Elin Cederroos looks to establish herself as a top striker against Franchon Crews-Dezurn
Team sports can be frustrating for self-motivated individuals, especially in the least glamorous positions in the field. Finding a way to shine can be difficult for some people. Many of them deal with it by trying to make their case to change roles within the team.
For Sweden’s Elin Cederroos, the answer was in a different sport altogether.
“When I played soccer I was a defender, in the middle,” said the current WBA and IBF female super middleweight champion. “My physique was big and strong for a defender, so that was a great preparation to become a boxer. When I was a team player in soccer there were some of my teammates that gave 80 percent, and I always gave 100 percent. I didn’t like it (laughs). And when I found boxing, I felt that all I gave to boxing I got out of it as well.”
Cederroos (8-0, 4KOs) got more than what she probably bargained for when she switched sports, as she became a two-belt titleholder and the current No. 1 ranked female fighter in The Ring’s women’s ratings in the super middleweight division.
And if she finds a way to defeat No. 2-ranked WBC/WBO titlist Franchon Crews-Dezurn this coming Saturday on the undercard of the Lopez-Kambosos championship fight in Miami, she will also lift the inaugural version of the Ring Magazine championship belt in the 168-pound division, potentially joining Claressa Shields (160 and 154), Jessica McCaskill (147) and Katie Taylor (135) as Ring champs.
The importance of the moment is not lost to Cederroos.
“Of course, it’s a true honor that The Ring Magazine belt is at stake in this fight. It’s a big motivation because I want it all, and I believe I will win this fight,” said Cederroos, in a phone interview from Sweden, days before traveling to the U.S. “I believe I can fight anybody. I want to fight the best opponents in the future, but right now I keep getting better all the time and I am still developing. But I have a very good feeling about this (fight). It is great that all the belts will be on the line. It is amazing, and I can’t wait to get to Miami.”
The waiting game can be unnerving for some, but Cederroos appears to be used to it. She voluntarily stepped away from both soccer (where she had made it all the way to the national team) and boxing to raise a family, but that off-road portion of the trip only made her stronger, she claims.
“When I was 25 or 26 I decided I had enough, and I had to stop thinking about being a boxer,” she said. “I decided to have a child, so I stopped boxing after my first child. It is easier to mix up an individual sport with the family (duties). I had my baby with me during training, and then I had a second child, and sometimes we took their friends to the gym, so we had four kids in the gym, with my trainer and me, and that was so good. And that was not a possibility that I had in soccer.”
Another possibility that soccer failed to provide her was the chance to move up the field and become a striker. And although she almost never hit the net with a ball in her days on the pitch, she made up for it with the unbeaten run that positioned her as the best in a division that, although not quite overpopulated with talent (the super middleweight division can only boast a couple of dozen active and committed fighters right now) is strong enough to elicit a lot of interest in the realm of female boxing for being the highest weight class right now (there are not enough light heavyweight or heavyweight female fighters out there to create a viable ranking, and The Ring only ranks fighters up to 168 pounds).
“I know there are not many of us in this division, but the top (fighters) are very good,” admitted Cederroos. “But there will be other girls coming from divisions below and above us, so there are going to be great opponents in the future.”
The one name that inevitably surfaces when discussing female boxing within the 154-168 weight span is Shields, as she attracts the most attention and constitutes the biggest potential challenge for anyone in the three divisions in which she operates. But Cederroos thinks there are better ways to find challenges than to wait for the result of the Shields sweepstakes.
“I think I would have a great fight with Claressa. She is such a good boxer, and I think we could have a wonderful fight,” she claims. “Maybe! We’ll see! She is having an MMA fight now (Note: Shields won in her MMA debut on June 11th, scoring a third-round TKO win over Brittney Elkin) but I can fight anybody. And Claressa would be amazing. I have full respect for her. Other boxers? You have Savannah Marshall in middleweight, and there are a few other names of course, but I can fight anybody, I think.”
In Crews-Dezurn (7-1, 2KOs; 1ND), Cederroos will face an ambitious and strong champion, fresh off a few controversial situations (her loss, later overturned, to Mexico’s Alejandra Jimenez, and the “hair malfunction” episode that Crews-Dezurn later deactivated and turned into a motivational tool with her #FxckThatHair hashtag) that will prompt her to make a statement in this fight and erase all those memories at once.
Cederroos claims she is ready for it, and more.
“I think this fight with Franchon will be a great fight. She is a great boxer and she really wants this fight. She has the experience too, and I think we’re going to entertain the people. It’s going to be a great fight and I think I am going to win, of course”, she giggles.
If she does, this will be her second win on American soil. Cederroos had already unified the WBA and IBF titles in a 10-round unanimous decision win over Alicia Napoleon in January 2020 in Atlantic City. The fight was scored 95-94 across the board, with a second-round knockdown scored by Cederroos being the decisive factor. She had already claimed the IBF belt with a 10-round majority decision win over Femke Hermans in March 2019.
This time, Cederroos aims to score an even more decisive win, and believes that the more than 17 months of inactivity will play in her favor.
“During this pandemic, I trained a lot. I am not used to doing training camps, but we trained for a few months straight. I always work hard, a lot, as I am still developing both physically and in my boxing as well,” she said. “I sparred with my coach and a few other boxers here in my gym, and I also worked with (unbeaten junior middleweight contender) Patricia Berghult, a great boxer that we have here in Sweden. It’s been difficult, but we’ve done the best we could do, and we’ve done so much to be ready.”
At 36 years of age, and having started boxing as a professional only four years ago, the passing of time could be a concern for Cederroos. But through her more than 100 games as a professional soccer player with the Damallsvenskan team and a dozen amateur fights under her belt before going pro, Cederroos knows there is a way to counterbalance the passing of time.
“My discipline,” she says, as if revealing her biggest secret. “I really worked hard for the goal that I had in my mind. This is really strong in me, this discipline of always going to train hard and do all the hard work to develop myself. I trained the whole year to be ready to fight, and now I am as ready as I can be.”