We’re all acutely aware of the dangers posed each & every time a boxer laces up those gloves, whether it be boxing under the bright lights & big crowds, on the small hall scene or tucked away in the gym sparring. One such boxer that experienced those dangers first hand is Erik Skoglund, a very accomplished professional boxer with an extensive amateur background, Erik suffered serious injury during one such sparring session in his hometown of Nyköping, Sweden. Luke recently caught up with to talk about his career as a while & recovering from the severe injuries.
Hi Erik, thanks for your time, to begin with can you explain to us your amateur background & introduction to boxing?
l I was 11 years old when I was introduced for boxing for the first time. It was my 1 year older brother, who’d been nagging my father about getting started with boxing since about 8 years of age. My dad always just said no because of the violence and the risk of injuries the sport includes. When my brother Marcus turned 12 my dad took a more careful look in to the sport just to realise that boxing is not a particularly dangerous sport compared to others. Both football and ice-hockey has much more injuries then boxing and when my dad found out, my brother could get started. My brother was big, strong and tough and he had all you can expect of a great fighter. Me on the other hand was weak, scared of everything and had a nose that just pissed blood if you just touched it. I was practicing karate at the time, with no contact. Just learning pattern and used my imagination to believe that I could use those skills against my brother or my other friends trying to beat me up. One summer when my karate club was closed, the boxing club continued their training and I was convinced to go there together with my brother and a common friend. I was beaten up pretty badly and tears were streaming down my face, along with the blood from my nose. My brother and father both were sure that I wouldn’t last long. Me on the other hand was obsessed by the thought of defy their doubts and become a real fighter. I was very weal but very obsessed. I struggled and I learned and in Sweden we have this kind of light contact boxing, called diplom-boxing for all guys under 15 years of age, to ensure they get to learn the technical skills at first. That suited me very well and I became the best diplom-boxer in Sweden for many years. The years passed by and when I was moving on to the armatures at the age of 15 I was very exited. I remember all the doubts in Swedish boxing and a lot of people thought that it wouldn’t suit me when they came at me with more power. Well, thanks to my brother and all the sparring sessions I guess, I could handle it and soon enough I was the best swede in my age and weight class. Actually during my first year as an amateur I attended the Swedish championship as a cadet, junior and a senior as well. Two gold medals and one silver medal at the age of 15. Getting to participate in the European championship for cadets as a 15 year old was huge for me. Though I remember having only 15 fights and seeing all these other nations with kids having a few hundred fights already, made me realise, something must be done. I made my decision and thought as a swede, I’d need to fight so much more to get the experience that I needed. I started to to fight frequently as a cadet, junior, and as a senior, that same year. As a 15 year old kid I won the gold medal in Swedish championship for cadets, juniors and got a silver medal as a senior. I continued to fight frequently for another 3 years and when I finished my amateur career at the age of 18 to turn pro, I had almost 120 fights. That’s a fascinating insight Erik, as you moved into the professional ranks of boxing, what are your memories of your debut & any nerves beforehand? My professional debut was held in Germany at the undercard of one of Marco Hucks world championship bouts.
I was supposed to fight two weeks earlier in Denmark at the undercard of Kessler vs Froch, but as I was too young at that moment. A dispensation was needed to fight in Denmark and Team Sauerland found that out just days before the show. Luckily for me, they had a show the week after in Germany. Even though I looked forward to be fighting on the Kessler-Froch undercard I was happy to get it done so soon anyway. Once I found out that my opponent was an undefeated real cruiser weight with a 100% KO record, weighing in just over 90 kg compared to my own 82.5 I was a little bit worried. I thought maybe I did something wrong in training and that Sauerland wanted to get rid of me already before I got started. Anyway, my coach Karsten Röwer calmed me down and said that this guy suited me very well. A few minutes and a couple of missed swings and he won’t have any power left, he said. Luckily he was right, and I won by unanimous decision after 4 rounds. I was especially nervous as I found out, just about an hour before my fight, that the Swedish TV broadcasted it and that the whole boxing nation would watch it, as the Swedish championship in amateur boxing was held that same day!
I knew some of the leaders were disappointed as I left the national team and therefore, surely hoped I’d get beaten up. Luckily I didn’t.
From a British boxing standpoint your fight with Brit, Luke Blackledge for the youth WBC light heavyweight title is one that comes to mind... Getting to fight Luke Blackledge for the WBC youth world title was huge for me. I remember finding out when Nisse Sauerland himself was visiting our gym one training and he told me that Luke Blackladge was supposed to fight Rudy Markussen, a Danish veteran who made his comeback and needed an easy fight to get started. Apparently he thought Blackledge was too tough and wanted an easier fight, the one left to fight Luke, was me!
The fight turned out to be an unnecessarily tough fight, as I fought stupid and didn’t listen to my coach. It turned in to a dog fight and my coach was mad at me. The crowd loved it, and Nisse Sauerland loved it too, These kind of fights I can sell, he mentioned.
