IBF #14-rated super featherweight contender Arash Usmanee (20-0, 10 KOs) is finishing up training at the Club de Boxe de l’Est gym in Montreal, in preparation to face IBF #6 Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy (17-0, 11 KOs) on January 4 at Stage 305 in the Magic City Casino in Miami, Florida. “My training is always tip top,” said the Aghani-Canadian. “I’m ready to go. I gotta cut some weight, but it’s in the process. I’m taking my time with it. For me, having to cut weight is ordinary. It seems like no matter what weight I fight at, it’s tough to make. I take it serious because that’s a part of boxing and that’s a battle every boxer should be able to overcome. And it makes the victory taste better when you have to work hard for the win.”
30-year-old Usmanee is a five-time national amateur champion in his adopted home of Canada. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, he moved to the Canadian Province of Alberta when he was only three years old, after his father was killed in a bombing.
“I moved to Montreal from Alberta. I had five fights there before I moved and things weren’t looking so good. Pro boxing in Alberta is very difficult to do well at. You pretty much have to be a club fighter and I’m not a club fighter. When I got here, my manager, Douggy Berneche, and my trainer, Danielle Trepanier, and I hooked up and the rest is history.”
Usmanee says he had a very wild style before meeting Trepanier, but has really refined his game with his guidance.
“My basics of boxing were lacking, let’s put it that way. For many years, I was left to do what I was good at in the ring, which was to be wild and fight. I did well with it, but not at this level. You have to utilize all your assets and I wasn’t doing that. So Dan said let’s go back to basics and that’s what we did. He took me right back to school and started from the beginning and taught me how to box. I learned a lot of the basics of boxing in the past few years. I basically became a boxer. I had the tennis ball under my chin; my legs were tied up. I looked stupid, but that’s what we had to do.”
Usmanee admits he can still be a little wilder than he should at times. “My style is in your face. I like to go to war, sometimes even when I shouldn’t. But I’ve learned to utilize my boxing skills in the past couple years a lot better. My heart is a warrior. In my heart I want war. That’s never going to go away. But my punches don’t get wild anymore. I get wild in my heart now, but stick to what I’ve learned: technical aggression.”
So what does he think of his opponent Barthelemy?
“Barthelemy is just like me. I do everything pretty good, nothing spectacular or amazing. I feel I’m rounded off pretty smooth. I don’t do anything that’s really, really bad or that stands out. He’s not a bad boxer, not a bad fighter, everything he has is good, but it’s not blowing my mind. It’s not amazing or out of the ordinary. He’s nothing I haven’t faced before in the ring. He’s good, tall; he’s naturally southpaw, so he’s got a good left side. Good boxer, good puncher. Everything is average. Nothing is spectacular. You know? That’s the same with me.”
Despite what he calls their equality in physical gifts, Usmanee has a definite vision for the important fight’s outcome. “We’re planning on stopping him late. I always want to knock out everybody, but that’s what I want to do and that’s what I’m planning on doing. I’m sure he’s got the same plan. That’s why it’ll be a great fight.”
Usmanee has already won the NABA and WBC Continental Americas Championships as a professional, but says he’s suffered from anonymity so far in his career. This fight may be his ticket to wider recognition.
“I don’t think the world really knows much about me yet. We’re hoping to change that with this fight. I don’t think many Canadians even know who I am yet, but I have been getting a lot of letters from around the world about this fight. I think if I win it, the world will start to know about me.”