As a fight writer and fan, I’m always intrigued to learn about a unique story. Boxing is a highly individualistic sport and individuals from a wide array of backgrounds find their way into the Sweet Science. So I was interested today when I received a press release announcing that King’s Promotions had signed undefeated super middleweight Devar Ferhadi of Iraq.
It’s unusual to even hear about a boxer from Iraq. Ferhadi is one of only two professional boxers from Iraq even listed in the Boxrec data base, the other being 0-3 Ameen Alkailany.
But at least almost as unusual as Ferhadi’s nationality is his academic life outside the ring. For eight months out of the year, he lives in Kurdastad, Iraq, where he’s a third-year medical student. The remainder of the year, he’s based out of Maryland, where he is pursuing his professional boxing career.
As a Desert Storm veteran, Ferhadi is also the kind of young athlete who makes me feel personally ancient. At just 21, Ferhadi was born in 1994, three years after the first Gulf War. His parents fled to Kurdastad to flee oppression from Sadam Hussein.
Ferhadi took up boxing at 14, which is relatively late, particularly for a fighter who is getting started in a country that has no real boxing infrastructure. Living in a country with a strong boxing tradition, starting at 14 might not be a big deal for an extremely gifted athlete who was surrounded by top trainers and sparring partners.
But Ferhadi faces limited training during the time he is studying in Iraq. “I mostly can do fitness and conditioning,” he was quoted as saying in today’s press release, speaking about the months he spends in his home country. “I can do some things that help me with my technical ability.” But, of course, there’s nothing he can do over there that makes up for missing out on high-level sparring.
In reality, Dever Ferhadi is unlikely to climb high up the professional boxing rankings. While he’s knocked out five of his first six professional opponents, all of those fights were scheduled four-rounders, against opponents with losing records.
Nevertheless, he’s an easy guy to cheer for. Studying medicine is an arguous and noble pursuit for a young person. Launching a professional boxing career at the same time is to pursue the truly heroic.