Celebrity boxing has very much become the combat sports fad of the last half decade. Built on the back of Conor McGregor’s massive PPV fight against Floyd Mayweather, and the surprisingly earnest pugilistic efforts of Jake & Logan Paul, fans have been treated to a whole new era of famous athletes and personalities testing their skills inside the ring.
One of the latest sideshow events to come out of the phenomenon is a planned boxing match between celebrity bodybuilders Martyn Ford and the ‘Iranian Hulk’ Sajad Gharibi. Standing at a reported 6’ 8” tall, Ford has parlayed his gargantuan physique into a number of film roles, most notably as ‘Lieutenant Sue’ in F9: The Fast Saga. While Gharibi has been something of a viral social media sensation for his habit of posting ridiculous and seemingly doctored photos.
Sajad Gharibi, a.k.a. ‘The Iranian Hulk,’ is 6’2” tall, 385 pounds and the definition of an absolute unit. pic.twitter.com/7OmCQ1WsuT— Dose (@dose) June 7, 2019
The two men are apparently set to face off at the O2 Arena, in London, England, for four, two-minute rounds on April 30th. In the weeks leading to a February face-off with Ford, Gharibi posted a comical representation of himself as a muscle bound giant, lifting Ford off the ground with just one hand. When they actually met in person, however, things took a dramatically different turn.
Shortly after scuffling with Ford, Gharibi posted a cryptic message on his social media accounts, telling fans that he “came to Dubai without any sponsor by selling assets, without a coach and without any support. I wish for death.”
“Oh God, you are the witness of how much I have suffered. I am ashamed of Iranian people,” the message continued (translation via The Mirror).
A recently released TV interview with the 30-year-old Iranian Hulk provided a bit of extra context as to why he might be in an exceptionally rough place, emotionally. Notably that, following the release of the face-off footage, Gharibi says that his family disowned him.
“I cannot call my family. When I returned to Iran, I didn’t go to my family,” Gharibi explained to the interviewer, breaking down in tears. “I can’t. I can’t talk to my father. When I talked to my mother, she said ‘The person that I saw in the video was not my son, my son is way stronger than this.’
“Something hurts my heart. When someone can’t talk to his family—I lost my pride. I am destroyed.
“My family said, ‘You will go there and finish him.’ They expected the other way around.
“Now, some say you got paid to fall down. It hurts my heart. How can you say that? How can I not think about statements? How can I sleep? How can I rest? I personally feel very bad. I cannot sleep, however I’m taking sleeping pills.
“When a mom says that to her child, how can it be tolerated? There’s a lot of pressure. They said you got paid. I swear, I didn’t get even 1 dollar. I ate egg as lunch in Dubai. If I got paid even 1 dollar—I can’t continue.”
It’s comments like those that seem to have Ford questioning whether the whole thing will even go ahead at all, telling reporters during a recent presser that “I am asking the question if he genuinely wants to fight me?”
“Because I don’t want to step in the ring and be perceived as a bully and seen as intimidating someone who hasn’t put the same work in as I have. If he really wants to do this fight, tell everyone he wants to do this fight and don’t put it on me.”
“He needs to get his ass into gear,” Ford added, noting that he’s still preparing to “bring everything to the table” assuming that Gharibi actually wants to go ahead with the bout.
Alongside the ridiculous freak fight at the top of the card, the BOXSTAR celebrity event is also expected to feature a bout between former Manchester United footballer Patrice Evra and YouTube personality Adam Saleh. Saleh made his pro boxing debut back in 2019, defeating MMA fighter Marcus Stephenson via decision. He’s competed twice since that fight, resulting in a draw and another decision win. Former footballer and England U21 squad member Jamie O’Hara is also expected to compete on the card.