In the modern facilities of Elixir Fitness in Nyköping the music blasting from the gym’s speakers competes with the loud bangs from boxing gloves hitting pads. It’s Erik who’s dancing around his trainer, the legendary Tommy Antman, reoeatedly striking with his accurate jab on the pad. It’s the final session of this weekend’s training camp and when Erik has cooled down and got changed we get going into town. There is no doubt how big of a star he is to the people of Nyköping. We get stopped every other meter by people who want to say hi, chitchat and take selfies with him. We sit down with salads and coffee at a café.

Boxing brothers


Erik was born at Södertälje hospital in 1991 and lived from an early age in Stockholm, but didn’t like it much. “I went to Mälarhöjdskolan in primary school, which was a little bit too big for me. The teachers probably found me difficult to deal with because I argued a lot, but that was just because I thought they were wrong about a lot. My parents raised me to always stand up for myself if I believe in something and that wasn’t exactly how the teachers wanted it. When I was 10 years old we moved to Vrena outside of Nyköping which suited me much better. I really feel at home in Nyköping and have no real connection to Stockholm anymore.” Erik tells me he did well in school but also that he was picked last in gym class, which is quite hard to believe if you look at him today, but he says it was due to his complete lack of football skills. Soon he would get involved in martial arts and the karate dojo was his first stop.

”Karate was fun and suited me well. I wasn’t a tough guy and didn’t like to fight, but standing in front of the mirror and repeating techniques was my thing. During one of the summer breaks I joined my brother in the boxing gym where he was training and I got hooked. I don’t really know what it was with boxing that attracted me so much, but maybe it was the challenge in the fact that I wasn’t tough and here you were supposed to hit each other. No one thought I’d stay on long with boxing. My dad told me I could do it as long as I thought it was fun but he guessed it would not be long until I quit. My brother was probably the happiest – finally he had someone to punch!”

”WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD I ASKED DAD TO HELP ME WITH A PLAN ON HOW TO BECOME THE BEST IN THE WORLD”


It’s obvious that Erik’s family always has played a big part in his life and boxing career and he underlines the enormous support he always felt from them. His brother Marcus didn’t only get him to start with boxing but is still around him, involved in both his training and the fights, even if his own boxing career ended before he got to take the step from amateur to pro. Their father Johan had to change his opinion about Erik’s boxing future when he noticed how stubborn and dedicated he was to the training. “When I was 12 years old I asked dad to help me with a plan on how to become best in the world. We created a detailed plan and still today I don’t deviate too much from it. At the moment I’m a couple of years ahead of the plan, mainly because I never went to the Olympics in London but instead I went pro two years earlier.”



Diploma and amateur successes


”Diploma boxing” (sv. diplomboxning) is a form of competition where the judges score the boxers after evaluating technique, footwork, defense and punches, but the punches mustn’t hit the opponent hard. For an 11-year-old Erik who mostly liked to drill technique this was perfect. Even if he lost a few competitions in the beginning things turned around quickly and at 13 years of age he had become so good that he was selected for the Swedish National Team. “The National Team coach was often around at the tournaments looking at the boxers. They were going to Finland to compete in a tournament and informed me that I had been selected to participate. I was of course extremely proud to wear the yellow and blue track suit and also go abroad to box for the first time.”

The year you turn 15 you can start competing as an amateur boxer, something that Erik had been looking forward to for a long time since he had won more or less everything in diploma boxing, e.g. two Swedish National Tournaments. His first amateur fight would result in a victory but at the same time it was a big anticlimax. “I was really motivated for my debut in amateur boxing. We had travelled far on the Friday through a snow storm with our RV to get to the tournament and in my weight class we were only two fighters which meant we went straight to the finale on the Sunday. After all the waiting it was finally time to fight, and just before the opponent stepped into the ring he ran out and threw up. I won by walk over and went back home. It wasn’t fun of course but I got the chance to fight again a few weeks later in Denmark. I won two fights and ended up on 1st place against much more experienced opponents with over 30 fights on the record.” The successes continued for Erik, especially when he was 15 years old and got dispensation to participate in the Swedish Junior National Championship for which you had to be 17 years. In spite of the age difference to his opponents he won the championship. He also got dispensation to fight in the Swedish National Championship for adults before he had reached the proper age and got 2nd place and award for best boxer of the competition.

”MY SITUATION WAS THE SAME, EXCEPT I CAN’T SING OF COURSE!”


