A State of Mind: Abass Baraou explains why inactivity isn’t a problem for him

On Friday night (March 1) Sam Eggington and Abass Baraou will fight for the vacant European super-welterweight title in Telford. Thousands of miles away with the blue skies of sunny Miami behind him Boxing News caught up with a relaxed Baraou to chat about the fight, his life in Togo and Germany, whether or not “ring rust” exists, and his hopes of landing a rematch against Jack Culcay.

Interview by Shaun Brown

BN: Let’s jump straight into talking about your next fight against Sam Eggington. What do you know about him and what kind of fight are you expecting?

AB: I’m expecting a good fight. I’ve seen a couple of his fights. I know he’s been a right warrior and in quite good fights. He’s a tough opponent and has all the pedigree to make it tough for his opponents. I’m expecting a good, technical fight from my side and an exciting fight. One that I’m looking forward to. Tune in and expect to see Abass in full flow.

BN: This is your third fight in the UK. What are your memories of the first two?

AB: The first one was against John O’Donnell at the O2 Arena and then I was lucky to fight at the York Hall last year. I had quite good memories. The [UK] boxing scene is quite active, the fans are loud and really engaging. It’s always been a good journey in London where I feel closer to boxing. I always enjoy fighting in London and in the UK.

BN: What’s the boxing scene like in Germany at the moment?

AB: There’s a lot of interest. The quality is not as high as in the UK and the US, but we had some good times back in the day with a lot of world champions where there was a lot of special talents. But the demand and the quality has gone back but there are still a lot of boxing fans in Germany; a few are following my journey. It’s active but a bit silent.

BN: You were born in Germany then you and your family moved to Togo, is that right?

AB: I was born in Germany, raised in Togo, come back when I was nine and started boxing in Germany.

BN: What was life like for you in Togo?

AB: Quite good memories. When you’re young you don’t have responsibilities… I remember playing with my cousins and uncles. I have quite a big family. I have very good memories. It’s my roots, it’s where I come from. I’m also happy to have experienced growing up in Togo. I have Togolese traditions in me.

BN: Have you had much opportunity to go back since then?

AB: I really haven’t been back yet. It’s been 20 years. My mum goes every year but this year I have to go! It’s been 20 years without seeing my family. I’m looking forward to going back as soon as possible. I’m missing it.

BN: What’s your earliest memory of being back in Germany?

AB: I remember coming back and going to school and doing well even with broken German. After three months I learned to speak it [properly]. I was in Germany with my mum and my brother. Good memories with them in Oberhausen and making a few friends and it felt like home right away.

BN: Fifteen fights since your pro debut in April 2018, have you been as active as you would have liked?

AB: I have been active at the beginning of my career. With the pandemic came a lot of inactivity and then coming to England to fight because the German market was difficult. In the last three years I haven’t been as active as I wanted to be but I’ve been in the gym every day, still progressing, and I’m happy to have the European title on the line now. I’m looking forward to getting back to being active.

BN: Some fighters talk about “ring rust”. Is that something you believe in?

AB: I think it’s all a state of mind. I’ve been having hard sparring; tougher than some fights I had. I feel like if you’re mentally ready there’s no ring-rust. I don’t believe in it. I know it’s there, but I think it’s a state of mind. I don’t have it. I go out and do my thing like always so I don’t believe in it.

BN: You’ve only experienced one defeat, a very narrow one to Jack Culcay. Is that a loss you would look to avenge given he’s soon to be fighting for the IBF super-welterweight world title (against Bakhram Murtazaliev)?

AB: Of course. Me and the team have been chasing him for a while to get the rematch done. It he gets the world title that would make it really interesting for me. I’ve wanted the rematch but he’s avoiding it. I need to move on with my journey, but it’d be interesting him winning the world title fight. I still definitely want revenge for the loss. I hope he gets the win and we can make the fight happen.

BN: Is the super-welterweight division worldwide in a good state right now?

AB: There’s a lot of movement in the division right now. It’s good for me and I’m happy that I’m getting back on my journey and I can look forward to get the title fight and that’s what I want. I want to fight the best in the division and become a world champion.

BN: One of the best at 154lbs right now is Tim Tszyu. He fights Keith Thurman on March 30. How do you see that fight going?

AB: I think Thurman has been inactive for a while. Tszyu is in the right place and there’s no doubt he’s going to win the fight.

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