When he got punched in the nose by Sam Wildenhaus in their hard-hitting bout Sunday, Dzhamal Usmanov didn’t flinch.
He’s dealt with worse recently.
The 23-yar-old Usmanov, who said he’s had 280 amateur bouts and is 9-1 as a pro, grew up in Ukraine and has Turkish roots.
Talk about enduring a one-two punch.
Almost a year ago to the day — Feb. 24, 2022 — Russia began its deadly invasion of Ukraine. Usmanov’s family had two homes in Donetsk, which is now occupied by Russia.
“One of our homes got blown up,” Usmanov said through an interpreter.
Just two weeks ago a massive pair of earthquakes hit Turkey, and, as of Sunday, they have claimed nearly 42,000 lives there and 6,000 more in Syria.
Usmanov had relatives in the affected area, but said “They are OK.”
A lot of people are not.
An untold number of people are buried in the rubble and most are presumed dead. Experts said over 2 million people have been left homeless in what has been freezing temperatures. They lack food, water, everything necessary to survive.
That’s what Sunday’s charity boxing show was about at the Ahiska Turkish-American Community Center. It was put on by Daniel Meza-Cuadra, who runs the DMC Boxing Academy in Centerville.
The gym is home to a United Nations of aspiring boxers, including several who have familial ties to Turkey.
Meza-Cuadra wanted to help the Turkish quake victims and got in touch with leaders of the local Ahiska Turkish community and the fight show idea came to fruition in just six days.
Tickets were $25 and some 175 people were in the crowd. All proceeds are going to Turkish relief.
According to the Red Cross, $5 is enough to feed one person three meals a day there.
“That means with every fight ticket sold, five people will be fed that day,” he said. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we needed to do something.”
Next Sunday, Meza-Cuadra’s wife — Chef Margot Blondet, who runs the popular Salar restaurant in the Oregon District — will host a charity dinner at 5 p.m. Members of the local Turkish community will serve as guest chefs.
Tickets are $139 and can be purchased in the Salar website: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday’s 12-bout show — in a ring set up on the floor of the gym, which has four large photos of Muhammad Ali hanging on the walls — was a heartfelt event.
Middleweight Johnathan Smith stepped into the ring and sang the national anthem, then later in the show had a spirited three-round affair with Wildenhaus, who is 5-3 as a pro and did double-ring duty Sunday.
In the back of the gym, Turkish meals — rice topped with beef, as well as a tomato and onion salad — were being sold.
Mohamed Chibi, a 12-year-old sixth grader at Springboro Intermediate School, made his boxing debut in the opening bout with A.J. Briggs.
Though he is of Tunisian heritage, he said he felt a kinship with the people of Turkey:
“I’m Muslim and Turkey is a Muslim country and they need our help.”
Ten-year-old Aydin Idrisov, a Bethel fourth grader who lives in Tipp City, met Dylan Wagoner of Lewisburg in the second bout. Sitting ringside was Idrisov’s father, Ismail, his mother Shura and his twin sister Aida, who is a head taller.
Shura said her aunt was in the earthquake, but is safe now.
“We have a very diverse group of guys at the gym,” said Danny McGeady, the basketball standout at Alter High in the 1990s who is now a successful Dayton-area businessman and a devotee of the DMC Academy.
“A lot of the guys in the gym have taught me a lot, just by me watching them and talking to them and getting to know them.
“You forget how blessed you are here; how we have all these things here in America.
“It’s been really great to meet such a different group of people who can tell you something about struggle.”
As he spoke, Dzhamal Usmanov — the embodiment of his thought — sat just a few feet away, his hands tightly wrapped for a fight.
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