By Jeff Zimmerman
Franchón Crews-Dezurn (6-1, 2 KOs) strolled through the JW Marriott Hotel in September 2019 in Los Angeles dressed “to the nines” wearing a gold-colored outfit that resembled a boxing robe with matching gold pumps and dark shades and looked every bit a star in a city full of stars or people trying to become one. She was there with the rest of boxing elite and many Hollywood A-listers for the mega unification bout between Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter at Staples Center the following night, that Spence Jr. won in a hotly contested split decision.
Truth be told, Crews-Dezurn also known as “The Heavy Hitting Diva,” is no doubt a star in the making, but the rest of the universe hasn’t quite realized it yet. She is after all the WBC/WBO super middleweight champion and is making moves in and out of the ring to build her brand.
Crews-Dezurn’s first love was music as she told Fightnews.com® in an exclusive interview while she prepares to fight Ashleigh Curry (8-13-4, 1 KO) on Saturday, Jan 2, on the undercard of the Ryan Garcia-Luke Campbell showdown in Dallas to kick off the new year.
“I’m a Rockstar at heart and I wanted to be a singer and a songwriter, which I am, but that was my first love,” said Crews-Dezurn. “And I don’t know how I just fell into the sport. I was using boxing to lose weight but singing and fell in love with that, but I always used to fight, so that’s not an issue. I was a tomboy. I fought in school, I fought in the streets.”
“I was known as the crazy girl that could fight in the neighborhood,” recalled Crews-Dezurn, laughing at her early years.
She had no problem fighting boys either.
“As my husband says, ‘equal opportunity ass whoopin’, I’ll fight men, I’ll fight women. It’s whatever,” as she continued to laugh.
Crews-Dezurn was 14 or 15 when she first put on her first pair of gloves and was a national champion by 17.
“it just stuck with me. I played sports when I was younger,” said Crews-Dezurn. “I’m originally from Virginia and when I transitioned to Baltimore unfortunately the school system wasn’t as advanced as Virginia, so I kind of got lost in it and I couldn’t pursue my music and my sports like I liked.
“So, when I started boxing, I got more in shape and it gave me that adrenaline rush and it gave me something to focus on. That’s what kept me [in boxing] and yea my conditioning changed.”
She uses the same mindset she learned from music and applies it to the sweet science.
“I grew up on music and everything about entertainment,” Crews-Dezurn explained. “When you see like a Destiny’s Child or some of the 90’s or 2000’s artist and how they are little more refined than they are these days. I feel like music these days is very microwaved. You had to work at your artistry and everything you did where I came from and that’s kind of what I put into boxing, because I was doing a lot of great things and making history before social media was a huge thing.”
Crews-Dezurn relishes her unique nickname as it suits her perfectly.
“I have been the “Heavy Hitting Diva” since I stepped on the scene,” she shared. “I would sing the national anthem at the USA boxing tournaments and go on and win the whole tournament.
“I guess I got it from my mom having that “diva” persona, but I’m not a super bitch, but if I have to fight for what I want, yea, but that’s who I am. That’s really who I am.”
Crews-Dezurn also has strong ties to perhaps the biggest “diva” in the sport and the current “face of woman’s boxing,” and self-proclaimed GWOAT (Greatest Woman Of All Time) Claressa Shields, who she faced in each of their pro debut.
“We actually fought a couple times in the amateurs too,” said Crews-Dezurn. “I was the top seed, when she came on the scene. That’s how we initially met and then it was like a fluke.
“They said like 18 girls turned her down for her pro debut and her management called me and my husband and we just looked at each other and said why not. I was going for the 2020 Olympics and I still had like two months to start training camp and when they called about the opportunity, I was like why not. I didn’t want to go pro, I never thought about pro, I don’t know, I just fell into it once again, like I fell into boxing.”
Crews-Dezurn has had great success in her pro career so far while without much fanfare, as Shields has become a three-weight world champion after two Olympic gold medals and is now crossing over to mixed martial arts where she has been training with some of the biggest stars in the sport including Jon Jones and Holly Holm.
She weighed in on Shields becoming a two-sport star.
“I think that she’s competitive and I just want her to be safe. That’s all. I know she works hard. I support her. Just be safe and do what you’re born to do, be great.”
Early on their relationship was not quite as congenial, perhaps somewhat frosty, but today there is a mutual respect between the two champs, but it took time to develop.
