Pugilists grateful for opportunity

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

They're both full-fledged graduates of the school of hard knocks.

But now that super featherweight Arash Usmanee and middleweight Adam Trupish stand on the brink of realizing their respective dreams of boxing glory, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"Getting punched in the face is nothing compared to what's going on in the real world," said Usmanee. "I'm just grateful to have a chance to fight at this level."

AMATEUR CHAMP

The Afghanistan-born Usmanee is a five-time Canadian amateur champ, who hopes to improve his pro record to 3-0 when he squares off with Mexico's Edwin Perez (1-1) on Friday night at the AgriCom.

And for the 30-year-old Trupish, a nine-time national champ and two-time Olympian, Friday's debut against Edgar Hernandez (1-1) marks the launch of a pro career that he hopes will be fast-tracked to a Canadian title -- and beyond.

Their fights are the featured prelims on the six-bout Oktober FightFest, headlined by a heavyweight 10-rounder between Edmonton's Sheldon Hinton (10-6-1, 3 KOs) and German national champ Andreas Sidon (33-8, 27 KOs).

Usmanee was just a kid when his father was killed in a rocket attack in war-ravaged Afghanistan. A few years later, with what was left of his family, the youngster with the big heart and quick fists moved to Red Deer, where he rapidly advanced through the amateur ranks, eventually earning a spot alongside Trupish on the national team.

"Little wars in the ring are just that -- little," the personable Usmanee said quietly. "I've seen real war. I've seen death. I was just young, but I remember. You learn where to run, where to get away ..."

Those instincts have served him well in boxing.

The 27-year-old turned pro earlier this year, notching two knockouts in a little less than five minutes of ring time.

"Yeah, the first one was quick (35-second KO of Mexico's Ricardo Cueran in April); the second guy (John Hoffman) lasted a little bit longer," smiled Usmanee.

"I'd prefer to get more rounds in the bank, but I'll take them as they come. If a guy wants to run, I'll work the jab, step into the pocket and box him all night.

"But if I see an opening, I'll take him out. We're not in there to play games."

Usmanee wants to accelerate his schedule over the next few months and fight for a Canadian title by mid-2010.

"My last 20 amateur bouts were all with world-class guys, so it's almost like I got a head start on turning pro," he said. "I hunger to fight ... but now that hunger means money, too. Fighting all those years in amateur, representing Canada all over the world, was like going to university. Now it's time to get paid."

Meanwhile, Trupish is finally making good on a promise to himself to test the professional waters after being Canada's lone boxer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"The Olympics was something I was shooting for since I was a little kid watching on TV -- and I got there twice," said Trupish, who also represented Canada at the 2004 Athens Games.

NOTHING LEFT TO PROVE

"When you're an amateur as long as I was, it gets to the point where there's nothing left to prove, no more frontiers to conquer," the former world No. 5-ranked junior middleweight said of being a globetrotting warrior.

"When I moved to Edmonton a couple of years ago, I knew this would be my last stop.

"It's a great boxing city, a great environment to be in. But for a while there, I was like a fish out of water. I missed my coach back in Windsor, Ont. Right up until three weeks before I left for Beijing, he was coaching me by phone and computer."

Trupish's long amateur career was the perfect prelude to the solitary life of a pro fighter.

A former butcher who pounded beef Rocky Balboa-style to build muscle and stamina, he's no stranger to hard work -- and hardship.

"I'm a starving artist," laughed Trupish.

"I ride the bus to work and the gym. I run a lot to get where I'm going. It's not an easy life by any stretch of the imagination, but it's what I want to do ... what I was born to do. Turning pro was the next logical step. I have to find out, it's all I've dreamed about."

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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