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Asa Sandell: From Sweden to Gleason's to Nevada
By Bernie McCoy
October 11, 2005






(OCT 11) Gleason's Gym, hard by the East River on the northern edge of Brooklyn, is straight out of central casting. Every movie scene depicting a boxing gym probably uses Gleason's as a model. In fact, many of those movie scenes were actually filmed there.

 When I went up the stone stairs to the gym, recently, the surprise was how little it had changed in all the years since the last time I'd been there. The same dust, the same odors, the same sounds; leather on leather, shoes on canvas, the buzzers, the bells. The faces around the gym were a bit different, but in a way, they were exactly the same.

This October day, in a new century, the faces were a darker hue and the voices had lost the "dis" "dem" and "dose" and had acquired a slightly different lilt from days gone by. But, if you looked closely, the faces still said "boxing lifer", because Gleason's is, and always has been, where it begins and, often, ends, for those who believe the world revolves around a squared circle.

There was a lighted cooler of sports and energy soft drinks in the far corner and that was certainly different from the days when the word "hydration" was absent from any conversation within a ten mile radius of Gleason's. There were more women in the gym, on the bags, in the rings and while that was different, it was more of an evolution and, most important, it seemed natural.

That evolution was the reason I had come back to Front Street in Brooklyn and Gleason's gym. I was meeting Asa Sandell, the unbeaten super middleweight from Sweden. She had made a week long New York stopover on her way to Laughlin NV for her bout on the October 8 "A Ring of Their Own" card.

The guy hanging around the front desk told me Asa (he pronounced the name correctly, "AH sa") "wasn't in yet but she'd be here soon". That was a sure sign that Asa, in a short period of time, was "known" in the gym, she had made an impression on one of the "tough rooms" in the sport of boxing. At Gleason's, you don't get "second looks" simply by being a tall, blonde Swedish woman; you make an impression by convincing the "locals" that you know your way around, inside the ropes.

Asa arrived a few minutes later and we sat down on folding chairs. The only table in the gym had a domino game laid out, and, you don't interrupt the domino game, just as in the long gone past you didn't interrupt the card game. "I love boxing," she said, and I took that to mean that she loved all aspects of the sport, including the training and the gym work.

©Weigh-in photos by Rick Noble

That attitude probably went a long way to explain the respect she seemed to have earned at Gleason's. She evidently put in "her time" in the ring and on the bags. While we talked, it seemed like everybody in the gym stopped by give her a "how ya doin' ", inquire about a barely noticeable bruise around her eye, or to simply acknowledge that bond that exists between those special people who climb through the ropes into a boxing ring.

"I love the excitement," Asa continued talking about the sport, "there's nothing like it. I played basketball in Sweden, but boxing is a whole different thrill. I came over to the U.S. essentially, "cold", looking to turn professional. I had 22 amateur bouts at home but there is no pro boxing in Sweden. It's been that way since the sixties, which is absurd, since they have big K-1 shows in Stockholm. K-1 but no boxing, that'll change." Asked about her style in the ring, Asa replied, "Thankfully, my trainer in Sweden was schooled in the American style of boxing so I wasn't brought up on the typical European, stand up straight and jab style, I learned to bob and weave right from the start. The amateurs is a good place to learn the sport, but that boxing is very antiseptic, each punch counts the same and I was very anxious to get established in the professional ranks. I knew that the U.S. was the place for me, because the competition for the heavier weights is concentrated here." Four of the five fighters ranked ahead of Sandell in the highly regarded WBAN rankings, compiled by Dee Williams, are fighting in the United States. Asked about the difficulty of the travel and time change from Sweden to New York to Nevada, Asa,said, "Coming from Sweden to the U.S. is not as difficult as going back. I feel the jet lag much more when I go home after the fight, but, by then, it's not such a big issue."

Asa won three of her first four fights, two by KO, and fought a six round draw with a more experienced Yolanda Swindell. "I just wasn't right for that one," Asa asserts, "I had the flu and just felt terrible." It was on TV as part of "A Ring of Their Own" series and Asa clearly wishes she had been at the top of her game for that bout. She must have shown enough, however,since, shortly thereafter, Rock and Sock Productions, who produce "A Ring of Their Own" signed Sandell to be part of their growing stable of fighters with exclusive promotional agreements. Elena Reid and Lisa Brown currently are the others.

Sandell sees this as a major step forward in her professional career." ' Rock and Sock' has a plan for the sport and their fighters and that's a good feeling for me. They've gotten me more fights than I could have gotten in any other way. They know the value of competitive bouts and that's going to determine the future of this sport; the top fighters simply have to fight each other.

The PPV show on November 18 will feature championship fights with top fighters going against other top fighters. That's what fans want to see in boxing, two quality fighters competing against each other."

 Asa has targeted the fighters ranked ahead of her in the WBAN recent ratings, "That's who I'm looking to fight, boxers, such as Laura Ramsey, Valerie Mahfood, Natascha Ragosina, who is fighting out of Germany and has a good reputation in Europe (Ragosina currently has an unbeaten record in eight fights) and, of course, Ann Wolfe and Laila Ali."

 Not surprisingly, like all super middleweights, Sandell would like a shot at Ali and is aware that the time for that may be limited. "I've heard Laila is starting to talk about retirement, so I guess if I get a shot with her it would have to be in the next year or so. But, first, there are a number of fights out there for me."

Ramsey - Sandell ©Photo by Sue TL Fox

One of those fights "out there" was with Laura Ramsey, ranked just ahead of Sandell in the WBAN rankings. Ramsey and Sandell fought six rounds on last Saturday's "A Ring of Their Own" card, with Ramsey coming away with a split decision, that by many ringside accounts, was not that close, Ramsey scoring a knockdown in the final round to win going away.

It was a set back for Sandell, but Asa is a fighter who "loves boxing" and, hopefully, she'll soon be back, on another "A Ring of Their Own" show. The Sandell/Ramsey match-up is just one of the compelling hallmarks of "Rock and Sock" cards. The promoters aren't reluctant to put their contracted fighters in with quality opponents. On a March program, Elena Reid fought Alica Ashley, and lost a hard fought bout, via a seventh round TKO.

Rock and Sock Productions continues in the forefront of the promotion of the sport of Women's boxing with a formula of all-female fight cards, syndicated to TV stations around the country on a delayed broadcast basis. The programs features quality fighters fighting each other. The October 8 card in Laughlin was, according to those who were there, another example of that formula working. It works because of fighters like Asa Sandell, who not only "loves boxing", but knows that when you look for a fight you don't look behind you, you look at the fighters in front of you. It's probably why Asa Sandell fit in so well at Gleason's and why she's a very good fit for what will eventually make the sport Women's boxing successful.
Bernie McCoy









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