Gangs, drugs, death and destruction – Razor Ali’s journey from ghetto to glory

Alireza Ghadira casts a proud eye around his new London flat and says: “It’s good progress, but I’m not satisfied – it’s a long way from my dream.”

That might be so but, thankfully, it’s even further from the nightmares the 24-year-old endured growing up in Iran and in the months that followed his 2016 arrival in Britain as an asylum seeker.

Ghadiri, who is now preparing for his fifth professional fight after signing for Wasserman Boxing, has the sort of backstory that brings tears to the eyes.

And certainly it did to those of his new promoter, Kalle Sauerland, who was told when the pair met last spring how…

  • Aged two, Ghadira’s heroin addict father divorced his mother and the boy was taken in by his grandparents and extended family.
  • Aged six, he was the only survivor in a car accident which killed seven family members, and left him with severe burns and a long stay in hospital.
  • Still aged six and still wrapped in bandages after being released from hospital, he was kidnapped by his father and holed up in an abandoned house in the desert, from which his dad once tried to sell him to raise money for drugs.
  • Aged seven, he was returned to his maternal grandmother and, in the years that followed, he became embroiled in gang life, repeatedly witnessing some dreadful crimes.
  • At 18, his mother urged him to get out of Iran and after an arduous journey he finally made it to East London.

“This,” says Ghadira, “is the short version.

“Where I come from is a pure ghetto, people get killed over a conversation, they get stabbed and killed for looking at someone the wrong way.

“I was part of gangs, fighting for drugs, money, strength, and I was witness to many things I didn’t want to see.

“I was beaten up by the gang because I wouldn’t do the worst things. I said, ‘I fight, I sell drugs, but I don’t do that’.”

Ghadira, a professional Thai boxer in his homeland who is known as ‘Razor Ali’ to friends here, has had to fight to survive his whole life.

And never more so than the time after a car carrying two drunks ploughed into his family’s vehicle, which had been rendered stationary after a puncture.

“There were eight of us in the car and I saw the rest of them burn to death,” he adds.

“I was 43 per cent burnt and they had to jet wash me once a week.

“The days they took me to the steam room I asked God to save my life — now I ask how there can be a God.”

Ghadira lived rough on the streets of Barking after arriving in England but found a home of sorts at West Ham Boxing Club.

That put him on a journey which would ultimately lead to a video meeting with Sauerland, who was surprised to see Valencia owner Peter Lim alongside Ghadira on the other side of the screen.

He went on: “I’m lucky that I have some high-worth individual friends. I got hold of Kalle, we had a Zoom meeting, and he was amazed I was standing next to one of the richest men in the world.

“Kalle said, ‘Listen, I want to see you’, and I’m so thankful.

“Life tried to KO me but I’m here now and I’m grateful for just being free.

“Having freedom is the biggest thing I’m proud of — as long as I’m free I can achieve all my dreams.”

Alireza Ghadiri continues his promising career on Thursday, November 25 at the Wasserman Boxing development series event at the iconic York Hall in London.

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