La République Française has a long history of pugilistic participation. Names like Marcel Cerdan and Georges Carpentier ring loudly for even those of casual ilk, and Ray Famechon, Marcel Thil, Eugene Criqui and others are remembered by savvier fans. However, with involvement in the sport dropping post-World War II, France has developed few outstanding fighters in comparison to the United Kingdom and Germany in recent decades. There have been a few notables, like Jean Marc Mormeck, the former cruiserweight champion, as well Fabrice Tiozzo and Mahyar Monshipour, but no one that sticks out.
Will this trend change? Hard to say, though France has had solid showings in recent Olympics and Tony Yoka, a new addition to the heavyweight scene, might help pave the way for others.
One man who is a step ahead of Yoka and near contention—and one of the class amateur fighters from the 2012 Summer Games—is Nordine Oubaali. The 31-year-old southpaw of Moroccan descent competed in the unpaid ranks for years, picking up a bronze medal all the way back in the 2007 World Amateur Championships. In his lengthy trek he also secured wins over the Uzbek Rafikjon Sultonov in the 2008 Olympics and Rau’shee Warren in 2012, one of the greatest American amateurs ever. Now Nordine has gone pro, aiming for the 118-pound championship.
Oubaali’s bantamweight dreams aren’t too far way, either. In his most recent bouts he stopped a pair of sturdy Mexican veterans in Julio Cesar Miranda and Alejandro Hernandez late in fights, highlighting how well he has adjusted to the pros. Both victims had spent valuable time against some of the best their division had to offer, taking on names like Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Brian Viloria, Leo Santa Cruz, Tomoki Kameda and others. Nordine handled both clearly, exhibiting a fluid boxer-puncher style, bolstered by good hitting power and quick hands—one that seems well-suited against guys even at the highest level.
Next up is Mark Anthony Geraldo, a Filipino with some staying power and some boxing ability. Geraldo has only been stopped once in 44 contests and holds a 10-round decision win over a young Jerwin Ancajas.
If Nordine wants to make the biggest impact possible, he must hurry. Being on the plus side of 30 is rough at 126 and below, especially from bantamweight down. He looks to have the talent, now it’s just a matter of application.