FNF déjà vu for Usmanee

By Dave Spencer
Photo: Marco Perez/

It was supposed to be the season premier of ESPN Friday Night Fights, a kick-off to a new season of televised fistic fury. What boxing fans got instead was tired reruns with the same old plotlines, the same locales and same the cast of characters.

The plotline was a familiar one; a western Canadian fighter from Alberta moves to Montreal to better pursue his career and takes a huge fight in Florida against a Warriors Boxing promoted hometown fighter in front of a South Florida crowd and broadcast across North America on ESPN.

There was a definite feeling of déjà vu to Friday’s telecast in which Arash Usmanee lost a questionable to Rances Barthelemy and walked away with his first career defeat on his record and a sour taste in his mouth. It was the same taste that now retired cruiserweight Dale Brown had after a 2005 IBF cruiserweight in a blatant robbery to O’Neil Bell.

That bout saw judge Richard Green score an impossible to justify 117-111 scorecard against Brown, the same Richard Green who scored against Usmanee on Friday, only this time around with a slightly more subtle 116-112. Green was not alone, Valerie Dorsett who ruled in favour of Lamont Peterson over Amir Khan also had the same 116-112 score while Ric Bays who was the lone voice for Juan Diaz versus Nate Campbell had the fight 115-113.

“I thought that judge was going for eye surgery because he certainly didn’t see my fight correctly,” Dale Brown told FightNews regarding Green this week before concluding, maybe he has something against Canadians.”

Brown like Usmanee, dominated the fight, dominated the Compubox numbers, won over the crowd and won over the announcers. Like they did this past Friday, ESPN announcers cried foul at the time and criticized a less than Herculean Florida Commission.

Announcer Teddy Atlas was barking much the same tune this past Friday, but as long as the network keeps going back to the scene of the crime, the words seemed shallow not carrying the bite to go along with the bark.

Usmanee’s manager Dougie Berneche quickly knew what he was up against. “I had no problem in Atlanta,” said Berneche who had his fighter win a decision over undefeated Chris Howard.

“In Florida though, there was a vibe, the way they acted, they seemed to know already. I said to (trainer) Marc (Ramsay), we don’t have it, I feel it.” The feeling permeated the corner with Ramsay asking his fighter to finish things in the 12th and final round, a feat Usmanee almost accomplished.

“I didn’t say their guy won, I said it was going to be a robbery,” Berneche told FightNews in response to a press release issued by Warriors. “Leon came into our corner when we were all waiting for the decision. He told me, ‘I have 7-5 for Barthelemy,’ and I told him: No, it will be 8-4 for your guy. I told him we were in Miami and then he told me, ‘You gave the close rounds to Barthelemy.’ And that’s it, I was right.

"You can ask Leon why he got up five times to Rances corner during the fight. Did he know the scorecard round by round?

“I never said, and will never say that Barthelemy won the fight because that isn't the case. Our team, Marc Ramsay, Daniel Trepanier and me, all understood that we were in Florida and consequently, that we would need a KO to win. That’s where the demand from Marc to Arash in the 12th round came from.”

Berneche has appealed the decision to the IBF, hoping that at the very least his 20-1 fighter stays prominent in the rankings. “The press release that has been sent out from Barthelemy's team this morning is only a way to remove some of the pressure they’re facing. Leon says only certain websites are talking about a robbery. This is false: every website, newspaper and commentator is talking about the call being a hometown decision, a robbery and a doubtful result. Are they the only ones who haven't reviewed the fight?”