By Robert Coster
Photo: Vincent Ethier
Even though he is ranked 6th by the WBA, junior Lightweight Arash Usmanee remains a well-kept secret. The undefeated Usmanee (20-0, 10 KOs), born in Afghanistan, raised in Canada, is now hoping to change all that and get the opportunity to fight in the United States on national television. Arash moved to Canada at age 10, became a star of the Canadian national amateur team for over 5 years before turning pro in 2009. In his pro career, the 30 year-old Usmanee has won the WBA NABA title and the WBC Continental Americas title. He has fought 3 times in the United States without much fanfare but is now looking to showcase his boxing talent on bigger scale than the rather small boxing shows he’s been accustomed to. Fightnews caught up with Arash Usmanee to talk about his past and his plans for the future.
Arash Usmanee, you are the only boxer born in Afghanistan who is ranked by a major boxing body (the WBA). If only for that, you definitely stand out. What’s your take on that?
Yes, I am born in Afghanistan and I have this foreign name. Apart from that, I hope I can stand out because of my boxing talent – and become a world champion.
Well, your roots and your experience as an immigrant is worth mentioning. You moved to Canada at age 10. What can you say about your early childhood in Afghanistan?
My past in Afghanistan certainly has shaped who I am. I lost my Dad to the war there at age 6 and also many relatives. I remember one case where, me and my brothers, we were all sleeping in one room and had all our valuables in another room. The next day, we realized that all we had in that room had been stolen. When we checked outside, there was the body of a dead man right in front of our door. That’s what we had to live with. Our mother took us to Canada to give us a future. Canada opened its arms to us as refugees. Today, I’m proud to say that I am Afgani and Canadian. I am blessed to fight for both countries.
Was it difficult to adapt to your new homeland?
I was put in school and didn’t speak a word of English. Kids stated taunting me. Well, I answered with my fists. I was a one man army (laughs). I was so good with my fists that I even stood up for other kids that were being picked on.
But how did you actually get into boxing, a sport so alien to your background? Can your tell us about your amateur career?
There was this kid who became a friend of mine. He always showed up at gym classes with blood on his cut-off t-shirts. I was intrigued and he told me that he boxed. He took me to gym where he was training and I fell in love with boxing. Within two months, I had four fights, won all of them by stoppage. I made the team to go and took my friend’s spot, the one who had stated me into boxing…as for my amateur career, I was national Canadian champion, went to two world championships and ended up with a record of 140-25.
You have fought 3 times in the United States. You want to talk about that? You have mentioned that you would like to pursue your career there.
I fought in Philly, Connecticut and Atlanta. I won the WBC Continental title in Atlanta beating local favorite Chris Howard who was 14-0. I would like to return to the USA for a title fight or a huge fight. Right now in Canada nobody wants to step up and fight me.
How do you define yourself as a boxer? What do you think are your strengths?
I would say I’m a boxer-puncher. My strengths are my stamina, my awkwardness and that I’m a mental fighter, a thinking boxer.
What do you need now to get star power and move towards a title fight?
I have fought good guys with good records but now I want to step up against an opponent with a name and high status. Me and my manager Douggy Berneche, we are looking for a good promoter because we don’t have a promoter right now.
Have you imagined yourself getting with a world title belt around your waist?
Plenty of times, otherwise I wouldn’t be boxing. I feel and I know that I can be a world champion.