When Robin enters the room you realize how big he is. With his 190 centimeters (6’ 3”), a muscular, athletic body and intense stare, he makes a powerful impression. Many people have asked us to interview this young boxing talent; both because of his moving life story and because of his qualities in the ring. We’ve met a few times before when he has been working as a bouncer in central Stockholm, but this time we’ll let the conversation go way deeper. With two hot cups of coffee we jump right into Robin’s tough upbringing.



A tough start


Robin Safar was born on the 30th of November 1992, and was the first child in his family who lived in Flemingsberg, a suburb south of Stockholm. The way his mother and father brought him up was completely different. “I was very troublesome as a kid, but I still tried to be careful since I was so afraid of my dad. He was a hard man who used violence to raise me. My mom on the other hand, gave me unconditional love and had trouble setting boundaries for me. When I was 11-12, my father left our lives and my behaviours changed for the worse. My days in school were all about beating, pushing and wrestle people. I did a lot of mean things and I also started drinking alcohol.”

”I STARTED TO THREATEN
AND BLACKMAIL PEOPLE TO
GET WHAT I WANTED”


There were older kids in the neighbourhood who were criminals, and they became Robin’s role models. He found kids who also came from dysfunctional homes and felt a connection. Since he didn’t feel safe and comfortable at home, he found that with his friends instead. “We pushed each other to do bad things. I started to threaten and blackmail people to get what I wanted. When we met we used to discuss who got the worst beating at home. It’s a cultural thing, something most kids in the suburbs recognize. In the home countries they don’t see it as abuse. They think it’s an effective way to raise kids, by fear.”



As an attemt to change Robin’s negative development, his mother decided to move the family to Katrineholm, just before Robin was starting 9th grade. He improved his grades considerably, but after a year they moved back to Stockholm and his problems escalated. “I got kicked out of high school because I was fighting. It was serious fighting, no fuss. I became more troublesome and during one year I had 28 police charges on me. I was eventually convicted and was placed in a P12 [paragraph 12 home, or special youth institution, Editor’s note], where you’re kept without treatment. After that I was transferred to the treatment center Staple in Gotland. That’s where my life started changing.”

”OUR TRAINER WAS THE OWNER
OF THE TREATMENT CENTER,
AND HE WAS ONE TOUGH
MOTHERFUCKER!”


Martial arts as salvation


”It was all about discipline at Staple. Waking up 06:30 and then work all day. We had to clean the facility, mow lawn, split wood, shovel snow, wash clothes and cut down trees. After dinner it was time for mandatory training and I got to practice martial arts. Our trainer was the owner of the treatment center, and he was one tough motherfucker! You didn’t fuck with him, no one dared to. We practiced submission wrestling, BJJ, boxing and MMA. I was fascinated with boxing and felt from the start that it was for me. Our favourite moments were when we got to spar with the staff. My trainer wanted me to go for MMA, so that was what I did.”



Thanks to routines, structure and treatment, Robin started to feel better and his attitude towards life slowly but surely started to change. “We had conversations, lots of conversations. I started to realize that my way of living made both myself and people around me feel bad. I longed for a stress free life and to be able to be myself. When time passed by I learned to have dreams and think about what I wanted to achieve in my life. Finally, when I was 18, I was discharged from Staple as they saw my progress. At first, it was difficult to get out and leave my old behaviour, but I reduced it successively. My group of friends was falling apart; some had psychoses, one was in a mental hospital and a few of them were changing for the better, just like me.”

”YOU WIN THE FIGHT
THROUGH THE MENTAL GAME
– BOXING IS CHESS!”


Robin started competing in submission wrestling, had 16 bouts and stayed undefeated. He also joined Pancrase Gym for MMA training, but injured his knee and was told to rest for six months. His trainer at Staple told him that boxing would mean less load on the knee, so after four months of rest Robin left MMA. “I had my first amateur boxing fight three or four weeks after I started training. My goal was to have 50 fights before I turned pro, and I almost did that. I lost six and won the rest. In April 2017 I made my professional debut and my record is now 2-0, both wins by TKO. I will have 5-0 by the end of the year!"



Dedication embodied


When we leave Robin’s tough adolescence and get in to boxing he lights up. He starts talking faster and is more engaged – it’s obvious that he loves boxing. According to himself, he is made for pro boxing and he can use experiences from his messy years. “Pro boxing is very much like a street fight. I can fight; I’ve always been able to fight. The hard years of my life has developed me in that area and after a period of time you become tough. I’ve also learned a lot by analyzing other fighters; it has increased my understanding of the sport. I’m calm and collected. It’s important to wait and watch your opponent. Listen to his breathing, so that when he starts breathing heavily you increase the pressure. Stand up between the rounds so you don’t look tired. You win the fight through the mental game – boxing is chess!”



Robin has already been to the US a few times and has decided to move there. That’s where the money is, and that’s important after all the investments he’s doing right now. “I’ll take fights in Sweden until I’m 10-0. After that I hope for a good contract in the US. So far I’ve lost money by turning pro; it has cost me 35 000 kr. I have to pay for my fights and my opponents’ costs. But I see it as investments for my career, and it will start changing now anyway. I’ve shown what I can do and my name is getting recognized. I don’t have a lot in my wallet at the moment, but I feel great. My body, soul and heart are good. I owe a lot to my trainer Stefan Färnström for my success, he’s a true enthusiast.”

”I TRAIN HARD, EAT HEALTHY,
SPAR SMART, KEEP GRINDING.
I CAN’T LOSE!”


”Very few people are prepared to sacrifice everything and go in 100%. ‘Nah, it’s my friend’s birthday today so I’ll skip practice’. You can’t do that. You can’t work eight hours a day and train at the same time. That can get you to a certain level, but not to the top. Of course I miss eating junk food and stay up late. But I choose not to, because the more I sacrifice, the better I do. Good stuff happens when I skip things that aren’t good for me. It takes dedication. I don’t want to leave anything to chance, and later on think that if hadn’t done this or that I could have won. No excuses. Everything is correct now. I train hard, eat healthy, spar smart, keep grinding. I can’t lose!”



A boxer’s analysis


Several times Robin has trained and sparred together with Swedish boxer Erik Skoglund, one of few he considers being the elite of Swedish boxing. ”Erik is a good guy and a great athlete. Good discipline and mentally strong. And he has a skilled team with him, all very close to him. The best Swedish boxer is Badou [Jack], one hundred percent. Anthony Yigit is good too. Mikaela Laurén and Klara Svensson of course, on the female side. I’m also among the best, without a doubt.”

Before we end the conversation we ask Robin who he think we should interview and what he think about the most talked-about fight in the world right now, McGregor vs Mayweather. “You should interview my cousin Herdem [Alacabek]. We used to hang out a lot and learned much from each other. Now he lives in Los Angeles and it’s tricky to keep in touch as much due to the time difference. About the Mayweather McGregor fight I can only call it a joke. I almost get angry at friends who say that Conor will win. Floyd will embarrass Conor! He will chose exactly when to knock him out. He’ll probably play with him for 8-10 rounds and then win by KO!”



When Robin has talked about his boxing career during this interview, his eyes have been burning with passion and his voice echoes with confidence. We have to admit that it’s difficult not to believe that he can go all the way to the top. We thank Robin Safar for his time and look forward to September 9th, when he’ll have his next bout in Stockholm, Sweden.