LAS VEGAS – Jessica McCaskill will never be confused for a fighter who gives up on her goals in the sport. There was a brief point, however, where she was resigned to the fact that a second fight in 2021 just wasn’t going to happen.
The two-division champ and reigning undisputed welterweight queen was due to face Argentina’s Victoria Bustos in what would have marked her seventh straight fight versus a current or former champion. Those plans fell through late in the promotion when it was learned that Bustos (22-6, 0KOs) was unable to secure a travel visa necessary to enter the U.S. in time for Saturday’s show live on DAZN from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
A sigh of relief came when the services of Calgary’s Kandi Wyatt (10-3, 3KOs) were secured in time to proceed with the fight, McCaskill’s first since her repeat win over Cecilia Braekhus this past March in Dallas.
“The fact that we got somebody was the biggest relief,” McCaskill told BoxingScene.com. “At some point you’re just like, ‘Forget it, let me enjoy Christmas and then just figure out something early next year.’ But we’ve been trying to get in there since April, working on stuff in the gym after that second fight with Cecilia. Basically, this is our opportunity to show it off.”
The fight is the first under a new long-term deal reached with Matchroom Boxing which was announced a few weeks ago along with McCaskill’s placement on Saturday’s show. The two-division champion and pound-for-pound entrant from Chicago Is featured in one of two major title fights on the card, headlined by WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney (26-0, 15KOs) who faces former junior lightweight titlist Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz (32-1-1, 15KOs).
Putting in the work in the gym is second nature to McCaskill (10-2, 3KOs), a consummate workhorse who is always ready to fight on a moment’s notice. Her adaptability will serve well on Saturday, as Wyatt poses a different look than would have been provided by Bustos. Getting the chance to fight once more in the year was key, justifying the months of work behind the scenes just to reach this point.
McCaskill and trainer/manager Rick Ramos were signed with Warriors Promotions at the time of their initial deal with Matchroom, which saw her appear on DAZN since the platform’s initial U.S. launch in October 2018. The first show took place in her hometown, where she outpointed Erica Farias to win the WBC junior welterweight title at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. Three more fights followed—a win over Anahi Sanchez to unfiy the WBC/WBA 140-pound titles, a repeat win over Farias back in Chicago and then the historic victory over Braekhus, who was the unbeaten welterweight champ and pound-for-pound queen at the time of their first fight last August in Tulsa.
The entire run came on the heels of McCaskill’s competitive effort in a ten-round loss to Katie Taylor in their December 2017 WBA lightweight title fight. From that point through her second fight with Braekhus came nothing but hard work in the ring, followed by the hustle to secure her future.
“We’ve had non stop communication with Matchroom, trying to get something sealed,” notes McCaskill. “The end of our previous deal was after the first Cecilia fight. We had the rematch and then were trying to get it extended a little bit. We needed something on paper, trying to make sure we had a home. We paid for our own trip to Leeds (in September), got some good press out of it and wound up with a good deal.”
What they nearly wound up with was an extended break from the ring. It has already been nearly nine months since the second—and even more convincing—win over Braekhus this past March 13, which came as the chief support to the memorable rematch in the form of an epic junior bantamweight title unification clash won by Juan Francisco Estrada in a split decision win over Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez.
Fortunately, the loss of Bustos as an opponent was a void immediately filled by Wyatt who stepped in on short notice. Not only does McCaskill get to end the year on a high note, but—with a win—it will allow her to get a head start on the year ahead.
“Bustos isn’t off the table yet. She sent me a “good luck” message. Hopefully she gets her situation squared away and we can go revisit that. We’ve fought nothing but champions going back to Katie Taylor. We’ve done nothing but grind it out every step of the way. We took all this risk because if I lost to any of these big names at any point, then I’m done. I’d have to start all over because it’s unforgiving to be on this side of boxing.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox