Linn Sandstrom: “You will see me chasing for world titles. I want to climb the rankings pretty quickly.”
Linn Sandström is no stranger to the globetrotting experience. She was born in Brazil, before a move to Sweden where she became a high-class table tennis player. But when she travelled halfway across the world to Australia, Sandström found boxing and a return to a life of travel.
The super-flyweight prospect has been busy of late. A frantic March will soon see a third ring walk. Three fights in twenty two days, a fighter showing her intent. But over Zoom, Sandström was in Mexico, a short stay before the bags are packed once again:
“I’m now in Mexico and I am going to be here for a week for sparring. Then I am off to Costa Rica to fight. It’s kind of crazy I have never fought back to back like this before, three fights in a row and three fights this month. It’s a pretty hectic schedule but if you want to get somewhere I guess you have to push yourself to the limit.
“If you get an opportunity like this to travel and learn from the best and fight on cards like I have been doing who would say no. I am living my best life at the moment.”
A fight earlier in the month in Australia led way to a trip to the Philippines. Two fights, two wins and valuable experience gained inside and outside of the ring. Sandström experienced a different side of the sport in the Philippines. There was no privacy as the first bell loomed large, but Sandström still enjoyed the at times crazy and surreal experience:
“You learn so much. Just going into the Philippines was crazy, I could never have imagined something like that. When I fight in Australia, I get my own room, I have my own coach and I know the process of getting my hands wrapped. But in the Philippines when I arrived at the venue about two hours before the fight it was boiling hot first of all. Then when I walked in the whole venue just stopped and started staring at me. Everyone then came rushing over taking photos of me. I had to take photos with people non-stop for about an hour. I was getting my hands wrapped but there was nowhere to hide, I was getting my hands wrapped where the crowd is, but people were still taking photos it was just so crazy. It was something I will take with me and I felt like I had fun there. It was just a crazy experience.”
The recent wins have got the career up and running again after two disputed blemishes on her resume. Natalie Hills drew and then beat Sandström on points, which the vanquished fighter claimed was beyond a robbery. But the two recent wins have got the career on an upward trajectory and the win in the Philippines was by 5th round stoppage:
“It was my first stoppage. In Australia, I knocked down the girl twice. I am working with my S & C coach and I visualised exactly how I dropped her in my head over and over. It was the same in the Philippines, I am going to stop this girl to the body it is going to happen. I have been sparring a lot of heavy girls lately and my power is really starting to develop and I am hurting girls in sparring and that’s with sparring gloves on. I am strong for my weight and I can actually hurt people, I am developing my skills and obviously power in my shots.”
Sandström is only a few years into the sport and still developing her skillset. But the improvements and the increased confidence are coming as fast as her obvious enthusiasm for the sport:
“I am really new to the sport. I have just said to my friends at lunch actually that the fight in the Philippines was the first time when I was in my corner that I wasn’t thinking oh shit I have got to go out for another round. I can’t even remember thinking I was tired for a second in the last fight. I definitely think I am improving every fight but I know the further I go the harder the fights will be.”
The loss to Hills was a painful one. Sandström is convinced she won the fight beyond any reasonable doubt. Defeats can be devastating and are hard to recover from. Promotors can lose interest, sponsors can go elsewhere. But Sandström is one of the lucky ones:
“I think I definitely won the last fight. There was no way I lost that fight. My Hall of Fame trainer Johnny Lewis left the corner in the 5th round, he had another girl on the card as well, saying I had already won the fight there was no way I was losing this fight, you don’t need me in the corner anymore. I have never raised my hand before a decision before. In the fight, I was thinking she is not hitting me at all but I am seriously hitting you. But they still gave her the decision, I guess that’s just boxing.
“But I have been on a roll since that fight. It was obviously bittersweet because I have that loss on my record, because I know I won the fight. Losing a decision like that can have an impact on your career with promoters who think it doesn’t look good. But I have had so many people contacting me now and I have more support now than before that fight. I gained heaps of new sponsors the promoter wanted me straight back on. I feel like I put on a really good performance and I have started to turn a lot of eyes around the sport. I have some serious people believing in me and I am starting to believe in myself as well. I am hoping to make another statement in Costa Rica.”
Despite the pain from the loss to Hills, revenge and redemption isn’t on the agenda for Sandström. The focus is now on moving forward and seeking fresh challenges and opportunities:
“To be honest I am kind of over it. Me and my team know we didn’t lose and we want to move on to bigger and better things. A lot of people want to see a third fight and I wish her all the best but there are other fights to be made.”
The love for her sport is obvious, an infectious personality with a willingness to learn and embrace whatever the sport may throw at her. Boxing seems to have consumed Sandström, a sport that often brings the good, the bad and the ugly. It can bring jealousy, hate and much more. But it can give so much, Sandström has had her life changed beyond even her wildest dreams. Her life now is boxing:
“I live and breathe boxing, I don’t work I just box 24/7. Since I turned pro we haven’t been out of camp, we have gone from one fight to another. I think the maximum I have had off is five days. I just love it. I think it is the whole process, the learning, the growing, the struggles. Having people not believing in you and then proving them wrong. Then there are the people who do believe in you and proving them right. I am just living my dream life.”
Sandström told me about some of the resentment she has had from people inside the sport. Fights on the big Australian cards brings much jealousy, why is she being afforded such opportunities, and that comes with some wanting her to fail. But the fighter herself has seen a change in attitude from many, the resentment now easing, and now forming into acceptance and respect. Sandström has grown as a fighter, but even more so as a person. Tougher, and even more confident than when we last spoke only a few months ago:
“I have such a tough skin now. When I moved to Australia a lot of people wanted to see me fail and not do well in the sport and obviously that affected me. But I have grown so much and there is now nothing that can faze me. I am now that tough as a person.”
A career still in its infancy and with an admission there is much to learn, but nevertheless, the ambitions are high but respectful to the nature of her sport. Sandström has previously told me about wanting world titles, shooting for the stars, and nothing has changed:
“You will see me chasing for world titles. I want to climb the rankings pretty quickly, but when I do fight for a world title I want to make sure I am ready. But right now it is about climbing the rankings and getting a lot of experience. I want to have seven or eight fights this year.”