Morocco Atlas Lions have been a welcome addition to Season V of the World Series of Boxing (WSB), and their star fighter has undoubtedly been Welterweight (69 kg) Mohammed Rabii who is the fourth WSB Boxer of the Week.
The 21-year-old Rabii began his WSB career with modest expectations, but has won all five of his matches in the competition, and is currently second in the Welterweight rankings with just two bouts to go.
Rabii won his opening contest against Mexico’s Marvin Cabrera who was ranked number one in Season III, and followed that up with a split decision conquest over Ukraine’s Oleg Zubenko.
Two weeks later he excelled for the first time at home when he defeated African rival Sofiane Tabi, before returning to Casablanca and earning the greatest victory of his career as he beat Cuba’s Olympic gold medalist Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo.
A third away success of the campaign last week in London against Britain’s Haizel Ekow Tabiri-Essuman solidified his top two ranking, and he is five points clear of Ireland’s Steven Donnelly.
The road to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is almost in sight for Rabii, and he spoke to WSB about his season so far.
This is the first season of WSB for Morocco Atlas Lions. How has the campaign gone so far for you and the team?
The competition is difficult and spicy, especially for us because it is our debut in this kind of high level competition. We had very good preparations, and I trust in our staff (Technical Director Mounir Barbouchi and coaches Dagoberto Rojas Scott and Youssef Srour).
I take every match as a challenge to win each time, and this asks for discipline and determination during the months and the matches. For me, it is also an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games and to represent my country Morocco at Rio 2016. I know that I have reached a high level, and I will repeat these kind of performances because I am still young. There are more levels of progression to come, and I am confident in myself.
Has being a member of Morocco Atlas Lions changed your life?
Yes, of course. Many people know me in Morocco now as the fights are televised and are followed here in my country. WSB gave me the opportunity to show my talent, to be more recognized and also to show what boxing is. The fight bonuses are very good, and let us prepare a little for the future. I hope that Atlas Lions will become similar to a football team and we will enjoy the same financial support.
What are the goals for Morocco Atlas Lions in WSB?
As these are our first moments in the competition we don’t have too much pressure in terms of results. The goal of the Management is to earn more experience and try to overcome our limits by giving our best. But my teammates and I love to win, and we want to defeat the other teams.
At the beginning of the competition we didn’t want to be the bottom team, and now our goal is to finish the Regular Season in the third or fourth position, god willing.
In Week 8, you defeated the Cuban star Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo. How do you feel after defeating an Olympic Champion?
This win gives me a lot of confidence in myself, and I know now that I can beat the best boxers in the world. Moreover, he is a big champion with good technique and experience so I think that I can defeat any other champion now. During my next matches the difference between me and my opponents is going to be small.
You are ranked in second position at Welterweight. Do you think that you will qualify to the Olympic Games through WSB?
Yes, I do. I only have two more fights and if I put in good performances I think that I will win. I can already see Rio 2016 and if I win my next two fights I will make my dream real. May God give me strength!
What are your goals for Rio 2016?
I dream of an Olympic Medal and seeing the work that my teammates and I do in training, I think that this is possible for all of us. Our team is very strong and there is a good working atmosphere.
In the last week of the Regular Season, Morocco will travel to Russia where you will probably meet Radzahd Butaev who is ranked first in your weight category. If you lose the match you could also lose your Olympic qualification. Are you afraid of this bout?
No, this fight doesn’t scare me. Both of us has been defeated Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo and I will show that I’m the best. In Morocco, we have learned to overcome these challenges. I will wait for the fight, and may the best man win.
You are very young but how do you see you future after boxing?
I wish to become a coach and why not in a team such as the Atlas Lions. Our National Federation wants us to get our certifications now, so when I finish my boxing career I will be ready to transmit my boxing knowledge. I thank our Federation for worrying about our future. I also want to thank my parents and friends for their support, And I say hello to everybody who has given me support in social media.
Who is the boxer (active or inactive) you have always wanted to compete against?
For me Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo is a reference and boxing against him was my dream. Independent of the result, it was amazing to meet this champion. Finally, I always wanted to fight against the technician and champion Alexis Vastine, may God bless him in the Paradise.
- Boxing is fulfilling
- My hero is Hicham Nafil
- My opponents for me are my opponents only in the sport
- World Series Boxing is an excellent opportunity to fight at the high level
- My favourite food is couscous
- My favourite drink is Mint tea
- How I see my future becoming a boxing coach
- Knockout in my mind is the result of a good technique
- Morocco Atlas Lions for me is My lovely team and my friends
- My dream is To be an Olympic Champion
|Date of birth||02.09.1993|
|Best Results||Morocco National Champion 2014
Morocco Youth National Champion 2011
AFBC African Youth Championships 2010 – Silver