Jessica McCaskill relishing 'unreal' opportunity to make history in Abu Dhabi

American will attempt to become double-undisputed world champion in fight against Britain's Chantelle Cameron at Etihad Arena on Saturday

Undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill on her way to retaining her titles with a seventh-round TKO victory over Kandi Wyatt at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on December 4, 2021. Getty
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Initially, it took a while for Jessica McCaskill to believe the opportunity that had been presented.

That, on November 5 at Etihad Arena, the undisputed welterweight champion would form a significant part of the inaugural Champion Series event in Abu Dhabi, where she'd face Chantelle Cameron to become the undisputed No 1 at super-lightweight, too.

Not only was big-time boxing launching in the capital – the WBA light-heavyweight title fight between Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto Ramirez headlines – but it included the most high-prolife women’s bout to be held in the region. Understandably, it took a while to sink in.

“It’s pretty massive,” McCaskill smiles as she talks to The National from her Saadiyat Island hotel. “When the conversation first started about this fight happening, you don’t set yourself up for failure, so you’re like, ‘OK it sounds cool, but is it really going to happen?’

“It’s just seems really unreal. You just have to wait until you get your airplane ticket and then it’s good to go. And then everything just started going like clockwork and we’re here.”

Air ticket issued, and redeemed a full month ago, McCaskill has been based since in the UAE as she prepares for another shot at history.

Jessica McCaskill. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The American, already a former WBA and WBC super-lightweight belt-holder, became undisputed world welterweight champion two years ago, when she defeated one of the biggest stars in women’s boxing in Cecilia Braekhus. McCaskill, 38, has since made three defences of the four major titles – the most recent two wins by stoppage.

Now 12-2 as a professional, the Chicago-born athlete is ranked by ESPN as the No 4 pound-for-pound women’s boxer on the planet.

“I’m always one to look for different historic opportunities,” McCaskill says. “Like we were the first to fight in Wintrust Arena back home in Chicago, first to headline in different places. It’s my path: to be a part of those big historic moments.

“I’m in an area right now where I have the opportunity to put my thumb print on history.”

Saturday offers that, and plenty of it. Cameron, undefeated in all 16 bouts as a pro, resides as the WBC and IBF super-lightweight champion, with the vacant WBA and WBO straps also on the line.

Although there are currently four undisputed world champions in women’s boxing – McCaskill at welterweight, Franchon Crews-Dezurn at super-middleweight, Claressa Shields at middleweight, Katie Taylor at lightweight – Shields is the only boxer in history, female or male, to hold all four of the sport's main titles in two weight classes simultaneously.

Chantelle Cameron with trainer Jamie Moore at VIP Boxing Gym in Manchester, England, ahead of her fight with Jessica McCaskill in Abu Dhabi. Getty

Matching that feat adds more fuel to McCaskill’s fire.

“That also felt very unreal,” she says. “You wait until BoxRec lists out all the belts to make sure … ‘this is on paper, somebody screenshot this so we have record and proof'. Being able to become double-undisputed is amazing.

“And now I have to try and get another one; Claressa has set the bar so high. People like to play favourites when it comes to their rankings or pound-for-pound, but you can’t deny being a two-time undisputed world champion.”

McCaskill recognises, rightly although sometimes she does not get the credit, that she sits among the best in the world.

“I definitely feel like I’ve earned my spot," she says. "I’ve taken out people who were undefeated and undisputed and that’s not an easy task. Being able to do that makes me special.”

Defeating Cameron would file under "special", as well. There is history there: according to McCaskill, her and trainer Rick Ramos offered Cameron a fight before the former landed the WBC super-lightweight belt in 2018, but the latter turned it down.

Then, when McCaskill became champion and a draw, Cameron returned to ask for the matchup. But McCaskill moved instead for the WBA title before jumping up to 147 lbs. In her mind, she was already on the road to undisputed.

Dmitry Bivol v Gilberto Ramirez fight launch - in pictures

“She wasn’t on my radar, she wasn’t in the path of what we were trying to accomplish,” McCaskill says. “And then it’s just come full circle. She’s made a name for herself after I vacated the WBC at 140 [lbs], she got that belt. So now I’m like, ‘OK it’s time for me to go back and get it’.”

Not only get it, McCaskill says, but make a statement. For her, her legacy, Ramos and the team in training that she says have made all possible.

“It’s very important because sometimes making those statements, you just need to shut everybody up a little bit,” McCaskill laughs. “The statement is the stoppage and that’s what they'll see."

She promises fireworks on Saturday, since "usually all female fights are bangers". But also a showcase of her pace, pressure and, ultimately, her power.

“It doesn’t go 10 rounds," McCaskill says, smiling one last time. "It doesn’t make it out of the 10 rounds. We got a flight to catch the next morning – got to go back to Chicago.”

Updated: November 03, 2022, 5:36 AM
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