totally blew the call.

Instead of just explaining it, here’s the footage:

Madrimov (6-0, 5 KO) did nudge Walker (20-3, 9 KO) with a shoulder, but Walker was already halfway down to the canvas on a clean left hook. It’s not like Walker was going to Matrix lurch himself back to an upright position. Gary Ritter simply and completely blew this call, and then Walker got five minutes to recover, which also gave Madrimov five minutes to freshen up, as he’d been wilting some in the fight in the seventh and eighth rounds.

Madrimov was docked a point in the 12th round for a low blow, but dropped Walker moments later. In the end, the scores were 116-111, 116-110, and 116-110 for Madrimov, with BLH scoring it 115-111 in his favor.

In the end, the right guy did win — Walker didn’t win a round after the fight resumed, and you have to give him credit for resuming. The fight was very close and would have gone to the cards at that point if he didn’t or couldn’t.

“The fight was tougher than I expected, I’ll be honest. I think there was a knockout in the [ninth] round. That punch was clean, but unfortunately didn’t count. I knew exactly what kind of fighter he was, that he was very experienced and a tough opponent. But we took this fight with probably too short notice. But I needed this fight. That’s the first time ever for me going the 12-round distance.

“I felt great at moments. I was trying too hard to please the fans. If I would have just boxed, it would have been much easier.”

It will definitely be interesting to see what future, higher-level opponents might take from the tape on Madrimov in this fight. He’s got the good, he’s really talented, but nobody is unbeatable, and we learned a lot more about Israil Madrimov tonight than in his previous five fights combined.

Nikita Ababiy UD-6 Jarvis Williams

EfgdGMsWAAEdBpo - McCaskill wins controversial decision, ends Braekhus’ 11-year reignEd Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing

Ababiy is a 21-year-old middleweight prospect from Brooklyn, and “White Chocolate” got some good work here from Jarvis Williams, a 31-year-old switch-hitter from St. Louis who came to fight, landed his share of shots, and made this competitive pretty much the entire way.

That said, Ababiy (9-0, 6 KO) got and deserved scores of 58-56, 59-55, and 59-55, with BLH also having it 59-55 for the youngster. But this was a good, valuable fight for Ababiy to learn from going forward, and you could tell post-fight that he’d gained a new measure of respect for Williams (8-3-1, 5 KO).

“He was definitely tough. The last time I’d been in the ring was, like, eight months ago, so I had a little bit of rust, and I was about 20 pounds over three weeks ago,” Ababiy said post-fight. “But I give him all the credit, he was a tough opponent. I was hitting him with good shots and he wasn’t falling over, he’s a good veteran.”

Asked about a discussed moved down to 154 going forward, Ababiy said, “I’m still growing, I’m still young. I feel like I still don’t have my man power, but 154, yeah, in the future for a world title.”

Shakhram Giyasov KO-3 Wiston Campos

EfgVEfOXoAAST42 - McCaskill wins controversial decision, ends Braekhus’ 11-year reignEd Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing

Giyasov (10-0, 8 KO) is another Uzbek fighter, a 27-year-old working his way up at 140 pounds. Campos came in on about a week’s notice for this fight, we’d seen him before in losing efforts against Joshes Taylor and Kelly, and he was no match for Giyasov, who discouraged Campos (31-8-6, 19 KO) pretty quickly, then finished him off with a hard body shot right at the end of the third round. Campos was down, and he did not answer the count of 10, and then he was down a while longer. Hell of a knockout.

Giyasov will look to get into the title mix sooner than later probably. He’s not old but he’s not super young or anything, and he’s got a developed skill set that could make him dangerous very soon at 140.

“I felt his liver on my knuckles, and I didn’t expect him to get up,” Giyasov said through a trainer. “With the expression on his face, I could see he wasn’t going to get up. I need all the belts in the division. Whoever has the belts, I’m coming for you.”

Asked how soon he wants to go after a belt, Giyasov said, “I’m always ready. Whenever my management and promoter tell me I have to fight for the title, I’ll be ready. I’m like a soldier, give me an order and I’ll do it.”

For the record, there are two titleholders at 140, and both are with Top Rank. Josh Taylor has the WBA and IBF titles, while Jose Ramirez has the WBC and WBO. Top Rank do want to put them together for an undisputed title fighter after they make mandatory defenses soon, so Giyasov could wait a bit longer for a chance, but it’s also worth saying that Top Rank and Matchroom do work together fine on fights when it’s time to make something.

Raymond Ford UD-6 Eric Manriquez

EfgNyPRWsAIaRzF - McCaskill wins controversial decision, ends Braekhus’ 11-year reignEd Mulholland/Matchroom

Thanks to his signing with Matchroom out of the amateurs, we’ve been able to see New Jersey featherweight Ford (6-0, 2 KO) in every pro fight he’s had. He’s an interesting if not stunning prospect, has some obvious skills but there are also question marks, his power being the biggest one.

He did drop Manriquez (7-11-1, 3 KO) in the third round with a quick right hook over a lazy jab, but Manriquez recovered OK and finished the fight. Still, Ford won 59-54, 60-53, and 60-53. BLH also had it 60-53. Ford had his way in there for the most part, and Manriquez is definitely a somewhat awkward guy who knows how to survive in a fight.

“It feels good to be back. It took me a bit to warm up, I hadn’t thought in eight months,” Ford said after the fight. “It wasn’t my best performance. The time off, me getting used to being back in the ring with eight ounce gloves, it took a while for me to warm up. In the sixth round I started picking it up. I live and I learn.”

Ford, 21, believes if the fight had been an eight-rounder he would have gotten the stoppage.

“He was done, he was broken. I touched his body a few times, he was breathing hard, he wasn’t punching back,” he said. “I was still being cautious because I was winning the fight, and I didn’t want to give it up by getting caught with a dumb shot.”

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