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Atif Oberlton – Fashion Meets Boxing. Co-Main ShoBox

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Atif Oberlton – Fashion Meets Boxing. Co-Main ShoBox
Photo Credit: Ejz Shotz

Atif Obertlon (7-0) feels like a veteran despite being simply a prospect. The hardworking fighter from Philadelphia, PA, is the Philly fighter most are overlooking or not even mentioning despite his amateur achievements which were somberly capped off by his Olympic Trials Silver medal in 2019. You even get to hear an edge when you hear his nickname of “Lord Pretty Calvo.”

“I feel like I am a lord when it comes to the ring; pretty just goes based on my appearance and style,“ said Oberlton when reflecting on his nickname to myself during a podcast on my lesser-seen YouTube channel. “Calvo means gold in Spanish, but like I said before, I took inspiration from the rapper A$AP Rocky because he said his name is Lord Pretty Flacko.”

Oberlton, who Marshal Kaufmann promotes, is someone who stands out in a crowd, especially in a void of fight cards in which we need a star so bad in the sport of boxing. Despite being a boxer which is looked at as one of the most macho sports, Oberlton has a deep passion for fashion. This can be seen quickly when looking at his unique wardrobe down to the grill; he sometimes has to frame his teeth. To quote Oberlton when speaking to ESNews, Oberlton reflected on his style as “…I am stunna [SIC]. I like to stunt.”

Oberlton is so into fashion he learned how to sew. As with anything, you have struggles when learning how to use a sewing machine. The same difficulty everyone feels in growing is the pains Oberlton detailed about using a sewing machine, as it took encouragement even to get started.

“I just love fashion,“ said Oberlton during this interview. “The love for fashion was always in me. Everyone has to get dressed, so why not look good doing it? Look good, feel good. So the sewing machine my sister had been knowing that I had wanted to design clothes, and she bought me a sewing machine. I was actually afraid to touch it for years, and then finally my woman she told me ‘go ahead and bust the sewing machine open’[SIC]”.

Atif Oberlton and his lady after one of his fights.

Since then, the sewing machine is as second nature as using his two fists in a prize fight. “A tailor trained me in Philadelphia as an intern for my [high school] senior project,” stated Oberlton. “[it was] trial and error. When you start something, you will always have growing pains, and we are all beginners before we become masters. I messed up things, but some of things I messed up turned out to be gold; that is how art tends to be….”

Not unlike Jean-Paul Basquiat, a contemporary artist who changed the perception of art just like Mark Rothko before him. Oberlton found that his errors were great successes, which has kept him evolving as a fighter. Though Oberlton was contemplating college to pursue a fashion degree, Oberlton punted on the idea as he saw it as a huge finical risk that might not return on the investment. Add to it, his success as a boxer could lead to returns if he followed the path he was on. “I did the math,“ said Oberlton, who was thinking of pursuing his fashion degree before he opted to take boxing to the furthest limits of his ability.

Though possibly unknown to the average boxing fan, Oberlton defeated a former USA Boxing national champion in Jasper McCargo of Richmond, California, stopping him in five rounds on television. Yet, when Premier Boxing Champions stopped having their cards broadcast on FOX for free, seemingly starting last year, 2022 – in which we saw a grand total of zero fights broadcast by FOX without a paywall included, meaning every show FOX did was attached to a pay-per-view event. Oberlton was stuck in the middle, a great developing fighter worthy of being on television, but now without a platform to show his talents to the world.

“The FOX era was beautiful, and I am glad you touched on that,’” said Oberlton when reflecting. “The Jasper McCargo fight was a while ago. I gave a beautiful performance, and the lady who interviewed me even asked, ‘…when the next time you coming back?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to come back whenever you guys want me back. That was about a year or more ago.”

Oberlton fought three times in 2022, all off-television, but now hopes that his 2023 debut on ShoBox will set the tone for a big year. This is also a credit to Gordon Hall, the ShoBox executive producer, who has quite the eye for young talent.

“Finally, I am back on television,” said Oberlton with a smile when reflecting on his fight with Artem Brusov as Oberlton will face back-to-back undefeated opponents.

