Klara Svensson: “When I found boxing I realised this would be my time to shine.”

Klara Svensson: “When I found boxing I realised this would be my time to shine.

Life is very different for Sweden’s Klara Svensson. A change of pace, a change of many things. But life is good, even if there is still much stress from a young family. Over Zoom, Klara told me retirement has been kind and rewarding to her:

“Life’s pretty active still running around after small children. But it’s a big change I live a totally different life to the one I used to. I’m working as a public speaker and doing different media projects, commentating a little bit, some writing and some boxing training as well.”

Retirement came early, but at the right time for Klara. Seemingly at her peak at 30 and with the sport on the rise, the decision to leave the sport might seem a strange one to outsiders. But there was a frustration that the big fights were more than slow in coming and a hunger for the sport that was slowly dying. But maybe more telling in her decision to leave boxing behind, was a realisation of the dangers the sport can bring. One event, in particular, was a little too close to home:

“I started boxing when I was 14, so I had a long career. As a professional I moved a lot, I changed trainers a lot. It was a difficult life to live not only for boxing but also for settling down I was never in one spot for a long period. So I guess it took a toll on me. I just felt my hunger had gone in a way. It was pretty scary because as a boxer it is dangerous. And then there was Erik Skoglund who got the brain bleed in a training injury, he is a former teammate of mine and that really affected me. So before my last fight, I was lying down having my brain scan and I thought what am I doing.”

Klara is still only 34, and with women’s boxing in the middle of its strongest ever period, the temptation to return to the ring must be high for the former two-time interim world champion. But at least for now, Klara is ignoring any temptations to return to the ring:

“I will never say never because I still feel young despite the fact that I am turning 35 later this year. You also get different perspectives on training you didn’t have before, like strength and maturity and how you use your body. I have that little curiosity now about trying a different kind of training camp. But I am not waking up every day thinking like that and that is the main reason why I am not pushing for it.”

Living in a country where professional boxing was banned, not the first time I’ve heard that story, made it difficult in the embryonic stages of her boxing journey. But Klara found a way courtesy of a neighbouring country:

“Growing up in Sweden my amateur trainer had a close working relationship with Germany so you had a lot of our amateurs going over to Germany. Professional boxing was banned in Sweden but I had always heard about Germany being this golden country for boxing. So I was always glancing at Germany and because I had a lot of amateur accomplishments so I got the opportunity to fight for a very small promotion in Hamburg. So that was my chance to get into professional boxing. Team Sauerland was my preference but they didn’t have any Swedish TV rights so they couldn’t take me on. I had my first two years boxing in Germany and I wasn’t broadcasted in Sweden. But I was unusual in Germany because I had such good technique. My skills as a boxer weren’t that I was built like a Mike Tyson but I was very smart in the ring. I was a thinking fighter and the audience really liked that. There wasn’t much money or big opportunities but I was always hungry to get better.”

Klara learnt her professional craft away from the glare and scrutiny of the television viewers in her native Sweden. But after two years and remaining unbeaten, Klara received the call she had been waiting for. That call gave her the opportunity to box on a much bigger stage:

“After two years I had a call from Nisse Sauerland when my contract was up and I then signed with them. By then they had started Nordic Fight nights with the likes of Cecilia Brækhus and a lot of other fighters from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. So I became the second female fighter to sign a contract with Sauerland. I moved to Copenhagen to train with the American Joey Gamache and that was great for my development. It took time but I eventually got the big fights.”

