It was meant to be the perfect platform to promote, elevate and celebrate Bermuda’s favourite local sporting hero.
Unfortunately for Nikki Bascome, his opponent, Fabio Costa, from the boxing backwater of Portugal, failed to get the memo.
Pitting Bascome against a fellow undefeated fighter from a country with strong ties to Bermuda was a masterstroke in attracting the attention of the island’s contrasting communities.
Such was the interest in the sold-out event, extra seating was fitted inside the Poinciana Ballroom at the Fairmont Southampton to meet the demand of the Bermuda public.
Billed as “Bermuda v Portugal”, a live internet stream was also available via pay-per-view, a strangely out-of-proportion offering given that Bascome and Costa had accumulated only 12 professional bouts between them before Saturday.
The hype surrounding the show, perhaps too much at this stage of Bascome’s career, also included the Bermudian receiving a hero’s welcome at the airport, where government dignitaries and the Gombeys greeted his return from a training camp in Orlando, Florida.
With Bascome’s partner also pregnant with their first child, there seemed to be more than a whiff of Rocky II about this ill-fated contest.
Sadly, unlike the “Italian Stallion” in his somewhat fortuitous win over Apollo Creed, Bascome, try as he might, could not reassemble his scrambled senses after being viciously knocked out by Costa in the fourth round.
In fairness to Bascome, certainly in terms of the Portuguese’s size advantage, their scheduled six-round bout always threatened to be something of a mismatch.
Costa, on paper at least, appeared less experienced than Bascome with two fewer fights, but the son of Oporto had danger written all over him, having squeezed his power into a smaller package after dropping down to the 147lb limit of welterweight.
If Costa seemed slightly bulkier at the heated weigh-in on Friday night, then he looked capable of devouring Bascome by the time referee Steve Smoger called for the pair to touch gloves in the ring.
There was a sense of foreboding from that point on: it was either going be a long or short night for Bascome.
The Bermudian, who considers himself a small welterweight, found it difficult to keep the naturally bigger Costa off him during a lively opening stanza.
After a momentary lapse of concentration, a nanosecond before the bell, Bascome was dropped for first time in his pro career but rose swiftly before gingerly making his way to his corner. Whether it was bravery or naivety, Bascome decided to fight fire with fire during a second round that Smoger, the third man in the ring for some of the most brutal fights in recent history, described as “the round of the year”.
Bascome was showing tremendous heart — an admirable trait for a boxer — but by staying “in the pocket” and exchanging blows, the Bermudian was dancing to Costa’s tune and causing himself no end of damage.
While the heavy-handed Costa was leaving serious dents, Bascome’s own swift and accurate punches seemed to just bounce off his more muscular and relentless adversary.
Costa cleverly took time to recuperate in the third, allowing Bascome — willed on by hopeful chants of “Nikki, Nikki” — to land some eye-catching flurries as the Portuguese drums pounded rhythmically at the rear of the room.
It was merely a stay of execution, however, as Costa picked up the pace in the fourth, ploughing forward like a truck with no brakes and forcing his rival to retreat. Costa was smelling blood, Bascome switching briefly to southpaw in a desperate and flawed attempt to befuddle his opponent.
The finish came from a thudding uppercut that smashed through Bascome’s guard, violently snapping his head back, before Costa followed up with a left hook and concussive right.
The cumulative effect of the superbly executed combination sent Bascome falling forward like a tree being chopped down, his neck draping awkwardly over the bottom rope before finally slumping on to the canvas.
Somehow Bascome managed to drag himself to his wobbly feet only to career into the adjacent ropes before coming to rest on the canvas — this time face up. By then Smoger had already counted him out. In truth, he need not have even started.
There will now need to be a period of soul-searching for the 27-year-old as he contemplates making changes to “strengthen his team”.
Like the perennial comeback kid Rocky, he will require an equally heroic return if he is to regain the momentum he lost, along with his undefeated record.