By Ezio Prapotnich
A deviation from the common rule an odd, peculiar or strange situation; an incongruity.
This is the English dictionary definition for what Light Middleweight International Masters champion Yassine El Maachi (14-4, with 5 ko’s) represents in the British boxing scene: an anomaly.
The unwritten no.1 rule in boxing is “Make the highest possible profit by taking the lowest possible risk” but El Maachi has been breaking this commandment for most of his career. Upon his arrival in the UK, after debuting as a pro and winning two fights in the Netherlands, the former Moroccan amateur champion has fought mostly at disadvantage against opponents out of his weight category, often at 48 hours notice and sometime even for free, in a frustrating attempt to launch his career. Things started turning around for Yassine in March of last year, when he met rising promoter Steve Goodwin, who has been investing massively on him and staged his highest profile fights yet matching him against Frenchman Bertrand Aloa for the International Masters belt and against then EBU no.4 Jimmy Colas. Unluckily, the fact that he is not yet eligible for a British passport makes El Maachi not elegible for a shot at either the Commonwealth or British title, actually not even eligible to be ranked by the two bodies. Therefore, the exception ended up being a victim of the rule: none of the big domestic names is will ing to take the risk to face him with nothing to gain on the line.
Still, 31 years old Yassine fights on, although mostly outside the ropes…
BOXINGINSIDER: How long have you been in the UK and what is your current Visa situation?
YASSINE EL MAACHI: After two visits in 2003 and 2005, I moved here from Morocco in 2007 applying succesfully for permanent residentship. I will not be able to become a citizen until next year and, considering my age and the line of work I am in, I don’t have much time to waste.
BI: Are you taking any form of legal action to speed up the procedure?
YEM: Through the help of a lawyer and of my promoter Steve Goodwin, I am trying to make a case for boxers to get the same treatment footballers receive in this country. Football stars, if they are perceived to be genuinely world class and capable to represent England at the highest level, are immediately granted citizenship. I am trying to use the same logic to favour my cause and hopefully establish a precedent that might help other fighters.
BI: In previous interviews, you declared to have been victim of sabotage and ostracism throughout most of your career. Can you give us examples to support yous statements?
YEM: The biggest name on my record is current Commonwealth Welterweight champion and Ricky Hatton’s protegee Denton Vassell. We fought a 4 rounder in 2007, when he was still an upcoming prospect. My trainer at the time, who shall remain nameless, dragged me into the fight at 48 hours notice. I knocked Vassell down in the first round, When I went back to the corner, I was told “If you beat this guy, I will not get you anymore fights”.
BI: That is one of the four losses on your resume. Are you saying that you threw the fight on purpose to save your career?
YEM: By no means. I did not throw the fight, but a fighter is supposed to get instructions from his corner. I was left on my own from that point onwards, knowing my trainer was against me. I did the best I could and lost a close decision.
BI: You also claimed to have been excluded from last year Prizefighter Light Middle Weight. What can you tell us about that?
YEM: My name was the first on the candidates list, but some of the other contenders exerted pressure on the promoter threatening to pull out if I was included. In the end, Matchroom Sport decided I was bad for business.
BI: Why would they do that?
YEM: Because they knew I was going to beat them.
BI: What about this year edition? Any luck?
YEM: Goodwin is in talk with Matchroom and it’s looking good so far. At this time, I don’t know for sure if it’s going to happen, but I am preparing for it. I want to establish a new record winning all three fights by knock out.
BI: You only have 5 ko’s in 18 fights and your last two bouts went the distance. Do you think the three rounds format will actually suit you?
YEM: I trained hard for my last two fights, but not for power. In this case, I will adapt the preparation for the specific task.
BI: Recently, you have been calling out Ryan Rhodes, pointing at him as the man to beat in your division, but he dismissed you as someone trying to make name on his reputation. Any comments about that?
YEM: His last 2 opponents were hand picked foreign fighters, with no ranking in this country, and definitely not at world level, although he is after a world title. Tell me how am I different from this description? Why would he not fight me if this is the kind of opposition he is looking for? I would fight him for peanuts, because I want to make a statement. I believe I am the best at my weight in the UK and I want to prove it by beating who I perceive as the best.
BI: But, Rhodes is world class at this stage of his career and effectively out of the domestic picture. Him aside, who is the man to beat in this country?
YEM: British champion Sam Webb, but he is a friend. We trained and sparred together, I can’t say anything wrong about him. That’s a fight I don’t want.
BI: Your next bout is scheduled for the 18th of March on Goodwin’s “Essex Eruption” card at Dagenahm’s Goresbrook Leisure Center. Any news on the opponent?
YEM: Not that I know. My job is to fight and I leave that for my promoter to sort out.
Best luck to El Maachi in his fight for respect.
Tickets for ESSEX ERUPTION at the Goresbrook Leisure Centre inDagenham, Essex on Saturday 19th March 2011 are priced £35 (Unreserved) or £60 (Ringside) and on sale NOW.
For tickets call: 07960 850645, book on-line at www.tkoboxoffice.com or in person at The Ultrachem TKO Gym, Gillian House, Stephenson Street, Canning Town, London E16 4SA.