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Greatest Swedish fighters

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  • Greatest Swedish fighters

    Sweden is not as big boxing nation as Denmark, but has still produced some noteworthy boxers. The most famous one is of course Ingemar "Ingo" Johansson, the heavyweight world champion in 1959-60. His arrival sparked a sort of revolution in Swedish boxing and in the 60's, several Swedish boxers appeared on American scene. In the 80's, there was Anders Eklund, a huge heavyweight who won the European title twice, but otherwise failed to get too far. Before him, there were Olle Tandberg, another rather good heavyweight, and Bo Högberg, a famously tough and hard-hitting light middleweight contender. In the beginning of this century, Armand Krajnc became the first Swede since Johansson to win a world title, the WBO middleweight one. Though of Slovenian parentage, Krajnc was born and raised in Sweden. Today, Sweden also has several world-class boxers, such as Badou Jack (half Gambian on his father's side), Anthony Yigit (half Turkish on his father's side), Otto Wallin and it also had the light heavy contender Erik Skoglund, but he had to end his career prematurely thanks to a serious injury in a fight against Callum Smith.

    Olle Tandberg was the first known Swedish boxer, a heavyweight who fought several big names in the 40's. Olle was born in Stockholm, 12 October 1918. As amateur, he was the national champion 5 years in a row, between 1936 and 1940. He represented his country at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and was eliminated on points in the second round. The following year, he won the European championship in Milan and in 1939 he repeated the same feat in Dublin. He turned pro in January 1941, at Masshallen in Gothenburg, and beat Jakob Schoenrath of Germany by TKO6. He again beat Schoenrath in a rematch, this time in Germany, on points in 8 rounds. In January 1942, he beat the then-undefeated Luigi Musina of Italy on points in Masshallen. Musina would later become the man to end Primo Carnera's comeback attempt, 3 years later. After drawing against Arno Koelblin in Stuttgart, he lost for the first time against Walter "Der Blonde Tiger" Neusel on points, 3 May that year in Charlottenburg, Germany. It was reportedly a very close fight but Neusel was the home favorite. Tandberg also lost in a rematch to Musina, in Rome, also on points, 26 July. On 30 May 1943, he faced the Belgian Karel Sys, who had a record of 80-11-7, and beat him at home in Solna, by UD15 to become the European champion. They had a rematch with the title at stake on 14 November at Palais de Sports in Brussels, and this time the home guy Sys got the verdict after 15 rounds. On 11 September 1946, Tandberg won the Swedish heavyweight title on points against the 4-0 Nils Andersson. On 21 February next year, he beat Luigi Musina again, but this time by TKO8, after having him down in rounds 7 and 8. His most famous victory came on 6 July 1947, when he took on the top American contender Joe Baksi, nicknamed "Iron Man", at home at Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm. Baksi was a major favorite and was expected to knock out Tandberg within 7 rounds. At 6'1, he was 2 inches shorter than 6'3 Tandberg but very strong physically and hit hard. He had just come off a very impressive TKO7-victory over Bruce Woodcock, who was considered perhaps the best European heavyweight back then. However, Baksi came in unmotivated and turned in a surprisingly passive and cautious performance, while Tandberg fought defensively also and the fight was rather uneventful and boring. However, to the surprise of many present, Tandberg was awarded a majority decision victory by the judges after 10 completed rounds. This set Baksi back quite a bit and he wound up retiring for a while, as I already wrote. For Tandberg it was a step towards major fights and after stopping the lesser American Aaron Wilson by TKO4 in Stockholm, Tandberg went to USA for the first time to fight Joey Maxim. The fight happened 9 January 1948 at MSG. Maxim, tho a natural light heavy, was very slick and clever and after the fight went the distance, he was given the victory by two judges by 7-3, but the third judge favored Tandberg by 5-4. He had two more fights in USA, beating Walter Hafer and the Italian contender Duilio Spagnolo, both by UD10. He went back to Sweden at the end of 1948. In his last fight on 14 August 1949, he fought against Jersey Joe Walcott, who was shorter by 3 inches and came in 14 pounds lighter, but had considerable punching power and ring IQ. He put Tandberg down first in round 3 and then three times in round 5 before the towel came flying. Tandberg retired after that with a record of 23 wins, 11 by ko, 6 losses and 1 draw. The Walcott fight was his only ko loss. He died in Stockholm on 12 December 1996, aged 78.

