Three years ago, Franchon Crews entered the first U.S. women's Olympic boxing trials as the top-seeded middleweight in the field and figured to earn a spot on the team for the 2012 Summer Games in London.
But that didn't come to fruition after the Baltimore resident lost both of her bouts. She was overwhelmed and upset by Claressa Shields, a then-16-year-old unheralded prospect, during a 31-19 decision. Crews then lost her elimination match to Raquel Miller, 26-15.
Crews, a 28-year-old part-time fitness assistant at the University of Maryland Medical Center's URecFit gym, now has an opportunity to atone for that letdown and qualify for the 2016 Olympic team for the Games in Rio De Janeiro. By virtue of her gold medal round win during the Pathway to Glory Olympic Trials Qualifier II Sept. 16, Crews will join 23 other hopefuls at the U.S. team trials in Memphis Oct. 25-31.
"To go to Rio de Janeiro next year, I'm getting so worked up about it, because it is something I'm so passionate about and want so badly," said Crews, who dubs herself "The Heavy-Hitting Diva." "But I know that I have to stay focused and take it one fight and one step at a time."
There was a brief period, however, a little more than three years ago, when the five-time national champion contemplated throwing in the towel and giving up her boxing career. Her coaches at the time weren't fully invested in helping her train, Crews said, and her confidence diminished as a result.
"When you experience hard times, of course, the optimist in you kind of dies a little bit," Crews said. "Then, the realist shows its face. You have to believe in what you want, and you have to believe to have the belief in yourself."
Because of that, Crews said she decided to leave her longtime gym, Baltimore's UMAR Boxing Club, two years ago to train at Alexandria Boxing Club in Virginia. For Crews, it's been one of many obstacles she's had to overcome.
"I'm not saying it's been peaches and cream getting to this point," Crews said. "I didn't know how my rent was going to get paid, and I was actually homeless for most of the year in 2014. I didn't have a place to stay, so I stayed with mom or a friend or two."
Still, even though there were many nights she didn't know where she would be sleeping, Crews learned a great deal about herself and wouldn't trade her experiences for anything.
"The year 2014 was one of the most invigorating years of my life, one of the most fun years of my life, because I got to box and travel when I could," Crews said. "I was living out my dream."
During her struggles, Crews turned to one of her training partners, Glenn Dezurn Jr., whom she later married, for support when her coaches failed to offer any. Crews said Dezurn helped restore the belief she had lost and prompted her to make a quick return to the ring.
In May 2012, three months after her first Olympic pursuit ended, Crews captured a silver medal in the light heavyweight division of the International Boxing Association Women's World Boxing Championships.
"My husband, he's my backbone," Crews said. "He told me, ‘Franchon, if this is something that you want to go through -- no matter what -- if we have to be homeless, just don't stop.' He's been the driving force behind my vision, so I owe him a lot of credit."
Crews believes that stable presence in her corner will give her the edge she had been missing when she steps into the ring at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
"For me, it's just about remaining focused," Crews said. "I've been groomed and prepared, and I expect to win this time. It's been a long time coming. It's been long overdue.
"Just seeing what's out there, I know I'm capable. I'm one of the best fighters in the world, and I'm one of the best all-time amateur fighters. I feel good now. I'm happy."