Around this time boxing took most of Erik’s time and he was constantly applying for time off from school to be able to go to training camps, fights and tournaments. His absence during secondary school was high but he still managed to finish with good grades. But he also felt that the serious boxing training he was getting into wasn’t possible to combine with school and one day he informed his parents that he wasn’t applying for high school. “It was very difficult to get their approval, it wasn’t really an idea they liked. We had long discussions and I said that I’m sure they would have let me get a break from school if singing was my talent and I won the TV show Idol. This situation was the same, except I can’t sing of course! In the end they approved it and since then I’ve received great support from home.”



Ich bin ein Berliner


Compared to Sweden, boxing is huge in Germany and they have their own boxing league, Bundesliga, where different teams face off and by the end of the year a winner is declared. The Danish National Team was allowed to join Bundesliga with a team as a part of their preparation for the Olympics in London 2012. Erik found out that they were missing one fighter in the 81 kg division and he got an offer to fill the gap. “I was only 16-17 years old during the first year in Germany and the first fight was against a very tough opponent. It was the star of the Berlin team who was also a European medallist and German national champion, the idea was that he would get an easy fight against me. He knocked me down with a liver punch already in the first round and I barely made it to the break and the score was the 6-2 to his favour. At that point something changed, the respect I had for him disappeared and I felt that I had nothing to lose. In the second round I turned up the tempo and went after him with all I had and when the fight was over the score board showed a draw. After the fight several people approached dad and wanted me to go pro but he explained that I was still too young and I was aiming for the Olympics.”

”IN MY OPINION BOXING IS NOT A TEAM SPORT, BUT THEY WOULDN’T GIVE IN, SO I HAD TO SAY GOODBYE”


Two seasons in Bundesliga passed by and Erik performed very well and won many fights against skilled opponents. The Olympics were getting closer but his relationship with the Swedish National Team wasn’t the best and it would come to have a big influence on his career. “My performances in the National Team weren’t good and I didn’t agree with them about the training camps prior to fights. They were always long and located far from home which didn’t suit me. I couldn’t understand the idea of performing well all year around and then when it’s finally time for an important tournament with the National Team, then you’re suddenly going to change all preparations and routines that you’re used to and do something different. We had a meeting where I explained that I’m happy to compete in the National Team but I want to prepare for tournaments in my way, but they didn’t agree to that and said that all fighters have to train together with regard to the team spirit. In my opinion boxing is not a team sport, but they wouldn’t give in, so I had to say goodbye. They tried to underline the importance for me to get to the Olympics but I told them that with their terms I won’t even reach the Olympics.”



About the same time as the break from the National Team, Erik and his father initiated negotiations with different promoters and it was Team Sauerland that turned out to be the best choice. Erik went on a try-out training camp in the beginning of 2010 and were then called to the headquarter for contract signing. With the ink fresh on the paper he would now become a professional boxer and made his debut in May. He won his two first fights in Germany before the summer break, but Erik didn’t like it that much in Berlin and would prefer to train at home. “Team Sauerland didn’t have a boxing market in Sweden at that time, only in Germany, so I had to give in and move there. The compromise was that I only had to be there a few weeks prior to each fight, but due to the high frequency of fights it meant most of the time anyway. During the summer break it felt tough to have to move down there and I wasn’t motivated at all. But then I met my girlfriend and we got along great right from the start. I asked if she would consider coming with me and she did, which helped a lot! She’s a little bit older than me and has a son who she takes care of every other week, so she was flying back and forth like crazy at that time. There were two flights a day between Berlin and Skavsta with low prices so we made it work. I also had a very experienced professional coach, Karsten Röwer, which I really needed considering how much different professional boxing is compared to amateur boxing. There were also a lot of good boxers to train with in Berlin.”

With time things were changing to the worse. There were less frequent flights between Skavsta and Berlin and they got more expensive which resulted in Erik spending more time on his own. He didn’t get the individually adapted training he would have liked, but instead all boxers were trained together in one big group. He also got less time with his colleagues and they were replaced with paid sparring partners. In the end he felt he needed a change, but unfortunately it would be a serious injury that forced him to take the decision.



What doesn’t kill you make you stronger


In December 2014 Erik was scheduled to fight Glen Johnson and prepared in ordinary fashion. What he didn’t know was that he had had an unbalanced body for a long time and overstrained muscles. This had led to a disc bulging in his back which would get worse during his last sparring session before the fight with only 10 days left. “I was sparring with a bigger guy and was really tired, especially in my core muscles. I felt that something wasn’t right in my back since I’d felt pain over some time. At one occasion during the sparring I fell against the ring ropes and he fell on top of me. It cracked badly in my back and hurt like hell! After the training I went home and straight to bed, I got fever and felt really bad, my back was killing me like never before. The next morning I couldn’t get out of the bed. My first thought was that it was lumbago which I’ve had before so we went to a chiropractor for an emergency treatment. It helped a little bit with the symptoms but I was still not well at all. It took a few days before I could even walk and the fight was a big question mark until the morning of fight day. I decided to go through with the fight in spite of the pain, a decision I maybe shouldn’t have taken, and if I had known how bad my condition was I wouldn’t have.”

