Since the last time I spoke with Sweden’s Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12KOs) things have changed dramatically.
The change in weight, the inception of the Muhammad Ali trophy and his exposure as a result of his inclusion in the tournament are all very recent. However, as some things change, some remain the same. Skoglund remains unbeaten and the chance of a world title at light-heavyweight remains something of a fantasy.
“I actually decided to move down before I knew I was about to enter the WBSS. We’ve been trying to land a title fight at light-heavyweight for a while now and I think I would have had to wait just a little longer. It’s turned out a tricky situation in light heavyweight”
Skoglund told me that despite his best efforts, the stalling at the top of the tree had frustrated him. “It actually did. And (after) long hard negotiations with Nathan Cleverly for the WBA title… it never seemed to come off.”
Much has been made of the WBSS and its inaugural weight classes. The cruiserweight tournament is jam packed with talent and world champions, whilst Jamie Cox and WBA champion George Groves have joined Skoglund on the roster at super-middleweight. For a man who has been seemingly sheltered from boxing media, I asked the undefeated Scandanavian how he felt about the tournament in general,
“It feels almost unbelievable. Great, but unbelievable. This is the kind of challenge I’ve been looking for for so long and I love the concept with a tournament!” Skoglund continued, moving on to tell me about his own place in the 168lb category, “I can’t wait to prove myself in the U.K. market though, as you have a massive boxing crowd over there. I’m sure I will be one of the biggest guys in the division and as I’ve had a lot of sparring with great super-middleweights as well, I know I’m fast enough to be a problem for anyone.”
We are patiently waiting for the remaining fighters in each category to be named with talks of Callum Smith’s WBC title shot being delayed as he looks to enter the fold. Erik was in no doubt when asked who he wanted to see in the mix.
“First I heard rumours about Kessler signing up and I would have loved a Scandinavian showdown in Copenhagen to kick off the WBSS! I heard September wasn’t enough time to get him ready and that’s petty for Scandinavian boxing. (It) would have been great to have a Swede and a Dane in there.”
It’s hard to ignore the positivity leaking from everything Skoglund says. He is a man gifted with boxing ability, but cursed by his nationality. Sweden, who had (until recently) banned boxing, were never going to be fully behind one of their most talented pugilists. Whilst Illir Latifi & Alexander Gustaffson dominate the European MMA landscape, Skoglund has finally had his door to the mainstream kicked open. You could understand if Erik was tinged with bitterness, but he couldn’t be happier.
“I think it would be huge both for myself and for Swedish boxing. As boxing has been gone for many years in Sweden people have a hard time to keep up with all the different titles and who will be fighting who and why. I think a tournament suits the Swedish market very well and the world of boxing needs it too!”
Questions remain surrounding the true quality of Swindon’s Jamie Cox whilst George Groves becomes the first of the world champions to sign up. It seems the WBSS is an opportunity to establish the top fighter in the weight class. It is a throw back to the earlier days of prizefighting and an elimination-style tournament will surely provide fans with plenty of excitement. I wondered how much Skoglund knew of his potential British opposition?
“I don’t know too much about Cox, although I will always respect an undefeated fighter. He’s definitely undefeated for a reason. George is a great fighter with fast hands, but as I’ve sparred him a couple of times I know he has a few weak spots too. I have nothing but respect to the champions and challengers that sign up and I don’t see myself in a position where I’ve got to pick my opponent any way.”
Erik Skoglund will be looking to firmly cement himself and his Swedish heritage on the boxing scene. The only way to do that is to face and beat the best. Skoglund, seems well up for the challenge.
“I guess there will be some strong sluggers around that I’d rather out-box than fight with my size. Although if I need my size and power, it’s going to be in there with me, you can’t deny that. I guess we have to wait and see. My mission is to get ready for anyone!”
Comfortable wherever the fight goes, the big Swede is ready to seize his opportunity.