Column: ‘Undefeated Was An Enthralling Event’

November 14, 2017 | 1 Comment

[Written by Vejay Steede]

Saturday night ended hard. So hard that I didn’t want to write this. After a long evening of combat sports competition, all I keep seeing is Nikki laying under the bottom rope just a yard to my right, struggling to get to his feet before the referee reached the dreaded ten count. In wanted to reach out and pick him up. I wanted to not be there at ringside for my former student and housemate’s first loss as a professional. I wanted to rewind the fight to round one and tell Nikki not to brawl with Fabio Costa; to box him, stick and move, be quicker than him, let him swing at nothing. That’s not what happened though; and the night ended hard.

Right from the opening bell of the main event, the battle was intense. Costa was very aggressive, and Nikki rode the wave of the capacity crowd’s enthusiasm into a dangerous position from the start. Nikki stood in front of Costa and went blow for blow with him. Costa threw a lot of punches in the first two rounds, including a good combination that landed well after the bell in the first round. Nikki wanted to stand and fight, but that wasn’t the right tactic; he absorbed a lot of punishment in the first two rounds, succumbing to the Portuguese fighter’s relentless aggression.

Punch after punch landed for Costa, and Nikki responded periodically, giving the large crowd something to cheer about. At one point we were chanting Nikki’s name to encourage him, and by round three, he seemed to be back on track.

Slideshow of the event:


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Nikki took over the fight in round three, exhibiting superior boxing acumen, keeping his distance, and employing a rhythmic attack that had Costa swinging at shadows. Costa, was quite clearly gassed at this point as well, making it a bit easier for Nikki to go to work. Round three was a dominant period for the local fighter, and all seemed well going into round four; Nikki had found his rhythm, Costa was tiring, and the will of the crowd was as strong as ever.

Round four started well for Nikki. His newfound rhythm was very much intact, and he was avoiding the haymakers that Costa threw when he could muster the strength. Indeed, Costa looked like a fighter who just wanted to be finished fighting, and his punches were now designed to end the fight. Nikki had no doubt been told to keep his distance and box Costa, and he was doing well … until.

Just about a minute into the round Nikki got backed into the red corner, just above the media section. He started to punch his way out when a left cross came in and distracted him long enough for a right uppercut to snap his head back violently. Nikki fell to the canvas like a plank of wood that had been standing on its side until a gust of wind decided that enough was enough.

The next fifteen seconds felt like a week. It was all slow motion and muffled noises in my head because I authentically care for Nikki. I didn’t want to be there. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

There were drums playing because the Portuguese drummers had set up camp at the back of the Poinsettia ball room and were no doubt quite excited by the way things were unfolding in the ring at that point. And once the referee waved his arms to indicate that Nikki was out, Costa and his team started to shout platitudes of Portuguese pride and jubilation toward the drummers and the rest of the Portuguese contingent in attendance.

There was a scuffle in the first row of the VIP section to the left of the stage. The doctor was checking Nikki, who had laid down again after stumbling to his feet just long enough to see the referee flailing his arms. I really didn’t want to be there. Watching a professional boxer who you love get knocked out is a downright gut-wrenching feeling, and I was just a few feet away for the whole thing. It was an unpleasant scene, and one I’ll never forget. I could’ve done without the experience to be honest.

Nikki took it well though, going over to Costa and his team once the daze had cleared and congratulating them like a true professional, and summing the result up in a conversation with me the next day with a casual, “It happens.”

He also admitted that he has to make some changes, saying that he got caught up in brawling instead of fighting his own fight. When asked what he has planned next, he said, “I’m going to take some time to rest up and spend some time with my family. Then I’ll go back to the drawing board to see what improvements I need to make to become a better fighter.”

Having watched this kid grow from a highly at risk adolescent into a level headed, productive, and inspirational young man has been a great pleasure for me. Most won’t know the full scope of Nikki Bascome’s journey, and I don’t claim to know the fullness of it either, but I certainly know enough to testify that this young man has come an astonishingly long way. He should be supported, celebrated, and adored by every Bermudian on the planet.

Fabio Costa deserves plaudits as well. He came into a hornet’s nest and won. I mean no disrespect to the Portuguese fighter here, I just wanted to see Nikki win, and I wasn’t alone. Well done Senor Costa.

The Undercard

The undercard was more than generous on Saturday, offering 12 amateur and exhibition bouts that kept the ravenous crowd entertained throughout the six hour long event.

Joshua Smith outlasted Zavier Rawlins and then Tekle Smith to win a Bermuda Grappling Club mini-tournament, while Krista Dyer and Q Robinson enjoyed impressive wins in Bermuda Sanshou Association sanctioned exhibition bouts.

Eight year old Otero Smith represented Paget Primary against nine year old Josef Ferreira from Purvis Primary in a surprisingly entertaining exhibition of youth boxing. And Tafari Smith scored a second round TKO against Giovanni de Braga in a Bantam boxing contest.

Bermuda versus Portugal

The senior boxing portion of the evening featured five fights [including the main event] which pitted local pugilists against experienced fighters from Portugal.

The first such bout saw Jalon Roberts withstand a frenetic first round onslaught from Nuno Santos to turn it around when a visibly fatigued Santos could just about stay on his feet until the bell rung in the third round. Roberts won a unanimous decision.

The next bout featured Tyler Christopher [another young man who’s made a lot of positive changes] against Jose Sousa. Tyler exhibited a stoic, strong, and composed style throughout the bout, but lost a split decision mostly due to Jose outworking him.

King Somner won a split decision against Jaoa Azevedo next, withstanding a lot of lunging and grabbing by the Portuguese fighter in the process. This fight featured Somner dancing to Gombey drums at the end, and both men taking the mic to address the crowd WWE style prior to the decision being announced. The entertainment value was quite high to say the least.

The penultimate fight was stopped in the first round due to the Portuguese fighter, Jorge “Babyface” Guedes, sustaining a large cut above his right eye and not being fit to continue. Young Andre “Showtime” Lamb was his opponent and he was adamant that the cut was caused by a legitimate punch. The officials called it an accidental head-butt, and the judges’ cards had Lamb winning, which was not received well by the Portuguese.

So, including the main event result, Bermuda edged Portugal 3 to 2, but it was the Portuguese fans who left the Fairmont Southampton happier on Saturday night.

Conclusion

In the end, “Undefeated” was an absorbing, enthralling event. DJ Chubb and DJ Scoobay kept the music flowing throughout the night, and the venue was as luxurious and elegant as ever. Parliamentary Ministers rubbed shoulders with laymen inside the Fairmont Southampton, and we all felt the highs and lows of intense combat sports together on Saturday night.

Nikki lost, but he remains our hero, as well he should. The Bermuda Boxing Federation should also be lauded for their efforts to keep these events coming and to continue making positive strides for combat sports within these shores. Finally, The Doghouse and Extreme Entertainment must be commended for producing a night full of thrills and spectacle on Saturday night. Even though it ended hard.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Ladeej says:

    I definitely agree with you Veejay, it was a great night of fighting. As I watched the fights from the comfort of my living room, I closed my eyes just as Nikki got knocked out. It was hard to watch. Nikki is young and can certainly bounce back from this defeat. Muhammad Ali didn’t win every fight. Sometimes you have to lose to learn how to win better. Team Nikki!

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