by Arne K. Lang
Folks in Maine will always remember Joey Gamache. In his heyday, the Lewiston resident was the most popular athlete in the Pine Tree State. Briefly the WBA world lightweight champion, Gamache finished his career with a record of 55-4 (38 KOs).
Outside Maine, Gamache is likely best remembered for the final fight of his career. He went in against Arturo Gatti at Madison Square Garden. Gatti was substantially bigger, a fact blatantly obvious to the naked eye, if not to the person operating the scale that recorded the official weights. Knocked unconscious in the second round, Gamache spent the night in a hospital where he was treated for head trauma and reportedly almost died. The New York State Athletic Commission was flayed with vitriol for allowing the fight to go forward.
What’s Joey Gamache been up to since that terrible career-ending night in February of 2000? If you wish to pose that question to him directly, be prepared to fly to Copenhagen. In April of 2013, Team Sauerland, one of the leading promotional companies in Europe, opened a boxing gym in the Danish city. Gamache, who had been working with Sauerland at their German headquarters, was dispatched to Copenhagen to serve as the head trainer.
One of the boxers that Gamache trains is Klara Svensson, a woman born and raised in neighboring Sweden. And that brings us to the big boxing card this Saturday, September 10, at Stockholm’s Hovet Arena.
Svensson (16-1, 5 KOs) opposes fellow Swede Mikaela Lauren (27-3, 12 KOs). But this is more than a clash for domestic bragging rights. Lauren (pictured) hopes a victory will propel her into a rematch with Cecilia Braekhus who is widely regarded as the world’s top pound-for-pound female boxer. Svensson also has her sights set on the so-called “First Lady.”
Despite a decorated amateur career, Svensson is the “B” side in this match. Mikaela Lauren, who currently resides in Stockholm (a short walk to Hovet Arena), is well-known in European boxing circles and one of the most famous sports personalities in Scandinavia.
Lauren turned 40 in January. As a rule, this reporter cringes whenever he hears of a person over the age of 40 swapping punches, but Lauren doesn’t fit the mold of a 40-year-old boxer. She was 33 years old when she had her first professional fight. Before that, she was a world class swimmer. Her aquatic exploits earned her a scholarship to the University of Nebraska where she was a conference champion in three events.
Was her swimming background useful to her when she turned her attention to boxing? “Yes and no,” she replies. Lauren credits swimming with improving her stamina and mental strength. “But I don’t think swimming is very good for boxing because you need to be a more explosive” she told a reporter at the recent WBC convention in Tijuana.
Lauren says she is still improving which is standard boxer-speak of the sort associated with an old war horse. However, in her case one can’t dismiss this notion as a flight of fancy. She had only seven fights under her belt when she fought Cecilia Braekhus, half as many as Braekhus. She went on to win the WBC world female 154-pound title and will carry an 8-fight winning streak into her showdown with Klara Svensson.
As junior middleweights go, Mikaela Lauren is on the small side. In her last outing, she weighed a shade under 149 pounds. As for Klara Svensson, in her last outing – her first since losing her WBC 140-pound title to Erica Farias – she tipped the scales at 138 and change. However, she has bulked up (shades of Kell Brook) and Lauren has shed a few pounds. At Friday’s weigh-in, only a half-pound separated the two combatants, Lauren the heavier at 145.
Joey Gamache, who will be in Svensson’s corner, is confident that he has the winner. “Mikaela has defeated no one that Klara wouldn’t have defeated,” he says. As for the woman that saddled Svennson with her only defeat while wresting her crown away, the Argentine boxer Erica Farias, now 23-1: “Why she would have defeated Mikaela too,” insists Gamache.
At five-foot-ten, Lauren is an inch taller than Svensson. She has a longer reach and has been in with stiffer competition. But Svensson is 12 years her junior and was a far more polished boxer when she entered the professional ranks.
There’s a little fight in London on Saturday that will rivet the attention of the boxing world, unless you happen to reside in Sweden where Lauren vs. Svensson is more compelling.