When I take a look back at that fight, I fought embarrassingly bad. More heart then brain, I’d say. I fought with just heart and no brains at all. Although I believe that everything is happening for a reason and that I learned a lot during that fight. Looking back to you winning the European title, how much of a proud accomplishment was this for you & then making 3 successful title defences? Winning the EBU-belt against Lolenga Mock was another huge night for me. I remember he was actually the favourite in a lot of peoples eyes, and even though it was a Sauerland show, it was Lolenga Mocks hometown. I was very nervous and started the fight a little stiff. I remember I was always very focused on how the round did go back then, and I wanted to know if I was ahead on the scorecards. My coach hated it and he didn’t want me to focus on that. When I asked him after the first round how it went he said, you won, but don’t focus on that. After the second round I asked him again and I got the same answer. The third round began and then it all happened so fast. Suddenly, as a lightning from clear sky. I ate a right hand swing of Mocks and fell against the ropes. The ref was counting and I wobbled so badly. With about half that round left I really had my hands full. I survived and when I sat down in the corner I remember Karsten asking me, very worried, how did I feel? Well now it’s a tie, was my answer, and the round after that, is still one of my best rounds ever. Somehow I could relax and just focus on what was happening there and then. I defended my title a few times successfully and after a while I got the chance to fight a tough Italian guy, named Stefano Abatangelo for the IBF-intercontinental title along with my EBU-strap. At that moment Abatangelo was rated at the IBF-list and we were aiming a shot at that world title in the future. Good matchup and I remember him being really tough. He suited me well with his short reach and slow feet, but he was decent and gave me a good fight.
Your fight with Glen Johnson, a very well respected boxer with lots of experience having boxed George Groves, Carl Froch, Lucian Bute & also defeated Roy Jones Jr & Antonio Tarver, how much did you take from that win & sharing the ring with Johnson? Sharing the ring with a legend as Glen Johnson was huge for me. I remember when I first heard about it. We had problems finding me an opponent for that show and my promotor said, Glen Johnson might take it. ‘What’s your thoughts on that?’ I’d love to fight Johnson! He’s a legend was the only answer I could give. I was really happy. Unfortunately I was injured during a sparring session the last week before that fight and I suffered from a herniated disk in my lower back. I didn’t know it then, but I used to have problems with my back, and this was the same but so much worse. I remember warming up carefully for well over two hours and during the ring walk I thought, well I won’t be able to bend over to get under the ropes. I was in horrible pain from the first bell and after that fight my back needed surgery.
I thought, as I’ll be gone for a while now, I better pick up a fight that I didn’t have time for earlier. A fight outside the ring as I fought the Swedish politicians to get the pro boxing back to Sweden. It was banned from the 60’s until 2006 and since then you could only do 4 round fights. I spoke to the politicians more then once and struggled with letters and texts, and after a while we got that ok, a yes, a clear to go. My comeback after that injury was in my small hometown Nyköping in the hockey arena in front of well over 5000 people. I remember, thinking so much about the fight, planing my ring walk and entrance song. That night I didn’t hear a tone of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. People were cheering all the way in, and didn’t stop until it was time for the national anthem. I’ll never forget that feeling, ever.
Your fight with Callum Smith in the world boxing super series, thoughts heading into the fight as you were both undefeated? Well I remember when Callum said my name on the draft gala in Monaco. I wasn’t expecting that, and as I moved down to super middleweight and had already long reach in light heavyweight I though there’s no man on the planet longer than me in this class. I was wrong. There was one, and he picked me. Of course I was nervous, but also confident and I thought I had a good plan. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get the decision and that loss costed me more then a fortune. After that fight on such a big platform & with a lot of exposure tragedy would strike, as you suffered very unfortunate & serious injuries in sparring in 2017, you’ve managed to continually work to recover. Yes, after my fight with Callum Smith, which was my first loss, I thought I’d better get back up on that horse and get going again. I also thought as I didn’t get the decision against Callum, I might have to add some more offence in my boxing. As my next fight was set to be with another Englishman, Rocky Fielding, also away from home, I thought I’d better work on my offensive skills.
I started to do sparring sessions more frequently than previous and I started to fight a little different. I took one shot to get the chance to land two - that could be the solution in a fight, but during weeks and months of hard sparring, with lots of different sparring partners, it’s not too good. I guess my brain had enough one day. It was at the end of a very tough, very long period of sparring and I remember that sparring itself, wasn’t even that hard for me. I guess the injury began a few days or weeks earlier and that this was just my body’s way to remind me I crossed that limit. All the way since then I’ve struggled to get the chance to come back to the ring. Not even sure that I would do it, because I’ve said that I want to be more then 100 percent fit and even better then I was when I collapsed almost three years ago. Stupid or not, the dream is still alive and there’s nothing else that takes my focus. Nothing. How have you found life away from boxing, you’ve been in the corner for Anthony Yigit, is this something you wish to pursue full time? I’ve been working in my friends corner a few times to help him out and that’s really something I love to do. Because I miss boxing so badly and because really like Anthony. He’s one of my best friends and he’s been helping me a lot. I love the guy and if there’s anything I can do for him, I’ll do it. Away from that, I’ve always thought of being a coach one day. I just want to do it when I feel that I’m all done myself, and that there’s nothing else that steals my focus. I guess I’ll might be a full time coach one day, but not until I’ve stopped my own journey. ‘5 To Finish’ 1. Your biggest inspiration? Muhammad Ali 2. Your favourite fight of your career? Lolenga Mock in Denmark. 3. Your all time favourite boxer? Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk. Tie. 4. Your all time favourite fight to watch? Kessler-Froch 1 5. Dream opponent if you could have boxed anyone? Rematch Callum Smith.
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