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Mohamed El Marcouchi, a role model for Molenbeek's youngsters
Publié dans Yabiladi le 08 - 08 - 2017

Growing up in Molenbeek, one of the 19 municipalities in the Brussels-capital region known for crime and terrorism, Mohamed El Marcouchi worked hard to fight against prejudices. The 29-old-year Belgian-Moroccan boxer had to break up with the stereotype associated to immigrants living in Belgium being a role model and a good example for youths in Molenbeek.
Growing up in the hood was challenging for Moghamed El Marcouchi, a Belgian-Moroccan boxer who had to overcome the temptation to build a descent career. In an article published on Monday 7th of August, Al Arabiya English spoke to the young athlete discovering his journey.
The 29-old-year boxer was born and raised in Molenbeek, a region that was known for terrorism and crime. There he had to fight for his life and decide for his future. Before becoming a champion and a known boxer, El Marcouchi had to go through a lot. He embraced the world of sports when he was only 6 years old, playing Martial Arts. «I began with Karate because my father wa a Karate teacher in Molenbeek. I stopped when I was 12 and started roaming the streets with my friends» Mohamed told Al Arabiya English.
Roaming in the streets
For El Marcouchi, the temptation was high especially growing up in such a neighborhood. «Despite the good education my parents gave me at home, outside I was someone else», the boxer declared. «I was at the point to become a petty criminal» he said until boxing saved his life.
«After two years my cousin put me in my place and brought me into a boxing gym. I entered the gym and started to punch the bag. After a few minutes the coach called me on the ring for a sparring with one of his best young boxers. I did very well and the coach directly wanted me in his team. I enjoyed the challenge directly, it was full of adrenaline».
It is not only boxing that changed El Marcouchi's life and pushed him away from the hood and crime, it was also his father. Trying to drop out from school at the age of 16 after being peer pressured by his friends, Mohamed was given a moving advice by his father. «So one day I came at home and said to my father that I wanted to stop secondary because I wanted to work. Then my father took me in his car for a drive in the streets of Molenbeek by night and showed me the junkies who were at each corner of the streets. He told me is that what you want to become?» El Marcouchi recalled.
Saved by Boxing
Since then things started to take a different way for the young boxer. He started working part time and carried his studies. «At that time my daily life was going on the rhythm of school and boxing. In the morning I had 45 minutes in public transports from my home to my school. In the afternoon 45 minutes back to home and then 45 minutes to the boxing gym. I was sleeping every day in the bus. I started to reach a good level in amateur boxing. Boxing save me from the street», he stated.
El Marcouchi later on found another job at the social services of the municipality of Brussels. At the age of 20, he worked with Yvan Mayeur, the ex-mayor of Brussels. Speaking to the same source he added that «that job was perfect for me because it allowed me to train as I wanted. I was working a lot of extra hours in order to have more days off to train more and to fight abroad. From my 19 years to my 24 years I was competing for the Belgian national team of amateur boxing.»
However, El Marcouchi could not hide his frustration with the way Moroccans and immigrants in general were treated in Belgium. «I was representing a country that never fully accepted me. A country where I had to face a lot of discrimination because of my origin and my background», explained Mohamed adding that he was fed up with trying to justify himself.
«I am born and raised in Belgium; I wanted to show them that I was well integrated in the Belgian society. That gave me the will to become a boxing champion in order to prove that a young like me could succeed and show another image as Belgian of Moroccan origin.»
Chasing the American dream
Mohamed was twice named champion of Belgium, he represented the country in the Netherlands, Uk and Denmark. In 2012, El Marcouchi became a professional boxer despite the difficulties and obstacles that were put in his way. He decided right after to move to the USA and live the American dream. «Since my childhood I was always fascinated by the American boxers: Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones, Mike Tyson. I knew that if I wanted to succeed as a professional boxer I had to try my chance in the US. I came with my wife and my son to Miami», told Al Arabiya.
It was not easy back then too, as Mohamed had to work hard in order to gain success in a country where one should know how to seize every single opportunity. «I started training in Muhammad Ali's boxing gym, the 5th Street Gym. I was living on the 37th and was walking every day 8km to come to train. I was so determined», El Marcouchi narrated.
He trained everyday but saw no progress, no offers and in the moment he was about to lose hope and go back to Belgium, El Marcouchi received an offer and had to sign his first contract in the USA. However, «The contract planned only 4 boxing match. It was not advantageous for me and didn't offer me interesting future prospects for my career. After two years I asked a release of my contract. I was training alone with my coach in the shadow. And since then I have 19 victories and only one defeat».
A champion and a role model
In 2016, Mohamed El Marcouchi was planning to enter the World Boxing Council (WBC), one of four major organizations which sanction world championship boxing bouts, alongside the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization. He then met someone who was responsible for the African title, who insisted that El Marcouchi can play for the African belt on the 8th of April in Marrakech. «On the night of the fight, before entering the ring I made a replay in my head. I saw all the way, and everything I suffered from Molenbeek to the US. I knew that I had the support of my family, of people in Morocco, in Belgium, in the US. I couldn't lose! It was an inexplicable feeling».
Indeed, Mohamed won the battle and made his way to the WBC. It was a victory that opened his eyes and made him think of all the young people in his neighborhood, Molenbeek. «I feel as an ambassador of my two countries, Belgium and Morocco. I want to show to people that despite our cultural differences we are not so different. We have the chance to have this double culture. We need to play this card and to show what we really are», he argued.
Now Mohamed El Marcouchi believes that Molenbeek's youngsters need him. «Hopefully I was lucky to find the good people in the good moment. My father was always supervising me and speaking to me despite we are 7 brothers and sisters. But in some families there is no communication between the children and the parents. How these kids can build their identity of their parents, who are often the first models, are missing?»


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