Some would say that the history of Swedish boxing starts and ends with Ingemar Johansson. “Ingo” held the heavyweight title in 1959, unseating Floyd Paterson before losing the title back to the American the following year.
Though boxing is partially banned in Sweden, where it is only possible to fight for 20 minutes, there are several noteworthy young prospects from the Nordic region headed up by Erik Skoglund, a 22-year-old light heavyweight from the small southern town of Nyköping.
Skoglund, enjoyed a solid amateur career before moving seamlessly into the pros, where he currently sports a spotless ledger of 18-0 with 9 stoppages.
“I have developed a lot physically as I’m getting older and stronger. I’ve also calmed down my footwork a bit, so I can hit much harder now,” Skoglund said.
“I think Erik improves from fight to fight and is becoming a world class professional – at this rate the sky is the limit for Erik,” said his promoter Nisse Sauerland. “He is a top prospect and it is hard to believe he is still so young.”
In many ways Skoglund is the pioneer of Swedish boxing leading a crusade to hopefully legalise boxing completely in his homeland.
“I’ve been working hard to bring the professional boxing back for real and I hope for a step in the right direction next time they look at the rules.”
This Saturday in the north of Denmark, Skoglund will make his 2014 debut when he meets Adasat Rodriguez the 12-round chief support to the Cecilia Braekhus-Myriam Lamare main event.
Anson Wainwright – You kick off your 2014 campaign on the 1st February in Frederikshavn, Denmark. What are your thoughts on that and your opponent?
Erik Skoglund – It will be great to fight in Fredrikshavn once again. I’ve fought in the same arena three times before and I have only great memories from there. I don’t know about my opponent for sure yet but I wish for some good rounds to get some more experience and of course I’m going for another win.
AW – You won all four of your fights in 2013, getting some good rounds under your belt against experienced veterans like Lorenzo Di Giacomo and Lolenga Mock. Could you tell us about those fights and the experience you gained from fighting those guys?
ES – Yes I had a great year 2013. Got some experience from that, and learned what it takes to fight those long fights. I need more of that and I hope for some tough fights 2014.
AW – You’ve been a pro since 2010, how do you feel the transition from the amateurs the pros has been? How have you improved?
ES – Yes I turned pro at the age of 18. It has been a few tough years but it turned out really good after all. Like most amateurs I had to calm down a bit, save some energy to be able to fight for twelve rounds. I’m not done yet but I think I’ve done the best I could so far. I have developed a lot physically as I’m getting older and stronger. I’ve also calmed down my footwork a bit, so I can hit much harder now.
AW – What are your hopes for 2014?
ES – The last thing I did 2013 was to win the EBU-EU title. I hope I will get a shot at the real EBU title later in 2014. Besides that I mean to stay undefeated.
AW – Tell us about your team, who is your manager, trainer and promoter? Also what gym do you train at?
ES – I train at Karsten Röwer’s gym in Berlin as I have done since I started my pro career. My trainer is Karsten Röwer and Team Sauerland looks after my boxing career.
AW – If we go back, what was it like for your growing up in Sweden?
ES – I can’t say I had a hard time growing up in Sweden. Not really. I grew up in a normal Swedish family with both my parents and my older brother. I’ve always got a lot of support from home. I still have actually.
The hard part comes now. As professional boxing is not allowed in Sweden, I have to fight in other countries and always answer a lot of questions about my profession. As I’m working hard to bring professional boxing back to Sweden, I need to stay in shape and work hard to represent our boxing in the best possible way.
AW – Sweden isn’t known for its boxing. How did you become interested and take it up?
ES – No it’s not. I guess my interest came with my older brother that started half a year before me. In Sweden you cannot start with amateur boxing until you are fifteen years old. Before that we’ve got some kind of light contact fighting where you get judged on your technical skills. When I came to my first European championship for cadets at the age of fifteen with some ten amateur fights under my belt, I saw the Russian fighters who had some hundred fights already. I thought “Something must be done here – otherwise I’ll never reach the top.” Of course I lost the first fight but, but after that I fought over a hundred fights in three years. And in Sweden I moved up to senior class, still at the age of fifteen, to fight with the best. I got beaten up a bit but I developed a lot.
AW – You had a good amateur career, could you tell us about your career?
ES – I’d say I had a tough amateur career rather than a good one.
My final record was 114 fights 78 wins 35 loses and 1 draw. My whole amateur career was shorter than four years. I lost pretty much as I fought early with the big guys. Some said that was stupid. I say it had to be done, otherwise I wouldn’t know how to fight today when I really need it.
I planned for many years to go to the Olympics 2012 but as I couldn’t agree with the Swedish national team I chose to become a pro a few years early according to the plan. I was the youngest pro in the history of Sweden. People actually told me and my father, who was my trainer back in those days, that we were stupid. Turning pro at the age of eighteen and without any medal from any of the big championships you won’t get any contract – that’s what they all said, and that’s what the Swedes told their national team too. And they ended up with a few thirty-year old amateurs who were still hoping for the medal that would kick off their career. In Sweden it is actually often the fighters who are not the best who turns pro. The others stay in the national team their whole career.
AW – Currently you can only box for 20minutes maximum a bout in Sweden, meaning as you progress to 10/12 rounders it’s impossible to fight at home. I know it’s something that you guys hope to be able to change in the near future. Could you tell us about this from your point a view?
ES – Yes, the Swedes forbid professional boxing of all kind in 1969. It was then long gone until 2007 when they said they allowed it. They had to because it was no rules that forbid other fighting sports as K1 and MMA that didn’t even existed 1969. Now they allow professional boxing for four rounds. Which means you can start your career in Sweden but if you want to have boxing as your profession and make a living on it you have to leave the country. I’ve been working hard to bring the professional boxing back for real and I hope for a step in the right direction next time they look at the rules.
AW – Who is your boxing hero and who do you enjoy watching today?
ES – I don’t know if I have a boxing hero, but I really like the Klitschko brothers. They are smart inside and outside the ring. They stick to the plan, seem pretty serious and there is two of them. That’s pretty cool. I like to watch good boxing. Doesn’t matter who is fighting as long as they are close fights with good boxers.
AW – Away from boxing what are your hobbies and interests?
ES – I have to be boring and tell you the truth. Boxing is what I live for. It was once my hobby, now it’s my life. It probably never goes one minute inside of my head without boxing.
Besides that I try to spend a lot of time with my family and friends, but I fail a lot. Sacrifices have to be made when you chose this life. Especially when you are not able to work in your own country.
AW – Lastly do you have a message for the light heavyweight division?
ES – Bernard Hopkins is getting old.
Photo / Photo Wende