By Andre Courtemanche
Las Vegas – Muskegon native Ra’eese Aleem knows he’s at a critical point in his professional boxing career, where all the blood, sweat, and tears might become totally worth it… and then again, they might not.
So, is he nervous?
“Everything is one the line. Two undefeated fighters fighting for a belt, for pride and for the number-one spot in the 122-lb division, but I’ve got no nerves at all,” said a relaxed-sounding Aleem via telephone from inside the Covid-safe bubble at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. The 30-year-old, 122-pound prospect will face fellow unbeaten Victor Pasillas in a 12-round battle for the interim WBA Super Bantamweight World Championship this Saturday, January 23 in a Premier Boxing Champions event, broadcast live nationally on SHOWTIME®.
“It’s just another day at the office,” he continued, “I feel more comfortable fighting on TV. I feel like that’s where I belong. This is the platform I should be showcased on. Some fighters might feel jittery, but I don’t. Everything is earned in this sport and I’ve earned it. I’m going to show up and give it my all. Whether it’s a clean fight, a dirty fight, or a dogfight, I’m ready.”
Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs), who now lives and trains out of Las Vegas, knows that a high-profile victory like this over Pasillas will put him first in line to face the undefeated Uzbek world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev in a dream showdown.
“I feel great. Everything is coming together,” said Aleem of his preparations for the fight with trainer Bobby McCoy. “I’m in shape because I’m not afraid of hard work. I feel like I have the elite punching power to stop the elite guys this. I have everything necessary to become a world champion. I just need the opportunity. This fight is how I get there.”
While making bold predictions of a sensational knockout victory, pre-fight, are not uncommon in boxing, Aleem says Pasillas’ boasting in the leadup to war will do him no good. “He won’t be the first to try and knock me out and he won’t be the last. It is what it is, but I think I stop him before 12 rounds. I’m one of the top fighters in the division, if not the best. He is too and I’m sure it’ll be an all-action fight because neither of us likes to hold or run, but I’ll win because I’m the better fighter and I bring more to the table. I’ve got faster hands and feet, and a higher boxing IQ. I can outsmart him and frustrate him.”
So, when does a fighter from Muskegon decide he has the confidence and physically everything it takes to compete with top fighters from around the world?
“The moment I knew is when I moved to Vegas and had the opportunity to fight an undefeated fighter coming off a KO and I was coming off a two-and-a-half-year layoff,” recounts Aleem. “I took the fight and dominated. Ever since then I’ve believed in myself. I believe I can do it. I stayed true to myself and now, here I am. Now I get a chance to display it to everybody on one of the greatest platforms in the sport.”
Aleem says, God willing, he looks forward to the day he can bring the championship back home to Muskegon.
“I would love to come back there. I’m waiting to win the belt so I can come back and have a big meet-and-greet. I’ll be the first world champion from Muskegon. The closest was Kenny Lane. He beat champs but was never one himself. That would mean a lot to me.”
Aleem isn’t the only one who believes in him. Several industry bigwigs have agreed to work with and represent him, including manager Greg Hannley, promoter Marshall Kauffman from Kings Promotions, and veteran Vegas-based Prince Ranch publicity man Mario Serrano.
“It’s going to be a crazy fight. These guys were not pampered. These are real guys who earned it by going through the fire,” said Serrano. “It’ll be a very explosive fight. Raeese has fought and beaten three undefeated fighters on his way to this fight and Victor is one of the best to ever come out of California. He’s a playground legend from East LA. They are both ready to lay it all on the line. There’s no holding back two pit bulls. This will be a pitbull war.”
Aleem says he apologizes to all the Muskegon friends, family, and supporters who have reached out to him this week, but he can’t break focus for even a second before this important fight.