Meet the boxer who's 4-91-2 for his career — and proud of it

August 15, 2019

Qasim ‘Kas’ Hussain is 25, owns his own home, drives a nice Mercedes and has secured his financial future. All made possible, he says, by being a “professional loser.”

That term is how he describes his status in the world of pro boxing, where for every elite prospect with a flawless record, there is a journeyman whose unspoken role is to be paid to receive a beating.

Hussain is one of those road warriors, and he has been far more prolific at it than most. Soon he will undertake his 100th professional bout. He currently has 97 contests under his belt — of which he has won just four, plus two draws.

No fighter has gotten to 100 fights at such a young age since Ernie Smith, who got to that mark aged 27 in 2005. The youngest of all-time is thought to be “Nipper” Pat Daly in the 1920s, although records back then are sketchy at best and suggest Daly first fought at nine years old. When the milestone is reached, it will feel like a title belt to Hussain.

“To me I am not a loser at all,” Hussain told me in a telephone conversation from his home in Arbourthorne, a working class area in the British city of Sheffield. “Losing on points to me is not losing, that is me doing my job. If the journeyman wins, they have ripped up the script. But for me every time I fight, I’m a winner.”

Hussain has been stopped only twice in his 91 defeats, all while earning around 1,000 British pounds ($1,200) for his role in each show. Top boxers fight a couple of times a year. On three separate occasions, Hussain has fought four times within a single month, all while juggling driving a taxi full-time and, recently, enrolling in a university course studying to become a real estate property surveyor.

Remaining in such regular action has enabled him to enjoy a quality of life that would have otherwise been unthinkable. He will marry his fiancée next year, and he has already put money away for their future children.

He will almost certainly step into the ring for the 100th time in September, but he doesn’t know exactly when, because that is the nature of the job. Hussain occasionally knows he is on a card weeks in advance and sometimes, well, he doesn’t.

A few weeks ago, he got a call at 9:55 a.m. on a Sunday and was told he was needed to compete at 1:30 p.m. later in Sunderland, a three-hour drive away. He paid a friend to give him a ride, ate breakfast, lost on points, then attended another friend’s wedding that same evening. The promoter was so grateful that he had saved the show by stepping in at such short notice, that he paid Hussain in the locker room before the fight, unheard of in boxing.

“I have always known I wasn’t technically a brilliant fighter,” Hussain said. “You have got to be a realist. You will never see me coming away complaining. But when I get stopped, I am gutted. I feel I have let myself down. I am representing the journeymen in the U.K. If I lose and get stopped, I have not done my job correctly.”

Sheffield is a hotbed of British boxing, having spawned countless elite fighters, such as dynamic 1990s featherweight “Prince” Naseem Hamed, who fought at Madison Square Garden, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and London’s Wembley Arena. Such nights were never going to beckon for Hussain, and after failing to claim a lower tier “masters” belt, he was faced with a choice.

“Give it all up,” Hussain told me. “Or go on the road and become a ‘professional loser.’ I love boxing. I couldn’t quit it.”

Boxing has almost quit him a couple of times. The British Board of Boxing Control has suspended him three times after especially long losing streaks and he had to apply for reinstatement. He hasn’t won since a memorable evening in 2016. He remembers feeling off that night, but he surprised the prospect he was facing with a big left-hook and came away a points victor.

That’s part of why he is there — as a gatekeeper of sorts. So much ring experience has turned into boxing wisdom, and his presence helps managers figure out if their emerging hopeful really has what it takes in the unforgiving environment of squared combat.

He has been seriously hurt only once, when his nose got broken in 2014. But the money from the match allowed him to go on vacation for the first time, aged 21. He carried on.

After the 100th fight, maybe Hussain will keep going longer. He loves the sport and the kudos that comes with it. Every punch he has taken has contributed to building his future. And, by being smart and professional in the ring, and by not taking fights where he is drastically outmatched or outweighed, he has kept his health and faculties intact.

But even as the guy who is being paid to lose, you have still got to have motivation and hunger. Putting on a good show is part of the job description. It is one of the quirks of the sport that it takes the mindset of a winner, or at least an optimist, to be efficient at losing. Hussain ticks that box.

“I am three fights away from my goal,” he said, as our call ended. “I’ve made more money doing this than I could have doing at anything else. And now I’ve got FOX Sports ringing me up all the way from America. I might be a professional loser, but I’m winning in life — and I’m very proud of that.”