By Phil Rogers

IN Abdullah Mason’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, the Museum Of Art displays a painting that has become one of the world’s most famous depictions of the noble art. ‘Stag At Sharkey’s’ may be 115 years old but – in its speed-blur of sweat and sinew – George Bellows perfectly conjures the drama, the tension, and the thrill of witnessing a fighter plying their extraordinary trade. 

Fast forward to 2024 and the city is once again in thrall to a local fighter’s exemplary skillset, a young southpaw who many are touting as the best prospect in the sport. For Mason himself, developing these natural talents has become an obsession.

“It’s never the end,” Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) tells Boxing News. “When you’re inside of a competitive sport you always have someone coming behind you or someone coming at your back. You want to make sure you’re always excelling and being better. So, those good things that I do, I hope to do them better. I’m gonna keep working on doing them better. And anything else that I have, that I need to critique, I’m gonna work on critiquing that. So I just keep pushing forward.” 

Central to Mason’s early successes in the sport is his uniquely strong bond with his father and trainer, Valiant Mason, and his five siblings, four of which have followed Abdullah into boxing. In a city beset with violent crime, the family found focus and inspiration in the sport, forming a close-knit bond that felt impenetrable to negative influences.

“Cleveland is a really rough environment but you got to put yourself in the right places and around the right people. My father, he was always around the right people. He kept us out of typical stuff that’s going on in Cleveland. He kept us with the right people, everybody that actually has something going on.

“So, growing up he used to have a fragrance shop where we’d sell all type of body products and he used to have us hustling out of there. Once we started boxing, we was hustling products from the shop to move around in the boxing world and to different tournaments.” 

Fighting was rooted in the heart of how the Mason family were raised. Their ever-protective father divided his nest into two groups, introducing the eldest three to karate, taekwondo and jujitsu and encouraging them to teach what they’d learned to their younger siblings. However, after the family moved abroad for a period it was Abdullah who was the first to try boxing.

“A while back we moved overseas to Yemen and Egypt,” recalls Mason, still only 20. “When we came back there was a boxing gym around the corner from where we lived. Our father, he was asking everybody, ‘Who wants to go into the gym and wants to start training, fighting, boxing?’ I was the first one to actually grow a real interest for it.

“So, I started up like that and my brothers came right after me. But once I started actually getting into the ring, started sparring, that’s when I realised. That’s when I knew, like, ‘Okay, this is something I really want to do.’ At that time, it was just for the fun of it. I just wanted to be in there because that’s something I know I would love to do. But once my brothers got into it, that’s when I really got serious. I’m like, ‘Okay, it’s gonna be my thing. I’m gonna take over boxing.’”

For some families, of course, the ongoing complexities of sibling rivalries coupled with adolescent angst can prove to be a major hurdle when ambitious plans are being forged. The connection the Mason brothers have cultivated, however, has only served to sharpen their skills and bolster their confidence in competition. These are relationships of which Abdullah rightly feels both immensely proud and fiercely protective. 

“I would say we’re more supportive than competitive with each other. Of course, we are competitive, us being five males in the same environment, growing up in the same house. We’re going to be competitive naturally. But it’s not a negative competitive. It’s like pushing each other to be better. Definitely supportive, we are super supportive. If anything is lacking in one brother in any area, not just boxing, we always like to push that person, push that brother, to be better,” he says.

“We got a lot of the same good attributes but as fighters we have different personalities as brothers. But that’s how our styles are. So, we all have the same good similarities, but a different personality, you know what I mean? So one person might be more offensive, or one person might box more, or punch harder, or something like that. So all of us definitely have similar styles but with our differences.” 

Mason is acutely aware of boxing’s rich history of fathers training their fighting sons, yet their partnership, he insists, comes with its own unique dynamic. The undefeated lightweight views his own progression as part of a project that involves the whole family, his brothers offering just as much in insights and advice as the man who commands his son’s corner.

“They see a lot of things that other people don’t see, I would say. I pick up on it, and apply it, and I apply it well,” he declares.

“It’s amazing to have that family dynamic and have my brothers in my corner, have my father in my corner. It’s business and you don’t take anything personally. You go in there, you listen to everything they say because that’s what’s best for you inside of the ring.

“Him [his father] being a trainer who actually sees the things that you’re not seeing from outside, but at the same time he’s my father. So it’s definitely more comfort with my father and my brothers in my corner. He just gives me the extra push. I can lock in a little bit better because I know they’re right there. They’re gonna tell me what they see. And I’m gonna trust them fully.”  

Proof of the work the Mason team has been putting in behind the scenes has been evident in each and every win thus far, culminating in an already-impressive set of highlight reel knockouts. The result has been a flurry of praise, with many predicting him to dominate the lightweight division in years to come.

Yet competition in this particular weight class, even just amongst the prospects, already looks white hot, with undefeated up-and-comers such as Andy Cruz, Keyshawn Davis and Emiliano Vargas all vying to be the next big star at 135lbs. For Mason, though appreciation of his natural power is welcomed it’s the full extent of his fighting abilities that he’s looking forward to showcasing.

“It just comes on like a switch, when I want to actually start sitting down on my punches and turning punches over. But when I’m in the gym I see a lot of things and I do a lot of things that, in a fight, I would transform into something. In a fight you see that I throw that one punch that would get them out of there.

“But in sparring I’d be putting together combinations, moving differently, stepping differently, moving smart. Just working on different things,” he says.

“But as I fight, you’ll see those things coming together a little more. Once I start fighting in those longer fights again, rounds with durable opponents, I feel like more will come out and eventually people will start seeing more of my arsenal and more of my actual style that I have. Of course, I’ve got power, based off my previous performances, but there’s a lot more to me.” 


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