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Bascome comes of age

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For Nikki Bascome the easy nights are over.

His unanimous points win over Iwan Azore — his most credible opponent to date — was a coming of age, of sorts, for the Bermudian, who richly deserved the decision with a measured and controlled display.

Unlike Bascome's previous conquests, Azore was neither a novice, a journeyman nor a Muay Thai fighter, but a slick southpaw with a professional career spanning 13 years and some well-respected names on his résumé. A risky challenge, for sure, but exactly the kind of high-calibre opponent that Bascome needed at this point of his career.

Having overcome a significant obstacle, there should be no steps back for the 26-year-old, who answered some important questions in his first “proper fight” at the Fairmont Southampton on Saturday night.

“I told you guys I was going to be sharp for this fight, as I knew he was going to be a real test,” Bascome said.

“I may have only had 23 or 24 fights as an amateur, but all of the sparring I've done in Florida and Las Vegas has paid off and tonight I showed my quality.”

Despite a packed house, it was a relatively quiet Poinciana Ballroom after the opening round, with the evasive Azore countering to good effect; his quick hands piercing Bascome's guard and snapping his head back with a couple of straight lefts.

Bascome, who appeared too robotic at first, looked far more oiled in the second and traded some heavy leather with Azore early on, but still his Guyanese adversary arguably edged it with his accurate jab.

The tide began to turn, though, in the third when Bascome pinned Azore against the ropes, landing several fierce combinations to the body and later finding his range with a crisp straight right that rocked his opponent.

As the fight went past halfway, Azore — who goes by the moniker “Pure Gold” — began to visibly lose his sparkle, with Bascome's work downstairs seeming to inject his opponent with a fistic poison, the pernicious influence of which seemed to grow with every round.

Undeterred by a cut over his right eye from an accidental headbutt, Bascome had undoubtedly seized control by now, dictating the pace with his jab and finding a regular home for his right hand as chants of “Nikki, Nikki” reverberated around the venue.

Another thudding body shot in the sixth and final stanza took the sting out of any ambitions Azore had of reclaiming the lost ground, with Bascome remaining in the ascendancy until referee Steve Smoger signalled the end of the enthralling contest.

This victory certainly had a different feel from Bascome's previous thoroughly one-sided affairs; the wild war-cry he let out as his devotees surged towards the ring was testament to that.

Bascome said he purposefully targeted Azore's body in an effort to weaken the still sprightly 36-year-old. It was a ploy that worked to perfection.

“It doesn't matter who you are, body shots are going to slow you down,” said the welterweight, who aims to return to the ring in May.

“That's one of the things I got from Troy [Darrell] who said, ‘Go to his body when you get him on the ropes'.

“When I started letting my right hand go and hitting the target I knew there would be a home for it all night.”

Allan “Forty” Rego, Bascome's coach, admits he made some adjustments after Azore's bright start, but praised the ice-cool composure Bascome showed against a seasoned opponent.

“We were never worried after the first round, but we had to change accordingly because the guy was a pretty good boxer,” Rego said.

“We had it under control after that and Nikki kept composed, didn't get frustrated and was really cool in there.”

A defiant Azore, who is keen for a rematch, questioned how all three judges could have scored it in Bascome's favour.

“To be honest, Nikki is not a tough opponent,” Azore said. “He's not a difficult opponent and tonight I don't know what I did wrong.

“I felt in control in the first and second rounds and I don't know what happened after that.”

Making all the right noises: Bascome jumps on the ropes as he celebrates his unanimous victory over Azore at the Fairmont Southampton (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Big win: Bascome's hand is raised by referee Steve Smoger after beating Azore at the Fairmont Southampton (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published February 26, 2017 at 11:17 am (Updated February 26, 2017 at 11:40 pm)

Bascome comes of age

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