In many respects, Abass Baraou is a mass of contradictions.
Ambitious but level-headed, the 25-year-old is a risk taker who is nevertheless meticulous and professional in everything he does.
Supremely confident, yet also endearingly modest and understated, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the quiet determination of the German-born boxer of Togolese extraction.
This Friday, Baraou (9-0, 6 KOs) aims to take a further step towards his world title dream when he faces the experienced Jack Culcay in an intriguing super-welterweight showdown in Berlin.
After an accomplished amateur career, which included World Championship bronze and European gold in 2017, Baraou has been fast-tracked by promoters Sauerland to world level in double quick time since turning over in 2018.
Baraou won the German super-welter title in his second pro bout and beat former IBF world title holder Carlos Molina and ex-IBO ruler Ali Funeka in his fifth and sixth paid starts respectively.
It’s an ambitious matchmaking strategy that boxer and promoter were agreed on from the start.
“Before I signed with Team Sauerland we agreed that we wanted to fight quickly at a high level,” Baraou tells Boxing Social during a break from preparations for the Culcay fight with his new head trainer Adam Booth.
“I left the amateurs for a new challenge. Sauerland had high hopes for me. Thanks to them, in my second pro contest I fought for the German title belt and then the WBC international belt in my fifth fight. They believed in me and they haven’t disappointed me. They’ve always stood by my side.”
Now, in just his tenth bout, Baraou faces his sternest foe yet in the shape of Culcay, a former WBA interim title-holder who has fought some top-class opposition in his 28-4 (13 KOs) career thus far, notably Demetrius Andrade and Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
‘Golden Jack’, who was born in Ecuador but fights out of Germany, impressed in both fights, dropping a split decision to Andrade and a close but unanimous decision to Derevyanchenko.
Baraou admits that Culcay represents the biggest challenge of his career thus far.
“Yes, this is the biggest fight of my career. Jack is a really good fighter. He has a lot of skills and a lot of experience, but I’m more than ready to fight him and beat him also,” he says. “I know him well. I have watched many of his fights and I think my pressure will be difficult for him. I know how to put pressure on him.”
For the first time on Friday night, Adam Booth will be in Baraou’s corner and he admits it is a link-up that excites him.
“I’m really glad to be working with Adam. Training has been going very well. I’m feeling great,” says Baraou. “The first time I met Adam was at the end of last year. Earlier this year, we started working together for a fight that was cancelled because of the Coronavirus. Then for this fight we got back to work.
“Adam has brought a lot of stability and skills to my boxing. Working with Adam is also a lot of fun. Every day I learn something new. He’s a very good coach. The work we do together on mental preparations is also very important.”
Although born in Germany, Baraou maintains strong ties to Togo, the west African state of less than 8 million inhabitants where his family originate from.
“I lived for nine years in Togo as a child,” he explains. “I grew up there with my family, before returning to Germany and living in Oberhausen, near Dusseldorf.
“I have a lot of beautiful memories of growing up in Togo. I took my first steps in Togo. I played a lot of football and I have a big family there. It’s where I came from. It will always feel like home. But I became a man in Germany and I feel a lot of connection to Germany, too. I love Germany but Togo will also always be home to me.”
It was in Germany that the 13-year-old Baraou was first introduced to boxing at a local youth centre. “From a young age, I was very powerful. I loved to fight to let out my emotions. So boxing was the perfect sport for me. Through boxing I learned to set goals for myself and have dreams,” he says.
“My biggest achievement as an amateur was winning European gold and world bronze and I also won some big international tournaments. It was hard as an amateur. You have to be tough to make it through all those tournaments, but it was a good basis for starting my pro career.”
It’s a career that Baraou hopes will incorporate a long reign as world champion one day.
“It would mean everything,” he admits. “I’m working to become world champion and stay a world champion. All the work I’ve done, all the work I’m doing is to become world champion one day. That’s what I’m working for.”
Lest anyone feel he is looking past Culcay though, the level-headed Baraou refuses to be drawn into commenting on any of the big names at 154lbs, including the forthcoming unification showdown between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario.
“Honestly, I don’t aim for anyone in particular in my weight class,” he emphasises. “I just focus on myself and my development. If the chance comes to fight somebody at the top or the chance comes to fight for a world title then I’ll focus on them.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on Jack Culcay. I’m moving step by step.”
There he goes again. An ambitious but level-headed boxer in a sport characterised by bluff and bluster? Something tells me Baraou will go far.
Main image: Matt Pover/Matchroom.