On The Rise: Atif Oberlton

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The undefeated light heavyweight from Philly is looking to make a statement both in and out of the ring.

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Oberlton vs McCargo - Watch Fight Highlights | June 27, 2021

Atif Oberlton never walked away from anything or anyone. He would walk confidently through the tough, hardscrabble streets of Philadelphia in his flashy self-made designs without any harassment. No one ever provoked him. No one ever challenged him. They knew better. His menace was home. 

For years, it sat in the corner of his living room lurking, staring down the light heavyweight southpaw like it was Mike Tyson. For years, the one-armed monster with the pointed edge had him tangled up inside, giving him the imaginary side glare as he passed by.

What had him so scared? What caused him to quake until the goading of his girlfriend forced him to act?

A Brother sewing machine.

When the 24-year-old Oberlton (7-0, 6 KOs) won a six-round unanimous decision over Robert Burwell last August, he sported white lace trunks emblazoned with his name, “Oberlton,” accompanied by a white lace jacket, with white boots, and silver tassels attached, all designed by him.

Oberlton always had a penchant for flair. And he also has a penchant for flair in the ring.

“I always liked looking sharp since I was young,” Oberlton said. “No one ever said anything to my face as a kid, but there were things said behind my back about being a guy who liked fashion. I always loved clothes and I always loved dressing nice. I always believed in being my own self and being my own man. I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I have a beautiful woman in my life and women love men who dress well. I never had anyone approach me about what I wore.

“I liked being different. It goes way back to high school.”

The 6-foot-3 Oberlton is a graduate of Paul Robeson High School, where he was voted best dressed and prom king his senior year. He knew how to accessorize. He could turn an ordinary pair of sneakers into attention-grabbing silver shoes. He knew how to turn $200 into a mound of clothes.

“I had guys I went to high school with who would walk away with maybe two pairs of pants and a few shirts for $200, while I knew what to buy, with a pile of jeans, shirts, and a watch,” Oberlton said. “I would buy jeans and do them up with some paint splatters. I did what I could at the time.”

Before the dreaded sewing machine entered his life.

That’s when his fashion proficiency expanded.

In boxing, I’ll have to create my own fireworks. Undefeated Light Heavyweight Prospect - Atif Oberlton

“I used to be afraid of that thing for years,” Oberlton said, laughing, referring to the sewing machine. “My stepson and I learned together. My girlfriend bought it for me. Morgan, my girlfriend, finally told me that I needed to learn. It wasn’t just sitting there to do nothing. She got me to open up and learn how to use the sewing machine. I’m pretty good at it. I need to learn more, but I at least know how it operates. It took a while to open the sewing machine.”

After conquering his sewing machine fear, he’s ready to conquer the fashion world. Though not before conquering the boxing world.

“I learned that on the other side of fear is the person waiting on who you want to be,” Oberlton eloquently said. 

“I want to be different. I have something set up to look different.”

Oberlton has fought three times this year, stopping two of those three. The longest he’s gone so far is six rounds. 

“It’s hard for us to get fights for Atif, because he’s so good, which I think says a lot,” said Shar’ron Baker, Oberlton’s trainer. “He showcases his class and has fun doing it. He catches on to everything really quick. He soaks up everything. At each new level, he quickly picks up new things. I would define Atif as a boxer, but he’s a boxer who can punch.

“He can bang with you, too. I really don’t worry much about Atif’s opponents. We focus on what we have to do.”

Oberlton’s next step in the fashion world is to grow his brand and designs. His dream goal is to be able do a fashion show in New York on a weekday and then fight on Saturday night.

“I’m the type of guy that once I see a bunch of people doing something, I like to do something different,” Oberlton said. “I honestly don’t see a lot of creativity in the fashion world. I draw inspiration from certain things and go from there. I feel like a million bucks. I was in training camp on the Fourth of July. In boxing, I’ll have to create my own fireworks.”

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