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Monday, July 15, 2024

Brækhus hits height of her career

It only took Norway’s “First Lady of Boxing,” Cecilia Brækhus, three minutes to knock out her opponent when she could finally box in her homeland over the weekend. She called the quick victory “definitely the high point of my career, absolutely.”

Erna Solberg, set on being Norway's next prime minister, also tried to show some muscle with Norway's boxing star Cecilia Brækhus while out campaigning earlier this week. PHOTO: Høyre
Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s government made it possible for Cecilia Brækhus to compete at home in Norway, by repealing a ban on boxing. Solberg was in the audience Saturday night when Brækhus knocked out her opponent in just over three minutes, at the first professional boxing match in Norway in 35 years. PHOTO: Høyre

Brækhus also celebrated her 35th birthday while preparing last week for long-awaited fight on Saturday. She didn’t touch a birthday cake on Wednesday, though, saying “I have no focus on my birthday, only on the fight.”

That was especially clear when she entered the ring in the Oslo Spektrum arena Saturday night. Exactly three minutes and five seconds after the match began, Brækhus delivered a punch that knocked her opponent, Anne Sophie Mathis of  France, into the ropes. While the crowd roared and Brækhus ran around the ring in jubilation, the countdown began and Mathis lost on a technical knock-out.

As newspaper Aftenposten reported, Brækhus had been the favorite but no one expected her to knock out her opponent so early in the match. Brækhus was surprised herself. “I had never foreseen this happening,” she told reporters after the match.

It was the first professional boxing match in Norway in 35 years, since the sport was banned after 1981. That was lifted when the country’s current conservative government coalition took office in 2013 and Brækhus could finally conduct her sport on home turf. It meant a lot to her, and the roughly 10,000 spectators who turned out for the match provided a lot of support for her.

It began with an a cappella rendition of Norway’s national anthem, with Norwegians in the audience singing out loud while Brækhus stood with her eyes closed and just listened. When it was over, Brækhus unleashed a “come on!” and the arena erupted in cheers. When Brækhus ended up winning just a few minutes later, the crowd broke into Seieren er vår (The victory is ours), and Brækhus thrived in the spotlight back home.

The match was all but sold out, with tickets going for nearly NOK 2,500 a few days before it began. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who shares Bergen as a hometown along with Brækhus, was among prominent guests in the audience who also included Norway’s government  minister in charge of culture and sports, Linda Hofstad Helleland, and Ukrainian boxing star Vladimir Klytsjko, who ranks as among the greatest heavy-weight boxing champions of all time.

“It’s fantastic to be in the country and this fantastic city,” Klytsjko claimed. “It’s the first match with superstar Cecilia Brækhus on Norwegian soil. It’s fantastic that so many boxing fans turned out.” Mathis was far from happy after the match, claiming that she’d never been beaten so badly and complaining about Norwegian fans who booed her and showed a lack of respect.

“I think it went a bit fast,” Solberg told the crowd after Brækhus’ victory, to laughter from the spectators. Brækhus said Sunday that she would “absolutely come back to Norway” for more boxing matches. She’s already challenged Cris Cyborg of Brazil, knowns as “The Monster” who has beaten all opponents for more than 10 years. Berglund



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