With his face of an angel, we see why as a baby he was headhunted for fashion modelling. His words are well-measured. His voice is soft and calm. Hugo Micallef doesn’t seem to have either the look or the style for the job. At 25, he is the French boxing champion with the ambition of becoming world No.1. Deeply attached to his country and family, this Monegasque is currently training in the Canary Islands. His mind is firmly set on qualifying for the Olympic Games at the World Qualifiers scheduled for March 2024. Meanwhile the sportsman is subjected to an iron discipline which he accepts with a broad smile. His sacrifices are at the height of his ambitions.
The 25-year old already has an impressive track record: Olympic boxing preparations en route to Qualifying, 20+ international gold and a number of silver and bronze medals. His professional career is flawless with eight out of eight victories, the last one “at home”, in Monaco. Hugo Micallef then defeated the champion of the Czech Republic, Denis Bartos, in the first round!
The champion confided with us his hopes and emotions between two training sessions in Las Palmas.
Hello Monaco: I understand that boxing is a bit of a family affair. Your father introduced you to it quite early on…
Hugo Micallef: My father was in fact an amateur boxer from age 15 to 20, before I was born. At 18 he became the French champion. It is true that I have often watched him perform on videos. I was not at all a sporty child, however. I had more the soul of an artist. Ever since the age of 4, I spent my days drawing.
My parents would go for a run in Monaco on Saturday mornings and I would follow them on a scooter. That’s how sporty I was! Around the age of seven, without much enthusiasm, I started doing some jogging too. Sports wasn’t really my thing. My parents still signed me up for judo, then tennis, but I didn’t stick with it.
HM: How did the boxing happen then?
Hugo: It certainly is down to a trauma I experienced at the age of 7. I was in the car when I witnessed my father being attacked in Menton. He wanted to help out my grandfather caught up in a fight with some youngsters. Having knocked out a few of them, he tripped over and fell down unconscious. He was then severely beaten. Six of them on him. He suffered from multiple traumas. That day I actually thought he was dead. I then felt an irrepressible desire to be able to defend my family.
I asked my father to sign me up for boxing, he refused. I was very insistent. One day, in a mountain village, a ring was set up for a sports day. Kids were given gloves and helmets. They were fighting just like that, without any particular technique. I went there and gave an incredible performance, literally crushing my opponent. That’s when my father said: “As soon as we get back to Monaco, I’ll sign you up.”
HM: What do you like about boxing?
Hugo: I have never sweated in my life. But after my first boxing training, I ended up sweaty all over. This sport really suits me, demanding real motivation and great rigour. My first fight, however, at the age of 11 or 12, was quite a blow. Having fought in Marseille against a local boxer, I won the fight fair and square. But the referee ruled in favour of my opponent. It was a victory stolen! I cried my heart out but my father found the right words to console me.
Coming back to what I like about boxing, intellect in the ring is essential. Boxing is often compared to a game of chess. It’s a very technical, very strategic discipline…
HM: A technical question then, do you prefer the jab, hook or uppercut?
Hugo: I prefer to jab from the left. Being actually left-handed, I mastered right-handed boxing. As a result, the front arm that I use to gain distance is as strong as the other one. It’s an advantage.
HM: What memorable moments have you experienced since the start of your career? Would you tell us more about them?
Hugo: There were three particularly great moments. First at 15 when I won a gold medal. I then said to myself: “I will go far”. Second, three and a half years ago, when I fought in a world tournament in Spain. Back then, I was still in the amateur Olympic boxing category. After the draw, I had to go against the number 1 in American boxing, 16 times US champion and world champion in 2016. Everyone was laughing at the sight of the little Monaco guy getting ready for the fight. Well, I beat him! Following this victory, a Las Vegas promoter the biggest in the world signed the contract to represent me. And the third just as memorable a one was on September 23 when I fought for the first time at home, in Monaco. I won in the first round.
HM: You are currently training in the Canary Islands. What do you like there?
Hugo: My coach is based in the Canaries. Many boxers train there and the infrastructure is great. Moreover, the climate is favourable. Training in summer makes your weight watching easier. I fight in the “super light” sixty kilos category.
HM: Do you have any leisure time? What kind of discipline is required from you?
Hugo: In the Canaries I live like a monk. Training twice a day except Sunday, I get as much sleep as I possibly can and I am followed by a dietitian. I am thus subject to an iron discipline. In fact, I’ve been watching my diet for the last ten years.
HM: What are your goals? The Olympics now?
Hugo: The Olympic Games are one of my goals. I have to make it to the semi-finals to qualify. I will know that by next March. My main ambition, however, is becoming world champion.
HM: And then? Boxing stops at a certain point…
Hugo: There is no age really, but I think 35 is a good age to stop. We risk failures that may be very dangerous. Boxers are a bit like modern day gladiators, some die in the ring… My mother could never bring herself to attend any of my fights. After boxing I would like to go into business, create my own company. And then I’d be really tempted by the cinema…
HM: Do you have any hobbies?
Hugo: Drawing. I’ve been drawing since I was a young child. These days I am drawing a bunch of strange things on a tablet, some very dark characters. I like “films noirs” and I’m passionate about music, mainly American hip-hop. Always something dark… I don’t quite know where it comes from, perhaps from my father’s aggression, somewhat freeing him from it.
HM: What matters to you most in life?
Hugo: My parents! I have a lot of family principles and values. Besides, I am deeply religious.
HM: What are your dreams?
Hugo: Above all, I have goals. Dreams never happen. I want to be the world boxing champion and I would love to become an actor.