In an era of Facebook fighters and trainers on Twitter, Arash Usmanee looks to the past to envision his future.
And the World Boxing Association’s newly crowned North American super featherweight champ wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m old-school … I want to fight like the guys did 50 years ago,” the transplanted Red Deer brawler said from his Montreal training camp yesterday.
“I like going toe-to-toe ... it doesn’t bother me if I have to take two or three good shots to land one of my own. I never worry about it, because that word isn’t in my dictionary.
“The way I look at it, you’ve gotta have the man in you to take a shot. You’ve gotta measure up. Boxing isn’t like any other sport that way. You need to prove yourself all over again every time you step in the ring. When you get hit, you have to answer back.”
The unbeaten Usmanee won the WBA-NABA crown Dec. 3 in just his 10th pro outing, a unanimous decision over Mexican knockout artist Pedro Navarrete, who went into the fight with a record of 25-8-3, including 14 KOs.
Usmanee returns to the ring Friday at Montreal’s Metropolis concert hall against Isaac Bejarano, another hard-hitting Mexican with seven KOs in his nine victories.
“In the amateurs, I was always preparing to be a long- distance fighter, even though the fights were only four rounds,” said Usmanee, who was 130-20 en route to five national titles.
“After four, I was just getting warmed up. When I turned pro, it was actually kind of frustrating to start off with four-rounders, because I wanted to work on keeping my composure in longer fights.”
So far, keeping his composure hasn’t been a problem.
The impressive win over Navarrete (98-91, 99-90, 97-92) was Usmanee’s first 10-rounder. The Mexican landed some early bombs, but Usmanee’s quick hands and vastly improved lateral movement were more than enough to offset Navarrete’s power.
“He was exactly what we expected,” said Usmanee. “Where I’m at now, this is what we need: tough, experienced guys who are going to step up and fight. I don’t want any easy ones. This guy was slick. He made me miss some … and that’s good, because it made me bear down and want to hit him harder.
“At the end of the day, I’m as much a fan as the people who are watching. When I go back and watch the film, I ask myself, ‘Is that exciting? Would I buy a ticket to see this fight?’ Getting hit only brings out the best in me.”
Usmanee’s dedication to the old-school philosophy extends to his training regimen. Since relocating to Montreal, the 28-year-old has been able to focus full-time on his profession, with two-a-day sparring sessions the norm.
“Even on my days off, I go to the gym just to hang out and talk to other fighters and learn by watching,” he said.
“My manager (Douggy Berneche) and my training team are great; they’ve made it easy for me to be a full-time fighter and just stay focused on getting better at my job.
“I owe a lot to the guys I was working with in Alberta, especially (trainer) Doug Bolianatz, but it just wasn’t the right environment; it was tough to get the kind of sparring I need. But I’ll always be grateful for the support I have back home.”
Usmanee will return to his roots May 14 when he headlines against an as-yet-unsigned opponent on All-In Promotions’ Rumble in Red Deer pro-am at the Capri Centre.
The show will also feature unbeaten Edmonton junior welterweight Rory Coveney (4-0, 2 KOs), along with some of Alberta’s finest amateurs.
“I’m really excited about fighting at home in May,” said Usmanee.
“It’s going to be great to see all my friends and give something back to everybody who’s supported me since I was first starting out.”