Usmanee knows what real war looks like

MURRAY GREIG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Fifteen years ago, Arash Usmanee could never have dreamed he'd grow up to enjoy fighting.

Born into a culture of violence in Afghanistan, Usmanee was just 12 when his father was killed in a rocket attack. With what was left of his family, the kid with the big heart and quick fists moved to Red Deer, where he rapidly advanced through the amateur ranks, eventually winning five national titles en route to a record of 130 wins and just 20 losses.

"Little wars in the ring are just that -- little," the personable Usmanee recalls. "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 the ring. A junior lightweight, Usmanee turned pro last spring and notched quick KOs in his first two outings. A pair of four-round decisions followed, setting the stage for his first six-rounder against Cuba's Jorge Ruiz (7-10) tonight at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

Co-promoted by Britain's Hennessy Sports and Las Vegas-based TKO Boxing, the card is headlined by the NABF middleweight title bout between Peter Manfredo Jr. and Matt Vanda. Also up for grabs is the NABF featherweight crown in a 10-round showdown between Matt Remillard and Rafael Lora.

"I feel a lot more relaxed than I was for my last fight (Dec. 5 versus Wilshaun Boxley) in Montreal," Usmanee said Wednesday.

"Maybe it was the casino atmosphere or the big crowd, but I wasn't myself. That wasn't me in there with Boxley. I came out flat and my timing was off. The crowd loved it because we were throwing bombs at each other in the last round ... but I know I can do much better."

To prepare for Ruiz, Usmanee worked with a half-dozen different sparring partners, including former IBF world super bantamweight champ Steve Molitor.

"We wanted a mix of styles, so working with Molitor, who's a southpaw, was a good test," said Usmanee. "I know nothing about Ruiz other than he's got a lot of experience, but I've trained for anything he wants to bring me."

As for his immediate future, Usmanee said he's signed for two more fights with Hennessy, after which he should be in line for a Canadian title shot.

"I'm not rushing anything; these guys (Hennessy) have treated me very well and I'm excited about the possibility of more fights in the U.S., but my focus right now is on beating Ruiz and taking another step up the ladder," 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 my degree. It's time to get paid."

PANTHER POWER: Belated congrats to Panther Boxing Club coaches Benny (The Jet) Swanson and Sterling Craig for a phenomenal showing at the recent Alberta Bronze Gloves. The Panther contingent won 10 straight fights, brought home seven gold medals and had four fighters named the best of their division.

The purveyors of Panther pride were: Jesse Jacobson (118 lbs., best jr. male champ); Amber Groome (152 lbs., sr. female champ); Evelyn Gavinchuk (132 lbs., best sr. female champ); Raeanne Arcand Peacock (best jr. female champ); James Bruce (165 lbs., sr. male champ); John Bradly (sr. male heavyweight champ); and Vesna Kos (125 lbs., sr. female champ).

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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