“I think how we say boxing is our own little world, I feel like for a long time and I think it changed once Claressa starting showing a lot of respect, actively and publicly, showing her admiration and her respect for me,” Crews-Dezurn stated happily. “It was for a long time that if people liked her, they couldn’t like me. I’m like I’m still going to be me regardless, I was here first. I’m still here.
“It was like, I don’t know why people did that, but I felt like that happened. And once that happened, kind of pushed me over to the side a lot. But I’m still here, so that’s a good thing.”
Everything is good now between them and Crews-Dezurn had nothing but high praise for her boxing peer.
“Yea of course, she’s a queen too,” Crews-Dezurn stated emphatically. “I’m a boss, she’s a boss. I don’t hate anything; I don’t envy anything. I’m capable of doing my own thing and I’m in my own lane. She can’t do what I do, and I can’t do what she does. I’m very comfortable in my skin, put it that way.”
Crews-Dezurn does, however, crave the star power that Shields has amassed after winning her two Olympic gold medals and a pro career that has been strategically pushed by former HBO Boxing head honcho Mark Taffet.
“I struggle with that a lot,” Crews-Dezurn admitted. “Honestly if I had a huge PR push or if I had a bigger team behind me, I would be one of the top female athletes in the world, but I’m still grateful to be known or somebody talks to me. It’s all in due time.”
She is making strides in that arena, though, as she recently signed with one of the best managers in the sport and a candidate for Boxing Writers Association of America Manager of the Year.
“I just signed a partnership with Peter Kahn,” Crews-Dezurn revealed. “We just started and it’s very, very new. He has a background in music, and he gets it. He sees what I see. We’re formulating our plan and feeling each other out and putting some stuff together to see what can really be done. Because he gets it and now it’s can you execute.”
Now with Kahn in her corner, Crews-Dezurn is ready to take her career to the next level and not just in the ring as she still has music playing in her head along with other lofty goals.
“I do love boxing and there are so many singers out there, but they can’t box,” Crews-Dezurn said. “There are so many boxers out there, but they can’t sing. They are not fluent in fashion.
“I feel like if I could aspire my career to be like, this is where I am going now at this stage of my life, think of Jamie Foxx, think of a Will Smith, think of a Queen Latifah, think of a Cher, those are big shoes to fill, but that’s where I see myself being, in front of the camera or behind the camera. I just want to live my full potential and not be limited.”
Crews-Dezurn continued to explain what makes her, perhaps, the most unique fighter in the sport.
“I’m not in a box, I feel like it’s just who I am. These are all genuinely what I do, it’s not like I’m generic, hey you can sing a little bit we should make you a star, no this is what I love to do. If you put me in a studio, if you give me a beat, I could write you a song in like 20 minutes or less. I could go in a booth, I can sing it, I could arrange it, I could do background vocals. I can tell you to sing it and what I want to hear. It’s really genuine and authentic with me.”
Crews-Dezurn has experienced quite a bit in only seven pro fights, but nothing like what occurred when she squared off against Alejandra Jimenez on January 11, 2020, at the Alamodome in San Antonio with her WBC and WBO belts on the line.
Jimenez was declared the winner in a heated split decision affair but was soon declared a “no decision” a couple weeks later after it was revealed she failed the pre- and post-fight drug test.
Although Crews-Dezurn kept her titles after the ruling, these were dark days for the then 32-year-old. She opened up about that night in the ring and the emotions that soon followed and how she recovered to become even stronger mentally.
“When you’re a threat, people are either scared of you and a scared man is a dangerous man and I know that her and her team were afraid of me, because I am a good fighter and I’m strong, I’m a real fighter,” stated Crews-Dezurn. “They took a whole year to drug up and do what they had to do to beat me and I thought I still won the fight on points. It was an eye opener. I’m blessed that I’m fluent in the sport and I know boxing and I know what I could do because if you look at the fight on TV and I was in the corner confused as something was not right.
“What the f*k is going on. Literally that is what I would say in the corner, am I doing something wrong, because I take pride in being a fighter that can adjust on the fly. I have a wonderful corner, my husband, Barry Hunter and Boog and have a great thing going on. I tried to stay focused during the fight and made it through and things didn’t really hit me. Even when I got the decision that I lost; I still in my heart felt like I won.”
“Things didn’t really hit me until like 3 weeks later, especially when it came to light that she actually did cheat. I was like, I could have died. That was a lot on me. I think I kind of blocked out all my feelings and emotions to get through losing my championship, everything I worked for. I had my hair situation. It was just a lot and when everything came to light, when those emotions came, that was another part I had to go through. It made me stronger and I’m grateful to the fans and the media who backed me and that really helped me get through. I’m still bothered over it.”