”THE PAIN THAT RADIATED THROUGH MY LEG DOWN TO THE FOOT WHEN THEY TURNED ME OVER WAS SO EXTREME THAT I SCREAMED AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS!”


”I warmed up for two hours for that fight, dressed in thermals, to be fully warm all through my body. I warmed up and stretched but I felt all along that it wasn’t enough. When I went in to the ring and bowed down to enter between the ring ropes I was struck by pain in the lower back and thought for myself that this will never last!” After 10 rounds the fight was over and the judges had Erik as a winner. He went back home after the fight and decided to meet with a naprapath, David Wahlgren, who did his best to help him but gave him the advice to get an X-ray done. The result was clear: a serious disc herniation at the end of the lumbar spine. Erik could choose to try to rehabilitate the injury which would take at least 2 years, or go through surgery and in best case be back in six months. Four days later he was on the surgery table at Sophiahemmet in Stockholm, but it didn’t go as smooth as he had hoped for.

”I remember that something didn’t go well during the surgery. I woke up, all foggy, and they wanted to turn me over to check the stitches. The pain that radiated through my leg down to the foot when they turned me over was so extreme that I screamed at the top of my lungs! The nurses looked at each other and they knew right away that something was wrong, so I was put to sleep again and sent back to the surgeon. The doctor explained afterwards that they solved the problem already the first time but the nerve had been pressured for such a long time that removing the disk wasn’t enough for the pain to go away, they had to give an anti-inflammatory injection straight into the nerve. When I woke up the second time I wasn’t in pain anymore and it felt much better.”



The time after the surgery was characterized by slow rehabilitation but also big changes in Erik’s boxing career. The first change would be to move all training back to Sweden and get new coaches. “My naprapath David Wahlgren had a way to look at things that was completely new to me and I noticed a huge development already under the rehab training, so we agreed to include him in the team as my strength and conditioning coach. Since I was disappointed with the whole program in Germany I agreed with Sauerland to explore the possibilities to find a boxing coach in Sweden instead and the list of candidates was short. It was only Tommy Antman I wanted to train with and I’m very thankful that he was willing to help. The whole Antman family is known within in Swedish boxing and they have had several generations of skilled boxers. Tommy had withdrawn from boxing but agreed to help out a few times and then got more and more involved. He’s just like a boxing coach should be in my opinion: analytic, dedicated, works with individually adapted training and analyzes video material. I felt that each training session, both with David and Tommy, were based on my terms and I actually got better every day!”

”I SAID TO MYSELF THAT I WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES CANCEL THIS FIGHT, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!”


The historical comeback


The 15th of September 1968 Floyd Patterson was defeated by Jimmy Ellis in a twelve round fight at Råsunda. Until 2015 that was the last full time boxing fight ever arranged in Sweden, but 47 years and 5 days later it would happen again, this time at Rosvalla Arena in Nyköping with Erik Skoglund against Oleksandr Cherviak from Ukraine. “It was actually partly thanks to the injury that the fight was held in Sweden. Considering the rules you have to apply for dispensation well in advance and also include time for a possible appeal. Since time was exactly what I had we decided to apply for a dispensation for the fight, and unbelievably we got it. To do comeback after the injury in my home town and at the same time in a historical twelve round fight, it gave a surreal feeling of happiness! The fight was scheduled for September and I started to get stressed about recover fully until then, it was difficult to keep a calm pace. I had promised myself to never enter a fight injured again, but I had to withdraw that promise for this fight. I said to myself that I will not under any circumstances cancel this fight, nothing else matters!”

Erik was declared healthy by fight day but he hadn’t dared to extend his movements fully at practice and didn’t even warm up completely for the fight since he was still limited in his movements due to stiffness. He felt that he had a good chance to win by keeping a distance and work with his left jab. He admits that it wasn’t his best fight but he still won the fight and it went on for all twelve rounds which felt important. “My back felt okay after the fight, a bit stiff, and I was of course very tired after twelve rounds of boxing. The fight took away all my worries and I could put most of my injury behind me. I dared to go harder at practice already the next week, but I’m still careful with what I do, both to minimize the risk for a new back injury but also for injuries in general. I’ve got a new respect for the body and its limitations. You’re not immortal so you have to think and train smart.”



