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Arash Usmanee Interview: Montreal’s Almost IBF World Super Featherweight Champion

By Robert Brizel, Head RCM Boxing Correspondent

To put a good spin on his situation, world ranked super featherweight boxer Arash Usmanee is Montreal’s ‘almost’ super featherweight champion. To Usmanee and many other supporters, including this reporter, Usmanee easily defeated Rance Bathelemy by decision in January 2013 in an International Boxing Federation 12 round eliminator in Miami, Florida for the number two rating position though he did not get the decision on the scorecards.

However, Usmanee remains an ‘almost champion’ After losing the 12 round decision to Bathelemy on the cards, then winding up with a majority draw in a world title bout with Argenis Mendez at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York,  for the International Boxing Federation World Super Featherweight title, Usmanee remains a frustrated fighter.

Barthelemy knocked out Mendez on January 3, 2014, to seemingly win the IBF title, but the punch was ruled to have been thrown after the bell ending the second round after videotape review.  The result was reversed, so Mendez is the IBF world champion again. Mendez is rumored to be moving up from 130 pounds super featherweight to 135 pounds lightweight, but this has not yet officially occurred. This means the IBF could order Mendez to fight Barthelemy again, or order Usmanee to fight Barthelemy again if Mendez vacates his title. Until the IBF situation is clarified, Arash Usmanee appears to be the IBF’s manin waiting as to whether he would get a second shot at the IBF title-if it becomes vacant.

Arash Usmanee currently face several complications: first, he is working with a new trainer; second, he is nursing an ankle injury and may not be fully healthy for another five weeks though he is back in training; third, he has not won a bout in nearly two years, since he stopped Peruvian Alan Paredes in June 2012; fourth, he apparently does not wish to fight fellow Canadian Baha Laham, who is scheduled to fight an as yet unnamed opponent for the World Boxing Council vacant Continental Americas Super Featherweight title on March 28, 2014. Laham, a native of Lebanon, knocked out Alan Paredes in May 2013. Usmanee, a native of Afghanistan, might fall out of the world ratings without a win soon.

Usmanee, who is 31 years, old, has a career professional record of 20 wins, one loss, and one draw, with ten knockouts. Usmanee is promoted by Greg Cohen. Usmanee pulled out of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights last month due to his ankle injury, but is still interested in fighting world ranked Juan Antonio Rodriguez later this year, his originally scheduled opponent at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino in Tacoma, Washington.

In a Real Combat Media international exclusive, Usmanee talked fro Montreal about his current boxing situation as the International Boxing Federation’s ‘man in waiting’.

Real Combat Media: “Arash, how did you wind up moving from Afghanistan to Canada?”

Arash Usmanee: “My Aunt had already moved to Canada a long time ago. When the war in Afghanistan happened, I lost my dad when I was only six years old. When I turned 10 years old, my mom, my brothers and sisters, and I moved to Pakistan for two years. We applied to my Aunt for sponsorship. My Aunt was there for us, she sponsored us. She had some help from the community, I got to Canada when I was 12 years old. I did not box until I was 16 years old. I lived in Alberta, Canada. For the last four years, I have been living in Montreal.”

Real Combat Media: “You turned pro in 2009. Did you try out for the Olympics beforehand?”

Arash Usmanee: “Yes. I was at the world championships in Chicago. The first fight I beat a guy from Poland. The next fight I beat a guy from Kazakhstan, a world junior champion. The third fight, I fought a tall referee and dropped him. The referee was not on my side. Every time the guy was holding me, the referee was warning me instead. The final score was 19-20, from a punch they said was thrown at the bell, the other guy was given a point and won and went to the Olympics. Before I was robbed against Rances Barthelemy, I was robbed many times as an amateur.”

Real Combat Media: Your thoughts on your fight with Rances Barthelemy.”

Arash Usmanee: “I think I won the fight. I don’t care to fight him again, unless it’s for a world title.”

Real Combat Media: “Your thoughts on your fight with Argenis Mendez.”

Arash Usmanee: “I hit him and he went down. He touched his gloves to the canvas. And that would have been the decisive point for (me to win) the belt. I would have won the IBF world title on all three scorecards if I had been given (the point for) that knockdown. I think it was a human error, referee Benjy Esteves Jr. didn’t see the knockdown.”

Real Combat Media: Your thoughts on last month’s no-decision bout between Rances Barthelemy and Argenis Mendez in Minnesota.”

Arash Usmanee: “You know what? Mendez wasn’t the same dude. Mendez had to lose 25 to 30 pounds to make weight for Barthelemy. My fight to this fight, Mendez wasn’t the same dude. In the first round in my fight with Mendez, I hit him with the right hand many times. He wasn’t the same guy who fought me the night he fought Barthelemy. I hear he’s moving up (to lightweight) and vacating his IBF title.”

Real Combat Media: “Do you want to fight for the IBF world title if the belt is vacated by Mendez? What is your current health and gym situation?

Arash Usmanee: “Of course, for sure I would like to fight again for the IBF world title. I let of my last trainer. I have a new trainer. He will be announced by my management (team) shortly, Syndicate Management.”

Real Combat Media: “Are you interested in fight the WBO Super Featherweight world champion, Mikey Garcia?”

Arash Usmanee: “If it makes business sense. I’m not just going to fight anyone anymore. As for any of the other champions, if it makes sense, I want to fight them. I need to get my world title. One of them is out there (who will fight me).”

Real Combat Media: “Are you comfortable fighting at featherweight?”

Arash Usmanee: “To be honest, I can almost make weight at featherweight. I can try the lower division as well, so I can get a title shot from any of the featherweights. I’ll take that (opportunity) too.”

Real Combat Media: “Are you willing to fight World Boxing Association World Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama of Japan?”

Arash Usmanee: “I’ve watched his fights. He comes to fight. He’s got a lot of pop in his punches. It would be an exciting fight (between the two of us) for the fight fans. Uchiyama never comes out of Japan, so for me to fight him, it has to make sense businesswise.”

Real Combat Media: “Are you going to take any stay busy fights to remain active?”

Arash Usmanee: “You are very right. I was scheduled to fight Juan Antonio Rodriguez of Mexico on January 10, but I had an ankle injury.”

Real Combat Media: “Do you still want to fight Rodriguez?”

Arash Usmanee: “Yeah. Why not? I have no idea when (I will be healthy and ready to fight next). I have to talk with my promoter and manager. I’m ready to fight the same guy, in three, four or five weeks, I’ll be ready to fight.”

Real Combat Media: “Fellow Canadian super featherweight Baha Laham is scheduled to fight for the World Boxing Council vacant Continental Americas Super Featherweight title on March 28 in Montreal, but still has no opponent. Would you fight him for that belt in Montreal?”

Arash Usmanee: “If my manager and promoter brought the bout to me, I would not say no.”

Real Combat Media: Have you recovered from your ankle injury? How is the gym work coming along with your new trainer?”

Arash Usmanee: “I have been with my new trainer for three weeks. I’m in decent shape. In a month, I will be ready to take a fight. I will be in great shape!”