She was also determined not to let losing the wig get in the way of her desire to win.
“Listen when that wig came off, if we had two more rounds, you would have seen the best of me,” Crews-Dezurn declared. “You don’t know how strong you are until you have no choice. I feel more powerful since that situation happened.
“I’m happy that somebody out there that saw my struggle and it inspired them to f*k the hair, go for the belt, go for your goals. I just didn’t want to go home empty handed. I didn’t want to go back to where I come from, it was an empowering moment for me.”
It will be almost a full year since the debacle with Jimenez, when Crews-Dezurn faces veteran Ashlee Curry this Saturday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
“When I see that [record], I see experience,” she stated regarding Curry’s upside-down record. “When it’s lopsided and people say she’s got a losing record, I see experience. I see somebody who’s durable and I see somebody who has been around. I’m just preparing the best way that I can and along with my corner adapt as I go.
“I know she has fought some other super middleweights like Savannah Marshall, she fought Raquel Miller, so she’s got some notable names on her record. I don’t know how people will feel about it, but at the end of the day, I have fought great fighters out of the gate, let me be great.”
She has her gameplan all set for Curry.
“I’m going to display my boxing, because a lot of people think I just get in there and start slugging and don’t know what I’m doing, but just a tough fighter,” she confessed about her fighting style. “I have a really high boxing IQ and will just display that side of me, because I don’t get credit for boxing period. I’m going to do what I do and what I’m supposed to do as a champion and a good fighter.”
If everything goes as planned against Curry, she is already looking ahead to unifying the division and even bigger goals ahead.
“This is a non-title fight, after this one, I hope to do a unification with the undefeated Elin Cederroos out of Sweden, owner of the IBF and WBA belts,” said Crews-Dezurn. “I also know that Christina Hammer became my WBC mandatory, but I want this unification fight.
“Also, I want to make history and be undisputed. I want to join that class. I want the big names. I have sacrificed so much, being a mom, living and having other experiences, so while I’m here I want to do it big. I want undisputed. I want to possibly move to another weight class. I just want to be great.”
And to help her be great, Crews-Dezurn has her husband, Glenn, to lean on, also a pretty good boxer in his own right with a record of 12-2-1, 8 KOs.
“My husband is a student of the game,” said Crews-Dezurn. “He makes me watch this stuff. As I stated before I kind of fell into boxing, I just knew like the mainstream ones.
“But when he tells me the stories, we go through things, so of course I love B-Hop, we have a lot of similar stories, being self-managed and not fitting into the mold and making people respect us and sitting down and speaking with him my respect for him multiplied.”
“You have Sugar Ray Robinson, those older fighters and what they had to go through to get to where they were,” Crews-Dezurn continued. “I like some of the new kids too as we grew up in the amateurs, so of course I am going to watch and support them.”
“But I really love the older fighters because of their character, and they didn’t have social media and they had that one old person that believed in them,” Crews-Dezurn chuckled as if she was describing her own fate. “It was really a rags to riches story. I’m a fan of Mike Tyson of course and Sweet Pea is where I’m from and I just like the character of the older fighters.
“I’m just so blessed from all the experiences boxing has brought me from actually meeting these legends and the fact I can hear those historic stories from their mouth. I have met so many legendary boxers over time and like wow, this is what it’s about.”
She wouldn’t mind see her old nemesis and now respected foe across the ring again down the road for much bigger stakes if the opportunity arises.
“I think that door is always open, because it was just an epic fight,” Crews-Dezurn said on the prospects of fighting Shields again. “She’s so competitive. And I think the fans appreciated what we did, because it was bigger than ‘she’s going pro, she’s going to win’.
“That was really for women’s boxing. She’s a tough girl, but that’s probably not the type of fight she wanted for her first fight. The fans appreciated it, but I think if we do it again, it’s going to be for us. We’ll be compensated for it; we’re going to have a great build up to it. It’s going to be a good closing for our legacy.”
If all goes as planned and another fight with Shields comes to fruition down the road, Crews-Dezurn will most likely not be cruising through a plush Los Angeles hotel unscathed this time, as she will have undoubtedly reached the “star” status she seeks, but on her terms and in the most honest and natural way possible.
“I’m a real humble person because of what I have been through. I’m just happy to have my health, be in a warm home, have food in my stomach,” Crews-Dezurn shared with gratitude in her voice. “And happy to have a job.”