Exactly three months later Erik would once again walk in to the cheering of his home crowd in Rosvalla Arena. This time he was to face the American Derek Edwards who knocked out Swedish Badou Jack the year before. In spite of the tough opponent Erik did one of his best performances ever and won by unanimous decision, and is thereby still undefeated after 25 professional fights. “24 fights for a 24-year-old is quite a lot if you compare with other Europeans who often are around 25 when they go pro and sometimes even older. On the other hand, if you look at South Americans they start fighting professionally when they’re 15 years old. They have 20-year-olds with 40 fights on the record, and for them it’s nothing special, it’s just different cultures. For me it would be optimal to have four fights per year now, at least not less than three. Even if a fight would be short it’s the training camp that’s hard on the body, and also on the mind. I also need time for my basic strength training periods in between the fights. At the moment we don’t have any fight scheduled and there won’t be any before March at least.”

Secret recipe for success


With all these successes in mind I’m curious to hear more about how Erik trains, eats and thinks to become good in boxing, and he doesn’t mind sharing. “Between the fights I have strength workouts and some boxing technique, maybe two boxing sessions per week and the rest is for strength. When it’s 8-10 weeks left before the fight we start the training camp which begins with strength and conditioning, combined with circuit training, a lot of intervals and focus on three minute rounds. In the beginning I go intensely with six rounds and then increase to eight, ten and finally twelve rounds. The sparring starts five weeks before the fight and normally we have two guys who share the burden. We usually don’t think so much about the opponent when choosing the first sparring partner, it’s more important to have an all-round good boxer. The last two weeks he’s exchanged by someone who’s as similar to the opponent as possible. We put quite a lot of work to choose sparring partners to optimize the chances of winning. It’s mainly boxers from abroad that come even if it occasionally can be a Swedish colleague who helps out, like last time when Oscar Ahlin came down since he also needed some sparring.”

”The other boxers in Germany were used to have someone waking them up every morning and pushing them through the training. I put my own alarm and do my workouts out of my own will. I do a lot of training all by myself and no one would say anything, or even notice if I cancelled a sessuib, so of course you need strong discipline. It would be a nightmare for me to lose a fight because I didn’t train enough, it’s an unthinkable scenario for me so I never cheat. At the same time I’m now better at listening to my body and I can adjust the training schedule together with my coaches if my body complaints.

”PREVIOUSLY I’VE HAD THE ATTITUDE THAT IT’S JUST HOCUS-POCUS AND NONSENSE”


”The psychological part can determine a lot in a fight, especially on the highest level where everybody are so physically strong. Just look at Glen Johnson who’s now 47 years old and doesn’t have the same physical shape he once had, and for sure not the same shape his younger opponents have, but he’s very relaxed and has a good fighting strategy. He has a quality to increase the tempo for the opponent so they hit a lot without him taking any damage. Another example is Bernard Hopkins who was world champion at the age of 49, which is quite unique. Anyhow, I would probably have good use of some psychological training if I only took time to find the right kind. I’ve tried some relaxation exercises which is really nice when you get it to work, but previously I’ve had the attitude that it’s just hocus-pocus and nonsense. But now I’d be willing to give it a try since I think I have a lot to improve in the mental game, e.g. my nervousness and anxiety that often comes prior to a fight.”

”When it comes to weight it’s generally tough for me to gain weight and easy to lose it. If I stay on the couch, eating junk food I don’t really gain weight, but on the other hand I lose muscles so it’s not something I do very often. I need to weigh 79,38 kg when I fight and between the fights I’m at 83-85 kg depending on how long the break is and how much time we have to build muscles. The weeks after a fight I eat anything I want, even if it’s almost never as unhealthy as you dream about during training camp. My diet starts at the same time as the camp, i.e. 8-10 weeks prior to the fight. First thing is to cut away all sugar and gluten. Then I start decreasing the carbs to finally hit the right weight. In the beginning of the camp I eat a lot of carbs to be able to do very tough training, and also during the days I have sparring. My girlfriend is very knowledgeable when it comes to diet, so she’s my dietitian. Even if she doesn’t have the formal education for it she knows a lot about it and makes sure I get everything I need. She knows a lot more than I do on this topic.”