The move to Sauerland Promotions changed plenty in her boxing career. The big fights started to materialise, interim title fights, the massive fights with Cecilia Brækhus and Mikaela Lauren, picking a highlight in her 20+ fight career is difficult:

“A lot of people would probably say the big fight in Sweden against Mikaela Lauren because we were rivals and it got a lot of headlines. But it was actually a shitty performance from myself. It was the first time I had gone up in weight I had always fought at light-welterweight so it was a big change for me taking on 3 or 4kg of muscle. I was so tired in that fight, it was one of those days my body just didn’t have it. I won the fight fair and square but I wish I could have had a better feeling in the ring. But it was still a very important fight for me. I had a really good fight with the Italian Lucia Morelli and also Marie Riederer, a German girl for the WBC interim title. Then I had the Brækhus fight which was even more shitty. I had a build-up of lactic acid from about round 3. It sounds like a bad excuse, but when you are a technical boxer and you get that in your arms and legs it affects you. I don’t know why it happened, we had a long camp, and I perhaps overtrained a little. They are the questions in your head, things you want to reverse. It was just really frustrating. I don’t have a problem losing to someone who is better than me, which she obviously was that day. But I looked like a drunk in there, so yes, it was frustrating.”

Like any fighter, Klara has regrets. In life and in boxing, everything is about timing. The big opportunity can come at the wrong time, changing the likely outcome of that opportunity.

“When I started as a pro in 2011 my dream was to become number one in my weight division. And after four years I was the top contender to fight Erica Farias for the WBC title. Six months earlier I was in a shitty relationship, he was very controlling. So I eventually ended that relationship, and the same week I got the call to fight Farias. That was the fight I had been pushing for. But I was underweight, I was like a ghost, I was really depressed. But I was very focused and very goal-oriented so I trained and trained and trained. But I was like a ghost in there, I was knocked down in the 5th round by a right hand and was saved by the bell. I actually don’t remember the rest of the fight, I didn’t even know I had lost the fight on points because I was that much out of it. That was really tough that loss, but if I hadn’t lost I wouldn’t have made the changes I did after that fight. I took a break, changed a lot of stuff and then fought Lauren and Brækhus.”

Before the amateur and professional success, Klara like many came to boxing by way of another sport. In her case, it was football. Boxing, even without a previous connection, seems to grab hold of you once you have consumed even just a small amount of the sport:

“I had one older sister and one younger sister, so I guess I was the tomboy stuck in the middle. I didn’t come from a sports family or anything. I liked sports and played soccer and then I heard about a boxing club. I didn’t have any connection to it, but I thought it sounded exciting. So I did fitness boxing to help with the football. In football, I was a good player but I was self narcissistic, I didn’t care if we won or lost so I then realised I was more of an individual player. And then in boxing, I dropped down to the competition group when I was about 15 and that is where I met my amateur coach. He saw my potential, and now looking back I see how important local clubs are. Being seen at 14 or 15 really brought me on. I had a really good disciplined trainer, he had a lot of patience. He didn’t push me too hard and that is something I tell the parents of young athletes, don’t push them too hard when they are 15 or 16. Let them realise they have to level up, so many kids stop because there is too much pressure.

Klara won medals at three consecutive world amateur championships, but even from the early days, success came very quickly:

“I came into women’s boxing at a really good time the generation before me had done all the hard work. I was in a good weight category, I got the fights. I won the Swedish Championships in 2005 when I was 17, as a senior because they didn’t have enough juniors at that time.”

To be someone everyone needs to find something that they are passionate about. Being in mundane employment will very rarely inspire. But boxing came earlier enough in her life for Klara to grab hold of something she had once only envisaged:

“I had an early narcissistic dream to become someone, so the drive was there very early in my life and so when I found boxing I realised this would be my time to shine. So I had this goal of becoming a world champion. I built myself up to become a professional so I could profit from it. It was a long journey of course, but I succeeded.”

It’s difficult to tell if that journey really is over. Klara seems happy, with a young family that keeps her more than busy. A career after boxing that seems one of contentment and reward. There seems little reason for any return to boxing. But maybe it’s a sense of unfinished business, a feeling that she could have done a little more, a sport that’s finally thriving, all may give Klara a reason to return. A curiosity, an itch she just has to scratch. But for now, her life is good and with plenty of success in her former sport behind her, retirement is far more likely to be permanent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s