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Jessica McCaskill aims to take women’s boxing to new heights

Jessica McCaskill, working out at the Body Shot Boxing Club, is the first female fighter signed to a promotional contract by Warriors. | Alan Webb/For the Sun-Times

Jessica McCaskill has refused to take no for an answer.

A regulatory reporting specialist for a Chicago investment banking firm by day and a world-ranked boxer by night, McCaskill has achieved professional success in the former and is on the cusp of potentially sensational things in the latter.

But she has bigger goals on her boxing agenda than fighting on TV or winning world titles.

No wide-eyed kid at age 32 and established in her “day job,” McCaskill hopes to be on the forefront of a resurgence of women’s boxing. The female side of combat sports has enjoyed a far higher profile in recent years, buoyed by Ronda Rousey’s popularity in MMA, Claressa Shields’ being one of the -media darlings of the Rio Games (she was a back-to-back Olympic boxing gold medalist) and a landmark appearance on one of the Showtime channels by boxer Amanda Serrano.

With a bevy of new stars, one of whom just might be McCaskill, knocking on the door, women’s boxing looks to be in its best shape since the time of Lucia Rijker and Laila Ali in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“I don’t see female boxing as a startup [proposition],” said McCaskill (4-1, 2 KOs), who turned pro in 2015 and is No. 3 in the world among active lightweight female fighters in the computer rankings compiled by Boxrec.com. “I see it as a comeback. It was great back in the day, and I want to help it return to the forefront.”

Just how big a role does McCaskill see herself playing in that scenario?

“I do believe I will raise the bar,” she stated.

So much for accepting the status quo. She also has an answer to those skeptics who see women’s boxers as a sideshow.

“Females bring an extreme amount of heart to the sport,” McCaskill said. “In the essence of equality, if as a person, you believe that there should be less gender boundaries or restriction, there is good reason to support female -boxing.”

Her promotional group, Warriors Boxing, has given her the forum to prove her worth as a -local drawing card. On Saturday, in the latest installment of the Windy City Fight Night series at the UIC Pavilion, McCaskill will fight Natalie Brown (6-2, 4 KOs) for an Intercontinental title recognized by the Chicago-based American Boxing Organization. It quite possibly is the first time a female match has been the main event on a boxing card in Illinois.

McCaskill is the first female fighter signed to a promotional contract by Warriors, which promotes IBF cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev, WBA bantamweight titleholder Zhanat Zhakiyanov and two-time light-heavyweight world-title challenger Andrzej Fonfara.

“Jessica is a highly entertaining, exciting, hard-hitting female fighter,” said Dominic Pesoli, Warriors vice president and a Chicago native. “But what made us take notice was that she was so persistent. Jessica had had just one pro fight, and there she was reaching out to let [Warriors] know that she wanted to fight on our Premier Boxing Champions shows.

“After we saw that she really could fight, found out what a great role model she is, we were convinced she was the right one to become Warriors’ first female fighter.”

McCaskill is convinced that the boxing world could be her oyster.

“I see bigger names and harder challenges,” she said. “I see more traveling, more expansion of my brand and of Team McCaskill as a whole.”

Follow me on Twitter @LPHAMEL.

WINDY CITY FIGHT NIGHT

When: Saturday, first bell at 8 p.m.

Where: UIC Pavilion.

Main event: Jessica McCaskill (4-1, 2 KOs) vs. Natalie Brown (6-2, 4 KOs), 8 rounds (2 minutes each), for the American Boxing Organization Intercontinental female lightweight title.

Undercard: Chicago-area fighters appearing include Josh Hernandez, Ramiro Carrillo, Giovanni Mioletti and Yousif Saleh.

Tickets: Ticketmaster at ticketmastter.com or (800) 745-3000.