Bascome says he is ready for next step
Nikki Bascome's so-called “hype bubble” continues to expand after a measured victory over a spirited Ryan Oliver at the Fairmont Southampton on Saturday night.
Before the bout, Oliver and his coach Haroon Headley had questioned the ballyhoo surrounding Bermuda's most popular local-based athlete; however, after being outboxed for periods of the eight-round contest, they might now understand just why Bascome is still the talk of the town.
All three judges scored the fight 78-74 in favour of Bascome, who improves his record to nine wins from ten bouts, and must surely now be preparing to export his talents to the United States in pursuit of greater glory.
Since his shock defeat to Portuguese Fábio Costa in November 2017, Bascome has more than restored his reputation with wins over Mexico's David Martínez to claim the vacant IBA international welterweight title, Filipino Alvin Lagumbay and now Oliver.
While Bermuda will remain an attractive and relatively lucrative market for Bascome as a headline entertainer, he, too, admits he may have slightly outgrown the comfortable confines of the island from a boxing perspective.
“We want to have one more run at it ... I might retire when I'm 30 or 31,” Bascome, 29, said.
“I want another two years in the sport and I want to try and get another belt. [Fighting overseas] has been in the works between my manager [Lucinda Worrell-Stowe] and Jeff [Mayweather] with his connections.
“We'll have to wait and see what happens. I don't run from anybody and take the fights they put in front of me. I do want to fight abroad for my legacy. It always gives me confidence knowing Jeff is in my corner.
“It's great being around him and he's a good friend of mine. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to money. I've got a family, I've got a daughter, and training camp is not cheap.
“When you get to the next level of boxing in Bermuda, you have to go [overseas]. It will only make you better.”
The home-town favourite made yet another trademark slow start against Oliver, who was the aggressor during the opening two rounds, forcing Bascome on the back foot and landing a series of eye-catching left hooks to the body. By the third round, however, Bascome was finding his rhythm and starting to outjab and outmanoeuvre his opponent, who started to purposely drop his hands and perhaps needlessly posture in an effort to bait Bascome into a brawl.
Such was the lack of serious jeopardy posed by Oliver, a party atmosphere was developing inside the packed Poinciana Ballroom, the unofficial home of Bermudian boxing, with the crowd joyfully singing along to Bob Marley's Who The Cap Fit long after the start of the fifth round.
Bascome was beginning to snap Oliver's head back repeatedly with stiff jabs and pierced the taller, heavier man's guard with a shooting overhand right much to the delight of the increasingly jovial spectators.
Oliver, did have an encouraging sixth round, though, connecting with an uppercut and pinning Bascome against the ropes and teeing off on him, leaving the Bermudian looking uncomfortable for the first time in the fight.
Despite arguably claiming the sixth, the Englishman failed to stamp his authority on the remainder of the bout, with Bascome regaining control in the seventh, quickly neutralising Oliver with his solid jab and superior footwork and was surprisingly holding his own in his close exchanges with the naturally bigger man.
Oliver, who like Bascome never appeared hurt at any point of the bout, looked to finish strongly, continuing his ploy of targeting Bascome's body, although he found himself on the receiving end of a crisp right hook in the eighth, which staggered him slightly as he tripped on a bump in the ring canvas.
“I thought [the finish] was kind of there,” said Bascome, who revealed he sparred with Shawn Porter, the former two-times welterweight world champion, at the Mayweather Boxing Gym in Las Vegas in preparation for Oliver.
“He did trip on the ring mat after being hit, but I thought I'd be a gentleman and let him catch himself. I've felt guys punch harder; however, in the clinches when he was strong-arming me, I could feel his weight.
“I've still got respect for him. I gave him about two or three rounds max. After the second round, once I got my head moving, I felt like I was in my rhythm and landing my jab.
“I thought I won five rounds easy and closed the show. There's no doubt in my heart that I won the fight.”
Oliver, who suffered the second defeat of his career, felt he was harshly treated by the judges and believes he would have been awarded the victory had the pair fought outside of Bermuda.
“First of all, I want to give massive respect to Nikki Bascome,” said Oliver, who came in two pounds over the catchweight of 145 pounds. “He's tougher than I thought and I knew he was going to be evasive.
“My legs weren't really there to be honest, but I still think I won the fight.
“I think if that fight was at home, I would have been given it. Even on a neutral ground I think I would have been given it 6-2. I think being in Bermuda perhaps 5-3 to me.
“He's a good fighter. He uses his small size well. He's hard to hit because he's a small target. I knew he would come in with those chop shots, but even then I was sliding out from them.
“I thought I was going to stop him but when it went the distance I thought, ‘They're probably going to give it to him here'. They gave him 6-2 on every card, that's mad.”
Haroon Headley, Oliver's coach, reiterated his boxer's claim that he had been on the receiving end of a home decision.
“When Ryan asked him [Nikki] who won the fight he stuttered,” said Headley, who was proud of his fighter's display.
“After the final bell went he didn't celebrate, we did, we celebrated because we won that fight.
“As soon as I heard that unanimous decision I started laughing because I thought to myself we're going to come to Bermuda and it's going to be biased as hell.
“There will be no excuses. We left it in the hands of the judges and that's what we got served. We won the fight and the judges decided the destiny of what happened.”