Mo Gharib
  
  
As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat.  The end goal of the first phase of Mo Gharib’s career is to build his profile, get people talking about him and be successful in the ring.  As it stands, all three of those aims are being ticked off.  With his unique style in the ring, Gharib is certainly getting people talking. 
 
So far in three professional fights we have had clock watching, pretending to both drink and be drunk and a Superman punch thrown in.  It isn’t to the taste of all fans.  I, for one, have been vocal about seeing Gharib step up the workrate and cut out some of the show boating.  But there’s a method behind Mo’s madness.
 
“Once I’m comfortable in the ring, have read my opponent, something takes over me.  As I get higher in levels that style will disappear, but right now it helps me build a following.  People talk about it, it’s entertaining” he explains.  “It’s about building a reputation and a fan base, get people talking.  If there’s 20 people boxing on a show, I don’t want to be the same.  Some people don’t like it and some people do, but it stands out.  Even though people may say bad things or good things, I’m not like the other guys.  People talk about if I’ll do the same next time, pretend to be drunk or do something different.  It brings people back.”
 
I query with Gharib how much of it is pre-meditated.  Is he spending hours in the gym, or at home, working on his showmanship? 
 
“I actually don’t practice at all” he laughs.  “It’s something that takes over me, it’s natural.  People call me Prince Naseem but I’m not trying to be him, I don’t study him.  Even as an amateur, Prince Naseem was there and told me he reminded me of him.  The fact is, you can’t please everyone.  Some like it and some don’t.  I got a lot of good feedback, people that started following me and came to speak to me about the Superman punch I threw.”
 
Like it or loathe it, it’s working for Gharib.  This past Saturday he went to 3-0 in his career, each fight won with ease.  He got a taste of his own medicine this time around, opponent Aleksandrs Birkenbergs himself showing some flair as he played around pretending to look at a watch on his wrist.  It was a move Gharib was all too familiar with.
 
“In my second fight I boxed Jamie Speight.  I did it to Jamie, pretended to look at a watch, then Jamie did it back to me.  I think he must have seen that.  When I hurt him, he would try and distract me and do the showboating.  It’s just tactics.  In my second fight I bought into that too much and it ended up looking like a clown competition!  This time when he did it, I popped out the jab and landed it then smiled at him.  That opponent Saturday came to win.  He wasn’t your standard journeyman.  He didn’t have a great record but he wanted that win.  Some journeymen come and play a role, but this one wasn’t there for a walk around.”
 
Flattery of course is the best compliment.  However when the level of opponent starts to get stiffer, Gharib already sees that his style as a fighter will be changing.  “I think I will be a more dangerous fighter.  I’ll be getting down to business.  When it’s a proper fight then my skills will come out.  I don’t think I’ll be show boating at all” he says. 
 
As much as the antics help entertain, there was an underlying injury issue that also stopped Gharib from looking to close the fight on Saturday.  A damaged wrist, sustained two weeks prior to the fight, meant that he had to be careful on the night.  “I threw an uppercut on the pads and it just went, it’s been playing with my head since. I had a bit more wrapping around my wrists, but really I was reliant on adrenaline to get me through” says the 25 year old.  “I start panicking, thinking ‘what if it goes or what if I can’t hit properly?’ – it’s the worst. I never pull out of fights though.”
 
Injuries are something Gharib has learned to deal with over the years.  He had a long and successful amateur career, with 92 bouts and 62 wins.  He boxed abroad and in numerous Box Cups and admits that being peak condition is hard to achieve with the strains of a training camp.  “Even as an amateur, I don’t think I’ve ever boxed at 100%, I’m always carrying an injury.  I’m used to it.  I told Daley, my coach, about it.  He reassured me that I would be OK once the adrenaline kicked in and thankfully he was right.” 
There was another factor working against Gharib on Saturday night; Ramadan.  As an observer, the preparation for both fighting and training has to be tailored around meals.  It creates an additional challenge to overcome.
 
“I’m fasting because of Ramadan, which has been hard.  I’ll have a month when I can only train in the evenings.  Once I am used to it, I’ll then train just before I eat.  Your belly starts to shrink and it all gets easier.”
 
One of the other issues around Ramadan for a professional boxer is the impact on ticket sales as Gharib explains.
 
“This time it was a bit harder to sell tickets because of Ramadan.  People don’t really want to come out; they’re feeling lazy and want to stay in with family.  It surprised me, those that were there were really loud!  They didn’t have any energy but still made all that noise, it was great.  I get support from all over, there are people that come from outside of London to come and cheer me on.  It can be frustrating, as there are people in the Moroccan community that don’t always want to see another Moroccan do well, but hopefully they will come on board when I start to build my success.”
 
We joke that the strict eating pattern may assist in moving down the weight divisions.  For now though, he is comfortable boxing at lightweight.  When it comes to eyeing up title fights though, Gharib is confident he can campaign at super featherweight.  How long then before we see him moving into title contention? 
 
“I leave that to my Manager Steve Goodwin and my coach Daley Ojuederie.  Whenever they think I’m ready then I’ll do it.  But right now I still have a lot to learn, I know that.  I make a lot of mistakes, so it’s better that I make them now while I’m still improving.”
 
It’s an honest appraisal of where he is at, and refreshing for a boxer to admit that the path is a long one.  Those within his promotional team at Goodwin Boxing have high hopes for Gharib and see him as a potential future star.  How far does he believe he can go himself?
 
“I’m looking to go to the world level.  I’m 25 now, I’ve been boxing since I was eight years old.  Boxing is in me now.  I’ve been hit hard, but I smile it off.  I’ve never been dropped and never been rocked before.  In the amateurs, I’ve been in with people who have knocked out other kids.  I’ve seen all sorts and I’ve got heart.”
 
For now, he is comfortable still learning in the gym.  The link up with his coach Daley was a moment of chance, meeting on a train and exchanging details.  It is one that Gharib is benefitting from though.  “He’s teaching me new things.  His way of coaching gels with my style.  Some coaches are old school but his works well with me.  It’s more about using your brain more, picking shots and not wasting shots.”
 
In turn, Daley introduced Gharib to Steve Goodwin.  It was a partnership build on trust between Daley and Steve from days of old.  “Daley was with Steve when he was a fighter.  I had nothing but good feedback from other people and from Daley about Steve, so it wasn’t hard to pick him.  He’s honest, it makes me relaxed that my career is in the right place.”
 
Between the three of them, they are responsible for whether Mo Gharib is a hit or a miss in the professional sport.  All the pieces are there; the amateur pedigree, the commitment, the natural showmanship.  The balance is something that Gharib is working on.  However it is easy to forget he is a young man building a career for himself in a sport notorious for chewing up good people who couldn’t be noticed.  For Gharib, he wants to stand out from that crowd and make himself special.  Right now he is achieving that.  The future will show us how far he can take the rest of his talents.
 
Mo Gharib wanted to thank his sponsors who help support his career and his aspirations to make it within professional boxing.  These are Traditional Filming Rigging (TFR) and Media Access Solutions.