Boxing typically has a pretty crappy and predictable response when dealing with social issues. Yet, Oberlton has a large part of female empowerment in his story, which I didn't know until speaking with him. His coach, Shar’ron Baker, was the first female boxing coach in Philadelphia and worked with boxing legend and icon Brother Nazim Richardson. More so, Oberlton, who credits his family with his strong work ethic, points out his mother, particularly, as a source for why he has gone so far in the sport.

“My mother is a very hard worker, ” said Oberlton reflecting on his childhood. “I think because it is boxing, I think a lot of people don't ask about my mother because it is more of a man's sport. My mom is a warrior; she can go, too…I get a lot of work ethic from her, seeing her get up and work two jobs my whole life. That means a lot to me. I understand what she was trying to do, put my sister through college, and anything I ever needed was there for me.”

Oberlton, from a boxing writer/boxing nerd standpoint, ticks the boxes as someone who will always stand out in a crowd. In 2009, I was at Metro Skateshop, a formidable place of my youth that gave me a large dose of pop-culture life experience and remembered hearing of a skater named Antwuan Dixon. Not just was he talented, but he just stood out. I remember hearing words then that ring even more true now.

“Nowadays, it is just as much about standing out as it is being good,” said someone who will forever echo in my head. It was foreshadowing the clout culture of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and future platforms. The next phase will probably be nihilism, the rejection of any and all clout to show just how powerful you are. The younger generation will probably defy the previous norms to get their ownership of what cool is. Oberlton standouts; he is flashy, confident and has a team of strong men and women at the forefront of his campaign in unison, not separated. Something that we don’t see often.

He is a mix of an old-school fighter with a modern aesthetic. Oberlton is a guy fighting in one of the most shallow divisions in the sport, which is light heavyweight. A division that has two pound-for-pound fighters in Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol, and then a huge drop-off in talent. Oberlton is nearing the point, at least in my eyes, of being a top-15 light heavyweight in only his eighth professional fight.

The next question is simple: how fast do they move him? “I’ve been through some adversity in this sport and beat it,” said Oberlton. “I paid my dues. I respected the game and everything that came with it. I took my bumps and bruises and the things a lot of people would’ve quit from, I feel like I am still here, and that’s why I feel I need to be acknowledged.”

Once he gets to ten-round fights, it seems the opportunities will be afloat, as he is already rated #13 in the United States and #93 in the world, but with a win – one might assume his rankings would improve. Yet, Oberlton is not mentioned often with the great young fighters of Philly, as Jaron “Boots” Ennis, Julian Williams, and Stephen Fulton Jr. have the city at the moment. Oberlton gets mentioned, but not as much as you might think. When asked about it, this is something Oberlton thinks about.

“You hit a spot right there,” said Oberlton. “I see certain people in interviews, they might ask them a question, or I might get brought up, and at first, they will try to play like they don't know who I am. That's complete disrespect because, on the adult level, there are a lot of kids doing their thing now. Still, I have done things in the amateurs that a lot of people haven't done in recent years in Philadelphia boxing, and those are facts, and I am known around Philadelphia boxing. People know my handle; they can check my jacket – I am solid.

We always talk of the next big thing, and I don’t know if Oberlton is…but he is the underground guy. If you want to cheer for someone with talent, accomplishments, accolades, and an old-school fighting style inspired by Marvin Hagler, Oberlton is your guy. Where his career goes is up to God and Oberlton’s life decisions, but he is in as good of a position as any young fighter and should be a main-event fighter at some point, barring unforeseen circumstances.

His opponent, Artem Brusov, is relatively untested as a pro, fighting only four fighters with winning records in 12 fights and two other bouts against fighters making their professional debut, with those fighters never fighting again. Brusov is taking a massive step up in competition against Oberlton, and it is hard not to like the young Philly fighter in this bout.

“I try to pride myself on being a throwback fighter,” said Oberlton. “I love the era of four kings, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and even the era before that, we got it on…I am here to proclaim I am number one in the world, and I am not letting you take that from me.”

Oberlton is someone who, if he can find a network backing, should emerge into a viable name in the Prospect of the Year talks if he stays active. He fights on January 20th, on ShoBox: The Next Generation, on Showtime. Check local listing.