Bascome is like a son to me, says Rego
Allan “Forty” Rego explained how his close bond with Nikki Bascome is more than just a boxer-trainer relationship, saying “Nikki is like a son to me”.
Rego, Bermuda's most respected boxing coach, has been in Bascome's corner in every way since they began working together 11 years ago, guiding his protégé from the amateurs to the paid ranks.
The pair have developed an almost telepathic understanding, says Rego, who has played a formidable role in Bascome's mental and technical education from the incalculable number of hours spent in each other's company.
Rego's calm but authoritative voice appears to suit the cool-headed Bascome, who will look to extend his unbeaten record to seven bouts against David Rangel, of Mexico, in a six-round welterweight bout at North Field, National Sports Centre, tomorrow night.
“You get coaches shouting all types of stuff to their fighters — I don't do that,” says Rego, sitting on a flipped tractor tyre used for training exercises outside his converted garage boxing gym in Warwick.
“My reasons are because if I say something to him, you can hear it, too; it's wasted.
“Sometimes when he's in the ring, I think of something to tell him when he returns to the corner, but he then goes and does it before he comes back. It's kind of frightening.”
Rego, whose two-fight professional career finished with a knockout win over James “Buster” Samuels at the Tennis Stadium in 1957, has worked with a who's who of local boxing: Clarence Hill, Troy Darrell, Quinn Paynter, Roy Johnson, Norman DeSilva, Anthony Fubler and Gary Hope, to name a few.
It was Johnson, another former pro, who inadvertently led Rego to the Pembroke Youth Centre — a breeding ground of great Bermudian boxers — in the summer of 1968.
“I saw Roy fight a Canadian guy at BAA, and Roy beat him, but the guy said it was a home-town decision,” Rego says.
“They were having a rematch up at National Stadium and I went up to the youth centre and said to Stanley Trimm — a very good coach — ‘You mind if I show him something because this boy was whipping his right hand'.
“Roy beat the guy so bad people were saying that the other guy wasn't the same fighter! I was invited in by Sammy Wilson, who ran the centre, and the rest is history.”
Although the one-on-one relationship of trainer and fighter is usually intense and multifaceted, Rego's strong connection with Bascome seems extra special.
“Nikki and I have such a good understanding,” Rego says. “He's not like a fighter to me, he's like my son. That's how I think of him and it sometimes brings tears to my eyes to see that boy do well.
“He's grown tremendously inside and outside of the ring, and is a fully fledged man now. He's just as bull-headed as me, though!”
Bascome was a small boy when he and a group of neighbourhood friends stumbled up Cross End Lane to punch bags for fun at Rego's gym.
Now aged 26, Bascome was “altogether different as a schoolboy”, according to Rego, and it was several years later when their boxing paths crossed again.
“[Quinn] Mallory had a fight for him in Mexico and brought him up here and said, ‘Listen, I'd like you to get Nikki ready, as I have to go to Florida'.
“When the time came for Nikki to go, the Bermuda Amateur Boxing Association — as it was known back then — said the Mexicans aren't going to sponsor him and we haven't got the money to send him.
“He was kind of downhearted, so I told him, ‘Look Nik, don't stop — keep doing what you're doing, mate'.”
A few weeks later, in March 2009, Rego and Bascome travelled to Columbus, Ohio, for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, where Bascome won the silver medal in the junior middleweight division before returning 12 months later to claim gold.
Bascome, Rego says, always talks in the plural when discussing their fights. It perhaps offers another explanation to why they have been such a successful team.
“We don't talk separately,” he says. “He doesn't say, ‘Do you think I can beat this guy?' It's ‘Do you think we can beat this guy?'. I always reply, ‘This guy can't beat us, bie'.”