    We then jump up to the 1960's, when Bo "Bossse" Högberg (Boo Hoegbery (y as in "you") is the correct pronounciation) fought. He was definitely one of the best Swedish boxers, probably the best after Johansson in terms of talent and fighting prowess. He was as tough as they come and had a big left hook. His stamina and chin were also legendary. Early on, he did suffer an embarrassing 1-st round knockout, but after that he was only stopped twice more, once in the 14th round by Sandro Mazzinghi and once at the end of his career. Like Ingo Johansson, Bosse was a native of Gothenburg and was born 18 December 1938. He grew up in a working class neighborhood and learned to box there. He won his first national amateur championship at 18 and posted a record of 60 wins and 12 losses, with 45 knockouts. Högberg stood 5'11 and fought as a light middleweight as a pro, starting his career in April 1962. He went 12-0 before being upset by Liverpudlian Harry Scott in 1 round, after being hit by a barrage of head punches before the stoppage came at 1 minute 32 seconds. He shook it off and stopped Emiel Sarens of Belgium by TKO7 and Dennis Read of Britain by KO1 in his next fights. After also knocking out the French champion Fabio Bettini in 7, he faced Bruno Visintin of Italy on new year's day 1966 at KB Hallen in Copenhagen for the European title and won impressively by TKO7. He was now 27-1 and a European champion, but he would taste bitter defeat in his first defense against Yolande Pompey of Trinidad and Tobago, fighting at home in Stockholm, at the Royal Tennis Hall, only a month after winning the title, 11 February. He started well and floored Leveque in round 1 with a right hand for an 8-count. However, in that same round he suffered a blow which broke his jaw and in round 3 he was put down for the first time by a right to the head and rose groggy at 8. He was in extreme pain but continued to fight and suffered knockdowns in round 8 and 12 and also took standing counts in the 12th and 15th. Although he lost on points in the end, his bravery and toughness impressed everyone and he even came back to win rounds 11 and 13. Afterwards, he said:"I don't know how the hell I got up." He came back later that year and knocked out the 17-0 Werner Mundt in 9, which was considered impressive. After also knocking out Bruno Santini in 4 and decisioning Peter Sharpe, he tried to reclaim the European title against Sandro Mazzinghi, one of the best Italian boxers ever. It was 11 November '66 in Stockholm when the two had a legendary war where Mazzinghi prevailed in the 14th round to stop Högberg by TKO. He continued fighting but was never able to regain his former stature and first retired in 1968, before coming back in 1973 and after suffering 3 losses, last one by TKO3, he retired. His record is 36 wins, 25 by ko, 6 losses and 1 draw. Högberg suffered a stroke in the late 1980's that left him with speech problems. He died 7 November 2005, aged 66. He was known for his love of the night life and a turbulent private life. A movie about him, that would star Ola Rapace as Högberg, has long been planned but has not yet materialized. He remains a popular figure in Sweden today, especially among working class.

