Omar Choudri has been fighting since shortly after he saw Muhammad Ali light the torch at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, fearlessly shrugging off the gasps from people seeing the ravages of Parkinson's on The Greatest. That scene catalyzed young Choudri, who was born in Brooklyn, raised in Maspeth and lives in Bayside.
"I thought then, 'I'm going to be a champion," said the light heavyweight boxer, who will make his pro debut on Oct. 5, on a Havoc Boxing card, shortly before he turns 30 years old.
Choudri knows full well that he's entering the pro ranks late, and that behind his back there will be whispers.
Too old. Too late. Too bad.
No matter. Choudri shrugs it off, telling himself that he knows how he's handled himself with pros like Peter Quillin, the WBO middleweight champion, and solid journeyman Will Rosinsky, in sparring. "I've sparred the best in the world, and I do better than hold my own," Choudri told me. "And I knew, if I didn't do this, I would wish I did. And I still believe I'm going to be a champion."
Choudri said the timing hasn't been right, he's never had the right people behind him, the right team to aid him. He trained with ex Mike Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney upstate for a long spell, and learned the Cus D'Amato method, which he expects to show off in October. That base he believes will serve him well, as will the tough hide he grew growing up being taunted because of his Pakistani heritage. "My whole life, I've been too short, or too young ... I take it as motivation. I relish the underdog role. I'm like Rocky, "The Italian Stallion" ... [who's] not Italian," he said, chuckling.
Choudri holds a 9-to-5, or 7 p.m.-to-4 a.m. sometimes, working as a barback in a Manhattan hotel, so he will need to rouse himself and do the roadwork on some mornings when the brain screams to stay under the covers.
"If Bernard Hopkins can do it at 48, if Sergio Martinez can do it at 38 ... I've seen guys better than Floyd Mayweather in gyms, but they didn't make it, and they won't do better than me, because they don't have my heart," he says. "Not even God can go against you if you're determined enough."
Perhaps to hedge his bets, Choudri, full of faith in himself but with enough humility to cover his bases, then added, in closing: "I do believe in God."