The brain damage debate, Mayweather and world titles


Every now and then the debate about brain damages in Martial Arts blows up and most often it’s boxing that is used as a bad example. We start to discuss the topic and Erik wishes for a more holistic view from people. “I won’t say that they don’t know what they’re talking about since it’s often brain surgeons and scientists who speak about it, so of course they have good knowledge about the brain, but their reasoning is too simple. Punches to the head are not good and in boxing you hit each other, thus it shouldn’t be allowed. But there are so many other sports with a much higher injury frequency even if the main goal is not to hit each other, e.g. it’s much more common with concussions in ice hockey and I don’t think any sport has as many deaths as horseback riding. I think it’s a combination of boxing being seen as a high risk sport and the moral part of hitting each other. That’s controversial in some peoples’ eyes. But I mean, no one is forced to be a boxer so I think they should let us do what we want. Also, many martial artists come from tough circumstances and martial arts are often a rescue and turning point in life. For the first time they get to feel that they’re good at something, start to eat good food, work out and live in a healthy way. The question is what these people would have done otherwise? I would love to participate in some research when I’m 40 years old and be compared to a man with a different profession to see who has the best health, which body is in better shape. It would be interesting and I’m having a hard time believing that I would be worse.”

Today Erik holds an intercontinental title in the organization IBF, which is not a World Champsionship belt but more like a ranking belt which guarantees a good position in the IBF ranking. He’s now ranked 3rd in IBF’s light heavyweight and would be able to get a title shot right away if the world champion would do a voluntary title defence against him. The champion has 9-12 months to do a mandatory defence against the number one ranked boxer in the division, and between these fights he can make voluntary defences against anyone he wants in the top 10. Erik is sceptical about that someone would challenge him voluntarily. ”Since I’m young and undefeated I don’t think anyone will challenge me, even if it’s not impossible of course. But if the look through the whole list I think they can find easier options. I will most likely have to qualify as a title contender by being ranked number one which can take 2-4 fights, but hopefully not longer than that. There is a chance it can happen this year. Sergey Kovalev is the reigning world champion and is undefeated. He has knocked out most of his opponents within four rounds, so he’s absolutely a dangerous guy. I wouldn’t have wanted to meet him this fall since I was still limited by the injury and in that fight I really want to feel that I’m 100%. The time is in my favour though since I’m young and still gets better while many other are already past their prime time.”

”MAYWEATHER, HE’S AN EXTREMELY SKILLED BOXER AND ALSO A GOOD BUSINESS MAN”


All of you who ever get a chance to meet Erik will notice right away how nice of a guy he is, a perfect son-in-law I’m sure many would say. It’s hard to imagine him involved in trash talking, like some fighters are known for, Floyd Mayweather to mention one. “Trash talk is not for me at all, I would have to play a role and I prefer to be myself. If people like that or think I’m boring doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just embarrassing for people who talk smack about their opponent before the fight when they eventually lose. That means more pressure in the fight, which I absolutely not want any more of than I already have. Even if I would think that an opponent is bad I would never say it or speak in that way, it’s just unsportsmanlike. If someone enters the same ring as me I take for granted that they are skilled and well prepared. When it comes to Mayweather, he’s an extremely skilled boxer and also a good business man. But then my opinion is that with the position he has he could try to be a better role model. At the end of the day he is an idol for many people, and unfortunately not always for his boxing, but many look at his behaviour, statements, arrogance and try to be the same. Also, what he does with his money, posting videos of him throwing dollar bills at strippers, that’s nothing I would do. It looks bad and I think it gives birth to bad ideas and behaviours for others, especially younger guys. Although I have to say he has turned down his attitude a bit during the last fights if you look at the press conferences for example. He has a huge self confidence, which you’re supposed to have and he has good reasons to have it, but I think his statements have become a bit more humble than they were before.”



Erik finished his chicken salad a long while ago and our long conversation is running to an end. Like always we’re curious to hear what fighters he’s inspired by and who he would like to read an interview with on FightersInterviews. “I’ve never looked too much at any fighter and tried to copy him, instead I try to take something from everyone. As long as you do the same as someone else you can never be better than that person. But in general I’m impressed by many of the Eastern Europe fighters, like the Russians. They don’t talk so much, are a bit low key and show respect to their opponents. And of course they’re very skilled boxers. That’s a combination that impresses me. A translated interview with one of them would be very interesting to read, why not with any of the top fighters in my weight division? Preferably in this format, about their background and how their journey has been. I think many come from tough upbringings, but in a different way that what we are used to in the West.

We thank Erik Skoglund for the visit in his city and the pleasant conversation. We end the interview with his thoughts on the future of Swedish boxing: “Swedish boxing is moving forward and there are many promising guys coming up. I don’t think Sweden will ever be the greatest boxing nation in the world, but it looks good and Swedish boxing is healthier now than it has been in many years, and next year will be even better!”