Franchon Crews-Dezurn: Setting It Off (Now See I’m With That…)

Sound For Sound is a recurring column that further explores the relationship of rhythm and boxing by celebrating the music that influences and motivates fighters as they prepare for, and to excel under, the game’s brightest of lights
Franchon Crews-Dezurn’s second 12 rounds versus Maricela Cornejo Saturday, September 14 as the co-main event to Munguia-Allotey was as dominant as the first set, and netted a second 168-pound title
Roc Nation artist Rapsody’s critically-acclaimed third album Eve actually opens eyes, including “Cleo” a song where the one-time under dog does her own heavy hitting

Baltimore’s 32-year old unified Super Middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn exemplifies resilience, as well as relentlessness both in and out of the ring. The Heavy Hitting Diva casually sums up her list of growing achievements (and side hustles) with, “It’s a Big Momma Thing!”, a mantra which hearkens back to another pioneering performer in rapper Lil’ Kim.

Dezurn’s career started with somewhat of a crossroads fight back in November 2016. She faced a familiar foe in two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields – the current undisputed Middleweight’s debut fight as well – on the undercard of HBO PPV’s Light Heavyweight world championship unification bout Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev. Shields won the fight 40-36 on all three cards, and subsequently embarked on an ongoing history-making (or her-story) run with Showtime Boxing under the guidance of Salita Promotions.

Dezurn (6-1, 2 KOs) had a cup of coffee with Salita in early 2018, but later linked up with Golden Boy Promotions in September for her first bout with Cornejo (13-4, 5 KOs). She won her first title, the WBC Super Middleweight, with the questionable majority decision. This was just Dezurn’s fifth fight, but the fanfare was relatively limited. Nearly three months earlier in June, Shields headlined another Showtime card in Detroit where she became the quickest fighter to become a two-division champion in her sixth fight.

While Shields has gone on to accomplish a number of great “firsts”, Dezurn has steadily continued to take care of Momma’s business. Last Saturday the 5-foot 8-inch slugger ended up facing Cornejo on a couple of days’ notice after her original opponent Alejandra Jimenez, an undefeated 32-year old with 9 KOs, was unable to obtain a visa.

After the hard-fought battle with Cornejo, which streamed in the U.S. on DAZN, the new WBO champion expressed her relief with the victory.

“This is for women boxers from Mexico and China and Russia and America. This week has been hell and I stood and held strong. This is just another testimony to show if you believe in yourself, you put the work in, you stay focused, no matter how many distractions, no matter how much bull crap comes your way, you just stick to the plan and complete the mission.

A few days after the fight Dezurn had to address a few more issues in 2-0 series with Cornejo. She aired out some misleading post-fight grumblings from Cornejo in an Instagram post. This seemed unnecessary, in the wake of a dominant 98-92, 98-92 and 97-93 unanimous decision – with Dezurn now winning at least 20 of 24 total rounds.

 

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A post shared by Franchón Crews-Dezurn (@thehhdiva) on

In boxing being outspoken has served many great fighters well. In women’s boxing, that skill is a prerequisite just to be able vie for the limited opportunities available to female boxers. In hip hop talk is highly lucrative, and Snow Hill, North Carolina veteran rapper Marlanna Evans is rapidly garnering widespread consideration as one of the genre’s most lyrically gifted. As listeners continue to live with Evans’ latest album Eve one of set’s early tracks “Cleo” serves notice that Rapsody has overcome, but not gotten over her grueling fight as one of hip hop’s under dog stories. C’mon family, shouts to 9th Wonder, you know any rap song that samples Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”, the emcee is going to be talking their shit. 

Pondering, pondering how to approach
Some  of y’all sensitive, but y’all still need to know (Yeah)
Wonder  how a bunch of sheep can have opinions on a G.O.A.T. (How?)
We all on the same continent and off the same boat (Right)
Remember  early on, y’all ain’t treat me all the same though (Uh-huh)
Used to question why the brothers even rocked with me for (Uh)
‘Member y’all wondered, used to wonder ’bout Wonder

As one of the few women currently signed to Golden Boy Promotions – along with Marlen Esparza and Seniesa Estrada – Dezurn shares a similar pressure faced by Rapsody as the flagship artist associated with long-time producer 9th Wonder. In terms of tough luminaries to impress, for Golden Boy’s CEO and legendary fighter Oscar De La Hoya there’s the founder of Rap’s current label, Roc Nation, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.

Women’s boxing maintains its constant fight to fully arrive in the world of combat sports. As a major co-sign boxing legend Bernard Hopkins, a Golden Boy partner, warned fans ahead of the Dezurn-Cornejo showdown Saturday night that the pair, and their bad blood, would steal the show as the card’s co-main. So, Dezurn’s charisma, flamboyant ring attire, punishing attack and her amazing back story haven’t gone completely unnoticed by male promoters and her boxer counterparts. Same with Rapsody’s hard work, growth and dedication.

Now they say I ain’t elite (Who are they?)
On to the next
I don’t take time to address opinions that ain’t 9th, Dre, or Jay-Z (Right)
Only rap radars I need are them and the streets (Right)
Be careful, the validations y’all seek (Uh-huh)
I been in them offices, they don’t look like you and me (They don’t)
I’ve been in offices that they look like me
I learned lessons ’bout my essence and this industry (Uh)
Y’all banked on the wrong ones, wasted your energy (You did)
Lost more interest, got me laughin’ at my enemies

Now that Dezurn is the unified WBC and WBO champion, that accomplishment checks another important CV box, but now what’s next becomes a matter of great interest. She faces the same reality – the sparse ranks above Middleweight – that drove Shields southward looking for compelling fights that could summon sizable purses. After all, this is prize-fighting. At 168-pounds Dezurn can pursue fights with WBA champion Alicia Napoleon Espinosa of New York, the UK’s Savannah Marshall, possibly San Francisco’s undefeated prospect Raquel Miller or take a second shot at Jimenez.

Dezurn’s already basically laid down an open invitation to all challengers, similar to Rapsody’s second verse:

Yo, let’s keep it a whole G, and talk about it upfront (Talk)
The best, point-blank, period, every month (Talk)
The goals been lowered and we still scared to dunk (Talk)
Y’all don’t want no smoke, half the squad roll blunts, hold up

While many of Dezurn’s options seem to require more time to materialize, or marinate, The Heavy Hitting Diva’s stance seems to remain lockstep with the ready-and-willingness nature of the individual “Cleo” is named after – Queen Latifah’s character in the 1996 film Set It Off. When ‘Frankie’ (Vivica A. Fox) told Cleo the harsh reality concerning the only way the four-woman crew was going to see some cash, even when faced with the toughest challenge Cleo boldy replied: “Now see I’m with that shit!”

Time to clock in Golden Boy!

Writer’s note: Please check out Eve in its entirety, and in particular, enjoy Queen Latifah with her “and still” feature setting it off on track No. 14 “Hatshepsut” in one of album’s many highlight moments.

All photos by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

Set It Off photo by D Stevens/New Line Cinema.

All lyrics verified at genius.com

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RL Woodson

I'm all over the place, literally. Click on something and I'll explain it all. A Tribe Called Quest fan, Good Will Hunting, HTTR and Michigan athletics... #DLTCYO

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