By Francisco Salazar
Cecilia Braekhus may be 35 years of age, but she is nowhere near slowing down.
Why would she?
Not only is Braekhus at the top of the welterweight division, she is the consensus top female fighter in boxing today.
Braekhus may be considered the top fighter today, but that means there are more fighters gunning for her, eager to topple Braekhus from the perpetual throne of women's boxing.
Braekhus faces another challenger tonight, when she squares off against Erica Farias in a 10 round bout at the Bergenhus Festning in her hometown of Bergen, Norway.
Farias (24-1, with 10 KOs) has an impressive record and has won her last five bouts, but Braekhus is the prohibitive favorite going into tonight's fight.
Bordering rock-star status in Norway, Braekhus is extremely popular, especially where hockey remains the top sport in the country. She has pushed for boxing to return to Norway, where there was a ban on the sport for many decades.
Her last two fights have occurred in Norway, after many fights in Germany and Denmark.
On October 1, coinciding with the first fight card in Norway in many years, Braekhus stopped Anne Sophie Mathis in the second round. In her last bout on Feb. 24, Braekhus won a one-sided 10 round decision over Klara Svensson.
An sell-out crowd of 15,000 is expected tonight to watch Braehkus and Farias square off.
"I know Farias is coming for all my belts and I'm up to the challenge," said Braekhus earlier this week. "This is my true homecoming as I've lived in Bergen since the age of two and we're expecting a huge crowd of close to 15,000 fans. No way I won't be ready."
"This is the real homecoming. That is also the reason why I chose the absolutely toughest opponent out there. This is the only fight this event deserves. Eric is the toughest opponent of my career, but I'm ready for Friday night to defend my titles."
Farias, who hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is considered in the top five of best junior welterweights in the world.
Despite Farias moving up in weight, Braekhus is not overlooking her opponent.
"Erica is the toughest opponent of my career. She's moving up from the junior welterweight division where she's the WBC champion and one of the best fighters in the division."
Despite scoring only eight knockouts amongst her 30 victories, Braekhus has worked with trainer Johnathon Banks, who also trains Wladimir Klitschko.
During the year and a half she has worked with Banks, she is more confident in sitting down on her punches.
"This training camp has been terrific with Johnathon. This is our fourth fight together and I'm continuing to learn a great deal from him. In my last three fights, I've become much more of an aggressive fighter and he's truly brought that out in me, more of an American and Detroit (Michigan) style of fighting."
With family and friends in attendance, some wonder whether Braekhus may get distracted with fighting at home. But Braekhus feeds off of the crowd and is confident they will carry to her to another victory.
"It means a great deal to me to fight here on Friday night."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing