‘American Idol and Simon Cowell said I wasn’t ready – I became undisputed champ’

Franchon Crews-Dezurn’s career was nearly ended by a car crash.

But it wasn't one involving the undisputed super middleweight world champion, rather the producers of American Idol. “They were intrigued, they were like ‘this girl sings and she boxes’,” the American said exclusively to Daily Star Sport. “They sent cameras to my gym. Actually, the first crew they sent got into a car accident so I’m like ‘maybe this isn’t for me’.” Fast forward nearly 20 years and she is firmly behind the wheel.

After Claressa Shields overcame Savannah Marshall to become the undisputed middleweight world champion, Crews-Dezurn strutted up to the ring in her giant heels, shouted at Marshall and told her to have a go at her titles.

Six months later, Crews-Dezurn defend her undisputed super-middleweight world championship against Marshall at the Manchester Arena as the co-main event, alongside Chris Eubank Jr’s rematch vs Liam Smith. Very little has thrown her off. But there was one giant, British roadblock in front of her – the infamous Simon Cowell.

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“People don’t understand, even in boxing, it’s not what you see, you see the finished product, but you’ve got production, you’re sitting, waiting for three days before you actually get on TV,” Crews-Dezurn added, providing a remarkable insight into the bright, flashy, and blinding world of show business. “I went through that and then I got in front of Simon, Randy (Jackson), and Paula Abdul.

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“They didn’t say I did bad, but it just wasn’t good enough at that time. Then Simon told me ‘well you can’t be good at everything’.” Those words were particularly painful. Crews-Dezurn was in full flow, but that memory made her stop in her tracks. She looked away slightly and said, “and…I’m sorry, I don’t want to be emotional, I am just so happy right now.

“They told me ‘come back, you have it, you just have to develop it.” Cowell has undoubtedly mellowed ever since his son Eric was born in 2014, but his words were even harsher in America. Everything may be bigger and supersized across the pond, but the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent judge was even meaner, harsher, and close to the bone Stateside.

Fortunately, as is still the case, Crews-Dezurn backed herself to the Hollywood Hills. “I said, ‘I am, if I do not win American Idol, I will be the middleweight champion of the world’.” The music industry may not yet be conquered, but she has walked all over the super middleweight division.

She ruthlessly ended the unbeaten run of Elin Cederroos to become the first ever women’s super middleweight world champion at Maddison Square Garden. Not only did she overcome an unbeaten opponent, she did so at a canter, securing a unanimous decision with scorecards of 99-91 from judges Kevin Morgan and Waleska Roldan and 97-93 from Eric Marlinski. Sshe did exactly what she told Mr Cowell and the entire world she would do.

A constant theme permeates through her glittering career. She does not follow footsteps – she creates them. When she placed more emphasis on believing in her own attributes, skills, and strengths, things clicked into gear. After-all, the 35-year-old was encouraged to try and fit herself into the depressing cookie cutter popstar shapes America was trying to churn out during the early 2000s.

“Yeah, because, it’s one of the reasons I started boxing at that time,” Dezurn said, when asked if there are any similarities between becoming a world champion and a popstar. “At the time, there was this standard.” While raising a closed first and then lifting up her little finger, she added, "you had to be this big, very skinny, you had to look a certain way, you had to sound a certain way, and that wasn’t me.

“Even with boxing, a lot of people can say ‘she is not skilled’ or ‘she can’t fight’ because I’m not ‘technical’ like Katie (Taylor) or technical like Claressa (Shields). But, when I stopped trying to conform, I started to create.

“I created my own opportunities, I created my own name, I’ve opened doors, not only in boxing but I’m doing fashion for other boxers. So, everything happens for a reason.” Her targets have not changed. To coin Cowell’s phrase, she wants to be “good at everything”.

“Even though I am not middleweight, who knows, I may even drop down,” she said, with a huge smile on her face. “I have a great future ahead of me. But I became the first ever undisputed super middleweight world champion of the world and I have a singing career – I am dropping a new EP this year.

“You know, no never means no, it may just mean ‘not right now’. I know Simon was one of the judges but one of the executive producers Nigel, when I was first put up for undisputed, [I saw him] and I thanked him and told him to tell Simon ‘thank you, because them telling me no and that I can’t be good got me to where I am now’.”

Any last messages for the judge? “Yes,” she gleefully added, while straightening herself up in the chair and focusing her brows. “If Mr Simon Cowell is here, come to the fight, come give me a hug, come take a picture with me, because I’m famous now.” She certainly is.

Crews-Dezurn has never believed in choosing between passions. But, what if she had to choose between the pinnacles of both industries. Would she become a world champion as the main event of a sold out show at Madison Square Garden or would she rather headline the show as a popstar? Her response is as emphatic as you would expect.

“Well I have already co-headlined at Madison Square Garden with Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, so let’s sing,” she laughed. “How about I sing myself out?” If she manages to overcome Marshall, the referees will have to ensure a microphone is ready. After-all, she is already hitting all of the right notes.

Franchon Crews-Dezurn fights Savannah Marshall for the Undisputed Super-Middleweight World Title at AO Arena Manchester on June 17th. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at Boxxer.com

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