By Keith Idec
CARSON, California – Johnathon Banks was brutally honest.
If Cecilia Braekhus were to have a chance to defeat Claressa Shields, her trainer thinks she’d have to box better than she did on May 5th. Braekhus beat Kali Reis in their 10-round, 147-pound title fight at StubHub Center, but not before Reis dropped her in the seventh round and wobbled her again in the eighth.
The 36-year-old Braekhus remains unbeaten, but in Shields she’d encounter a younger, stronger opponent with the power and skills to hand Braekhus her first defeat. Shields has said she’ll move all the way down to 154 pounds for an opportunity to battle Braekhus, who was widely viewed as the best women’s boxer in the sport prior to that contest.
Norway’s Braekhus (33-0, 9 KOs) would have to move up from the welterweight limit of 147 pounds for a showdown with Shields (5-0, 2 KOs). The 23-year-old Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Flint, Michigan, has won two world titles at super middleweight, but has moved down to middleweight for her next fight.
An immediate rematch with Reis (13-7-1, 4 KOs), of Providence, Rhode Island, and a fight against Las Vegas’ Layla McCarter (41-13-5, 11 KOs) also are among Braekhus’ options for later this year.
“I think Cecilia showed little sparks about what she can do, as far as moving and boxing,” Banks said following her unanimous-decision victory over Reis. “And I think that’s what the sport is all about. When she was moving, when she was boxing, when she was using her jab, in my opinion, she was doing a really good job. You know, so I think when she got caught, when she tried to trade with her, when she got caught, the knockdown, I don’t think it took away any of the previous rounds that Cecilia was winning.
“I think with Claressa, that’s a different animal, though. You can’t even compare these two fighters [Shields and Reis] in the same category, because, you know, you’ve got a two-time gold medalist against someone who don’t have a gold medal. But yet, at the same time, I’m not trying to take away nothing from Reis because she’s got a really, really good championship spirit and championship heart. But I just think those are two different level [of] fighters. And we would, Cecilia definitely would have to bring nothing less than her ‘A’ game every single second of every round to beat Claressa Shields.”
Before she can consider pursuing the Braekhus bout, Shields needs to get past Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels on June 22 in Detroit. Gabriels (18-1-1, 11 KOs) has moved up from the super welterweight limit of 154 pounds to fight Shields for the vacant IBF and WBA middleweight championships.
If Shields defeats Gabriels, she also could challenge WBC/WBO middleweight champ Christina Hammer (22-0, 10 KOs) in her following fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.