Afghani-Canadian super featherweight contender Arash Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KOs) will step into the highest-profile fight of his life on short notice and face WBO #1 ranked Raymundo Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KOs) for the WBO NABO Lightweight title this Saturday, April 12, in the co-main event of the HBO Pay-Per-View card featuring the Timothy Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
An extended illness suffered by former two-time world champion Roman “Rocky” Martínez forced him to cancel, creating the huge opportunity for Usmanee, who was already in the gym preparing for another fight.
Usmanee is ranked #9 at super featherweight by the IBF. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, he and his family moved to Alberta, Canada, when he was three years old. He now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. The aggressive 32-year-old’s career has been marred by controversy thus far, as his two biggest career fights have both ended with questionable outcomes. In his only defeat, Usmanee dropped a highly controversial 12-round decision to Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy on January 4 of last year. Fighting for the IBF #2 ranking and live on ESPN Friday Night Fights, Usmanee appeared to take the fight over at the midway point and grew more dominant as the rounds wore on. However, the judges saw it another way.
And then, in August of last year, Usmanee missed winning a world championship by a single point when he fought to a draw with Dominican champion Argenis Mendez at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
Beltran has also seen his share of hard luck in the ring. He was last seen fighting to a very debatable draw with then-world champion Ricky Burns in September of last year. Burns was down in the eighth and suffered a broken jaw in the second round that subsequently required the insertion of a titanium plate to repair. And yet it was not enough to sway the judges, as the fight was held in Burns’ homeland of Scotland.
As tough as they come, 32-year-old Beltran was born in Los Mochis, Mexico, but now lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
The pair will not only be vying for the WBO NABO Lightweight title, but also a place in the front of the line to face new champion Terence Crawford, who defeated Burns by decision in March of this year.
Usamanee’s promoter, Greg Cohen of Greg Cohen Promotions, says the match-up has explosive written all over it.
“Neither of these guys take many backwards steps in the ring. It’s going to be a war of attrition from the first round. You could easily say this is a battle between the uncrowned IBF Champion and the uncrowned WBO Champion. It’s a very high-level match-up between two of the toughest guys in the sport. It’s going to be a sensational slugfest!”
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