Doc in one corner, kidney disease in other

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

They aren't kidding when they say this fighter can take you apart with scalpel-like precision.

Faisal Rehman does that regularly during his real life as Dr. Faisal Rehman, program director of the division of nephrology at London Health Sciences Centre. He treats kidney disease.

In September, the hands that usually save people will be used for a much different purpose, to raise money to knock out kidney disease, when he steps in the ring as one of the feature attractions for Showdown in the Downtown.

The Sept. 25 night of boxing at the London Convention Centre will consist of amateur bouts between Canadians and Americans. Rehman, chair of the event's organizing committee, will use his personal battle to regain his own health, to raise awareness and money for kidney research.

The Showdown is a reincarnation of what was the Banger in the Hanger.

"Most people think I'm nuts, but that's OK," Rehman said. "I'm hoping to raise a lot of money and that makes it worth it for me."

Rehman credits boxing with getting him on the track to good health.

"When I graduated from medical school in 1998, I got married right away and after that my health fell apart," he said. "I gained about 80 pounds, ballooned up to 240. I became ill. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol. The only way I picked it up was that I bought a home I couldn't afford. I had a life insurance exam and essentially was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I was a wreck."

The news hit him like a right uppercut.

"That scared the hell out of me," he said. "I didn't want to die and leave my wife with a home we couldn't afford. The fear motivated me to get fit. I started eating properly. I exercised regularly. I started boxing a little bit. Within six months I had my weight down to 180 pounds. My blood work was normal and I was feeling great."

Rehman, now almost 38, had flirted with boxing when he was younger and enjoyed it, but never took it seriously enough to get an amateur licence.

The idea of boxing to raise money hit him like a left hook.

"In the clinical kidney research unit, we were very successful at getting research grants but it wasn't enough to fulfill our research mission," he said. "I thought 'Why not have a charity event? I was in the middle of training so I said, 'Why not a boxing event? We can have Canada against the U.S. sort of like the Banger in the Hanger.' That really motivated me."

The next move was inevitable.

"Then it was suggested 'Why don't you fight?'" Rehman said. "I thought that would be a bit of a draw to get doctors out to come and watch and spend money. That's how it started."

Organizers are looking for sponsors at various price levels.

Kathy Ure, a Londoner who is a former national and provincial amateur champion, is putting together the card. She is working in conjunction with Boxing Ontario and Boxing Canada.

Ure has been named coach of Canada's national female boxing team. They're headed to Italy next week for a head-to-head with the Italian team.

Ure worked with Rehman as he fought his way back into shape. He worked out at Ure's Sharky's Boxing Club. The main club is in Sarnia, but there is a satellite in London.

Ure says Rehman's presence on the card is going to be "huge."

While she respects him for his hard work, she has even more respect for his abilities as a doctor.

"This guy saves people's lives every day," she says. "He saved my mother's life three years ago and he saved her life last night (Monday)."

Ure's mother had cutting edge heart-valve surgery recently.

"She had kidney complications. They called Faisal. He's saving her life as we speak. He's amazing. You have no idea how many lives he saves," Ure said.

Rehman is looking at Showdown in the Downtown and his story to not only raise money and awareness but also to educate people who may not realize what kidney disease is all about.

"The No. 1 cause of kidney disease is diabetes and high blood pressure, of which I had both," he said. "Considering how important physical fitness is, it was appropriate to have a physical fitness event to promote awareness about kidney disease. If our patients were educated to that at an early age, I'll bet you many of them wouldn't be on dialysis or not needing a kidney transplant today."

Rehman has fought once and lost.

"I was scared," he said of his fight. "I lost but that was OK. I never got hurt seriously. I've sparred a lot but it's different in the ring. I hope to have a couple of more fights before the main event."

And when he's finished, like a straight right to the jaw, Rehman hopes to have done some damage to kidney disease.

SHOWDOWN IN THE DOWNTOWN

What: Amateur boxing card in support of the Kidney Clinical Research Unit

Who: Canada vs. United States, participants TBA

When: Friday, Sept. 25, London Convention Centre; with special guest George Chuvalo

Information: On tickets and corporate sponsorships, call 519-663-3055 or 519-641-3434


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