From the dust of a devastating knockout defeat a year ago, Nikki Bascome has rebuilt his reputation after rising to become the IBA International welterweight champion.
Sitting in his dressing room at the Fairmont Southampton on Saturday night, his sparkling blue belt laid gently across his lap, Bascome’s impossibly wide smile grew even bigger despite the cuts and bruises adorning his face after eight compelling rounds against Mexican David Martínez.
Just 12 months ago, Bascome was sitting in the same room, a towel largely covering his head, not wanting to meet the sorrowful glances from his deathly silent friends and family, having suffered a brutal loss to hard-hitting Portuguese Fábio Costa.
It has been a long, hard road to victory for Bascome, who experienced a loss more painful than any he could possibly experience inside the ring just a few months later when his longtime coach and father figure Allan “Forty” Rego died from cancer.
Bascome briefly contemplated hanging up his gloves before deciding to temporarily relocate to Las Vegas to train at the fabled Mayweather Boxing Club in a last-ditch attempt to chase his boxing dreams.
Sacrifices were made, with Bascome spending months away from his partner and baby daughter, but on Saturday night, in front of a partisan home crowd, his journey to redemption was complete with a unanimous points win.
“Can you believe this?” Bascome said. “It’s a relief; it’s a dream come true and it shows anything is possible. I’m happy ... I’m satisfied. It’s been a hard road coming off a defeat like that, but I really dug deep, believed in all of my coaches, and believed in what I was doing. I set my mind on winning.”
Although the International Boxing Association is not one of the major boxing organisations, it could pave the way for bigger, more lucrative fights for Bascome, although he strongly suggested his future could lie in the 140lb super-lightweight division.
“I’ll have to let my team decide what’s next for me,” Bascome said. “Personally, I don’t feel like welterweight is for me. ”
Bascome will also have to decide whether to continue splitting his time between Bermuda and Las Vegas to train under Jeff Mayweather, who was among Bascome’s team of coaches for his bout against Martínez.
“Jeff is a friend,” Bascome said. “We’re really cool, really tight and have a good relationship. I couldn’t have done this without him. Tonight definitely showed that working with Jeff has made a big improvement, especially with my defence. Just being in that environment [at the Mayweather Boxing Club] really helped.
“I’ve been sparring with some up-and-coming prospects, guys who have signed to the Mayweather stable, and it paid off. I was deflecting a lot of punches and catching a lot of shots.”
After a worrying first round in which Martínez caught a strangely stationary Bascome with a heavy right hand and several uppercuts, the Bermudian started to circle the ring and frustrate his opponent with his movement. When the pair did stand and trade punches, Bascome threw the more eye-catching combinations and grew in confidence as the fight wore on.
“I listened to my coach Troy Darrell [after the first round],” Bascome added. “He said, ‘Come on, let’s box’. I saw [Martínez] was kind of off balance trying to throw jabs. His front foot was flat, so I figured, ‘Hey, let’s start moving on him and see what happens’.
“I saw he was reaching a lot and then I got in my rhythm. I learnt from [the defeat by Costa]; I found out when I’m fighting these bigger guys, I need to move and keep them off balance.
“I train like a workhorse. I do a lot of footwork drills, I do a lot of shadow boxing and when I’m doing that in training people are like, ‘Hey, you’ve got great footwork’. I didn’t really believe in it enough and as I got older I thought I could sit a bit more and punch with guys. But that’s not my gift; my gift is my movement.”
A baseball cap was swiftly placed on Bascome’s head after being held aloft by Darrell as hordes of supporters surged towards the ring to celebrate the 28-year-old’s win. Fittingly, the cap sported “Forty” Rego’s name and played a motivational role in Bascome’s moment of triumph.
“Rego was right here tonight,” Bascome added. “Someone gave me this hat when I was in training camp. I thought, ‘I’m wearing this hat on the night of the fight to be with him. That was my motivation.”