    We then jump up all the way to the end of the 20th century, when Armand Krajnc won what was the first Swedish male world boxing title since 1959, in 40 years that is. His parents had emigrated from Slovenia in the early 70's to Landskrona, Southeast Sweden, where Armand was born on 7 August 1973. Armand was a fine boxer with a good punch who first started practicing karate, which he had a black belt in. He stands 5'11 1/2 and has a reach of 75 inches. He turned pro in 1996 and scored 7 straight knockouts, all within 3 rounds. He won the vacant German International middle title in his 11th fight by decisioning the Croatian Vedran Akrap in February '98. He was 21-0 when he fought for the WBO title against English Jason Matthews (21-1 at the time), 27 November '99 in Lübeck, Germany, where he was based. He delighted the Swedish people when he put Matthews in round 1 and stopped him in round 8 by TKO, thereby winning the first world title for Sweden since 1959. He was ahead by 68-64 on all scorecards at the time. His first defense was 11 March next year, against the Native American Jonathan Corn, a fringe contender. Krajnc won impressively by KO2. On 7 October, he faced the 24-0 German Bert Schenk, who had previously held the same title but was stripped. Krajnc was once again impressive and stopped Schenk by TKO6. In June 2001, he experienced a dispute with his management group, Universum Promotions, and vacated the title, but WBO gave him the title back. He therefore had to wait till November to again defend it, against his national rival Paolo Roberto. Krajnc made his third successful defense by outpointing Roberto with the scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 118-111. And then came his biggest fight and greatest challenger-Harry Simon. Simon had reigned as WBO's light middle champion but now wanted the middleweight title. The match was held 6 April 2002 at Cirkusbygningen in Copenhagen and Simon did a lot of trashtalking before it. He proved to be too good for Krajnc, but the fight was competitive and Krajnc got 4 rounds from all three judges, losing by 113-116 and 112-116 twice. He then decided to step up to super middleweight, but his first fight there proved unlucky, as he got stopped for the first time against Sergey Tatevosyan of Russia, by TKO7. After winning 3 easy fights at the weight, he was matched against Sven Ottke, the unified WBA and IBF champion, in what was Ottke's last fight, 27 March 2004 in Magdeburg, Germany. Krajnc lost by too wide scores of 120-108, 120-110 and 119-109. It also turned out to be his last fight and he retired aged 31 and with a record of 29 wins, 21 by ko and 3 losses, 1 by ko. Naturally, he became a celebrity in Sweden during and after his boxing career and was featured in reality shows in 2009 and 2018. He belongs to a very exclusive club, as he is one of only three Swedish male boxers to win a world title, and 7 Swedes in all to accomplish that.

    Badou Jack became the next and so far last Swedish boxer to win the world title. It was 24 April 2015 when Jack surprised everyone by handing the 27-0-1 favorite Anthony Dirrell his first loss, in his first defense of the WBC super middle title. The fight was close but in the end Jack won by a majority decision, in Chicago. Before that, Jack had experienced a shock defeat to Dereck Edwards, who stopped him by TKO1 28 February 2014. Jack first defended his title against George Groves and put Groves down in the first round before winning by a split decision in Las Vegas, 12 September '15. He would defend his title twice more, first drawing against Lucian Bute, before Bute was disqualified following a positive doping test. He then fought to a controversial draw against James DeGale in a war where both guys were down once. Most present agreed Jack had won it. It was in January 2017 and Jack then vacated his title to become a light heavyweight. On 26 August, he faced Nathan Cleverly, former WBO-champion, in a fight for the vacant WBA title and impressively stopped him with a barrage in round 5, becoming the first Swede to win two world titles at two different weights. He however vacated the title only a month later, because he wanted to fight Adonis Stevenson for the WBC one. He got his wish on 19 May next year and after a great back and forth fight, he experienced another draw and was denied the title. He controlled the fight between rounds 7 and 11 and bloodied Stevenson's nose in round 9 with a big right and had him rocked at the end of that round. On 19 January this year, he experienced his second loss against Marcus Browne in a fight for the WBC Silver and the interim WBA titles. He experienced a bad cut on his forehead in round 7 and thus fought with impaired vision the rest of the fight, which was to blame for him losing convincingly on points to a guy who was not better than him. 28 December, he fought against Jean Pascal for Pascal's WBA title and the WBC Silver one and both guys were down once before Pascal won by SD. His current record is 22 wins with 13 ko's, 3 losses and 3 draws. His amateur record is 150-25 and he was the Swedish amateur champion in 2004, 2005 and 2006. His full name is Badou Johannes Gabriel Jack and he follows the Muslim faith of his father.
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