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Meet Philadelphia’s next great light heavyweight, Atif Oberlton. ‘He’s making grown men scream.’

Atif Oberlton is only 23 years old, but he's putting himself in position to be Philly's star in the light heavyweight division.

Professional Boxer Atif Oberlton training at Pivott Boxing Academy in North Philadelphia, September 24, 2021.
Professional Boxer Atif Oberlton training at Pivott Boxing Academy in North Philadelphia, September 24, 2021.Read moreThomas Hengge / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia light heavyweight Atif Oberlton answered almost every question as an amateur en route to becoming a national champion.

But media pundits and onlookers kept asking his trainer, Shar’ron Baker, Can he punch? Three professional fights and countless crushing body shots later, people aren’t asking that about the undefeated Olberton anymore.

Oberlton, 23, debuted in January and is off to a 3-0 start with three knockouts. None has lasted longer than five rounds.

“He’s making grown men scream when he hits them in the body,” Baker said. “You tell me if he can punch.”

One trip to the Pivott Boxing Academy gym in North Philly is all it takes to see how much power the 6-foot-3 Oberlton packs. You don’t have to look when Oberlton throws punches. Just close your eyes and the sound will make you think someone is poking holes in balloons.


Baker, 64, jokes that she’s too old to put those mitts on and deal with Oberlton’s power shots. Lando Rosa, the CEO of Pivott Boxing Academy, said he needs operations on both of his rotator cuffs. So Rosa’s son, Markus, handles most of the pad work.

Listening to the shots, it’s easy to see why three opponents have fallen victim. When Oberlton punches, a combination of quickness, explosion, and power creates impressive force. Baker trains with him every day, but she still sports a surprised look on her face after some of those shots.

“He does everything,” Baker said. “He can box, he can fight, and he can punch. I believe he’s the future of the light heavyweight division.”

» READ MORE: Philly women in boxing: Shar’ron Baker is Philly’s first female boxing coach, and she’s not done yet

Oberlton is on a fast track to become a prominent fighter at 175 pounds. Premier Boxing Champions orchestrates his fights and he’s signed with Marshall Kaufman promotions. He’s three fights in, but getting him opponents is becoming tougher than finding a $2 bill. Even in a city loaded with boxing talent like Philly, finding sparring matches is hard.

Still, Oberlton powers on. He grew up in West Philly, but he doesn’t look at himself as representing one section of the city. that way. He wants to represent Philly as a whole.

Boxing was always Oberlton’s thing. He tried other sports growing up, including football when he was 8. The young Oberlton didn’t understand that he was going to hit the offensive lineman, or that the linemen were going to strike him. So the lineman hit Oberlton in a football drill and he hit back. The problem was that he responded with his fists.

“I got up and we started rumbling,” Oberlton said. “After that, I was in and out the gym. I never wanted to do nothing else.”

Oberlton goes by the nickname “Lord Pretty Calvo.” The name represents who he is — a flashy fighter with the confidence and swagger of a champion.

He’s stylish and fashionable, the type of guy who wakes up, looks in the mirror and talks to himself. He’s often wearing shiny earrings and a gold watch to match. Oberlton is not much of an Air Jordans guy because a lot of people wear them, but his kicks match his fly.

“That’s me,” Oberlton said. “I’m a Lord. I’m Pretty. Calvo means bald in Spanish. That’s just my style.”

The nickname also has a deeper meaning as it provides Oberlton with a constant reminder to be himself.

Baker reminds Oberlton of this often, because it’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour that come with boxing, especially in Philadelphia.

“When I’m me, I’m at my best,” Oberlton said. “You always going to see excitement when you see me fight, and you definitely going to get your money’s worth.”

Baker isn’t making it up when she says grown men are screaming from his shots. Oberlton’s pro debut was televised by PBC on Fox without a crowd in January. About a minute-and-a-half into the third round, Oberlton delivered a left hook into the body of Nathan Davis Sharp. There was no crowd, so you can hear Sharp’s scream seconds before the referee stopped the fight.

Before turning pro, Oberlton was ranked as one of the nation’s top light heavyweights . He made the Olympics as an alternate. When COVID-19 postponed the Olympics to 2021, Oberlton elected to turn pro.

“I knew things as a pro would show up when it was time, and he’s become a body snatcher,” Baker said.

That has turned out to be the right decision. While his next fight date is not set, he physically looks like he could jump in a ring now.

Oberlton isn’t one to look far ahead. He has championship goals, and at his advanced age for someone with just three pro fights, some people would say he’s off to a late start, but he doesn’t like comparing himself to others.

“I can’t put a timing on greatness because that’s when I frustrate myself,” Oberlton said. “I just stick to the hustle and grind. When it happens, it happens. I just know I’m headed to be the greatest.”

The skill set to be Philadelphia’s top light heavyweight is there. Along with that terrific power punching, Oberlton said his favorite thing to do is make guys miss.

Oberlton’s best skill may not be a physical one. He has supreme confidence. He does not take the loud, trash-talker approach, electing for more of the quiet storm.

“He’s humble,” Baker said. “The lights and all that stuff doesn’t get to him. He’s extremely focused on where he wants to go.”

Oberlton was sitting with his boxing coaches after a long workout when a conversation about Philadelphia light heavyweights ensued. Rosa said that Oberlton is becoming the top guy in Philly, then Lord Pretty Calvo interrupted:

“In the world.”