|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY April 27, 2012||
HE'S STILL GOT IT
Leading up to his anticipated fight with Omar Sheika, West Philly's Yusaf Mack made it clear that if he could not defeat the always-tough old pro from Patterson, NJ he probably shouldn't be fighting anymore. He underscored the sentiment after the fight as well. But hold the retirement party for the new USBA light heavyweight champion. Mack won a clear-cut 12-round unanimous decision over Sheika in the main event at the Resort Super Star Theater in Atlantic City Friday night. It was a complete win, capped by a dramatic final-round knockdown of Sheika that punctuated Mack's victory and proclaimed to the world - and especially to himself - that Yusaf Mack still has it. In fact, Yusaf Mack looked quite good on this night.
"I feel so good because my corner was happy," Mack said after the fight. "They usually cuss me out."
Most of what Mack did in the ring worked. He kept moving and fired extremely accurate punches at the pressing Sheika. In the second round, Mack speared Sheika with three clean, hard shots. A little later there were more, especially a jarring left hook toward the end of the round.
Sheika began mounting a body attack in round three, and the tactic allowed him to maneuver Mack to the ropes repeatedly. Suddenly Sheika seemed to have his key. This was the fight that he wanted, a trench war where Yusaf's movement and sharp punches were muted, and Sheika's own tough, grinding style could be dominant. But each time Omar managed to bring Mack to the ropes, Yusaf remembered his game plan, and worked his way back out to the center ring.
The pattern of the fight was set. Mack did his best not to go to the trenches and Sheika did his best to get him there. Sheika took that third round, but afterward, Mack started putting together rounds being somewhat quicker, sharper, and fresher than Sheika.
Along the way, Sheika suffered a small cut over his left eye. He pawed at it most of the night, but it really wasn't a factor. He had Joey Eye in his corner, so the cut remained pretty contained. Occasionally Sheika would fire a hard but wild right hand at Mack. Often it would land, but Mack never really got into trouble. The worst that would happen is that Yusaf would momentarily retreat to the ropes. This would allow Sheika to mount an attack, but invariably Mack would get himself out of trouble before things got too dangerous. He did feel Sheika's punches however.
"He stung me with a couple of overhands," Mack said. If I wasn't in shape, he probably would have knocked me out."
But Mack was in shape. He took an occasional breather during the battle, but his wind always returned and kept him moving and punching. Across the way, Sheika slowly faded. The constant stream of punches coming his way marked up his face and sapped his strength. He fought in spurts, and although he gradually faded, Sheika stayed in the fight and remained a live threat.
A rocket of a right hand landed by Mack took a lot of steam from Sheika in round six, and worsened the state of Omar's left eye. But he stayed in there. In round Mack drilled home a number of crisp combos, but Sheika roared back to wobble Mack late.
Sheika tried to capitalize in the eighth, knowing Mack's track record of tiring down the stretch. Omar landed a hard left hook that hurt Mack, but Yusaf recuperated nicely and went back to working his game plan. The eighth round was just the second frame that I scored for Sheika. It was a good fight with plenty of two way action, but Mack was always just a step ahead of Sheika, riding his momentum like a championship surfer.
The question became, could Mack stay the course and keep out of trouble in the final few rounds with the old pro Sheika knowing he needed a big finish to win the battle.
In the twelfth and final round, with a tired but hard pressing Sheika coming at him looking to trade, Mack blasted Omar with a picture-perfect left hook that sent him crashing to the floor.
Of course Sheika rose from the punch. He's always full of fight and courage, and against Mack, things were no different. However, the transaction that knocked Sheika down closed the show for Mack and sealed his impressive victory.
"I knew that Omar would dig down deep and give us his last greatest fight," Buster Custus, trainer of Yusaf Mack said after the fight.
In the final seconds of the fight, Sheika's corner wanted to stop it before the final bell. With their exhausted and bleeding fighter stumbling toward Mack for more punishment, they did their best to get the attention of referee Brian O'Melia. They waved a white towel and shouted toward O'Melia, but the referee remained focused on the fighters. Finally the bell rang to end the fight, and Mack had a new lease on his boxing career.
"I told everybody, If I lose to this dude, I'm done," Mack said in his dressing room. "If I lose to Omar, I'm not fighting no more. I told my whole squad."
"He trained his heart out for this fight," Custus said of his fighter. "He went home at night like he was supposed to, and did some of the things he was supposed to. I got 75% out of him this time. He'll never do everything I want him to do, but I think I got 75% out of him."
And 75% was enough on this night.
The official scores were 118-109, 118-109 and 119-107. My card also read 118-109. Mack's win raised his record to 30-4-2, with 17 KOs.
"It was my best fight in about two years," Mack said.
The victory also brought Yusaf his second USBA light heavyweight title, and his eighth regional belt overall (in two weight classes).
Sheika slipped to 32-12, with 21 KOs. It was a typical gritty Sheika performance. The kind that makes him such a fan favorite.
The undercard included seven more bouts.
Undefeated Derrick Webster learned one of the golden rules in boxing - "when you have your opponent hurt, don't let him back into the fight". The lanky southpaw went right at Sabou Ballogou, a lefty West African fighting out of Paris, France. Webster seemed to have the fight sewn up, but instead of going in for the kill, the Glassboro, NJ fighter began to showboat and dance. Ballogou survived and Webster's knockout window closed. By the fifth round, Webster established a booming right uppercut and again opened that window to the KO. But once again Derrick elected to dance rather than punch.
Suddenly in round seven of the scheduled eight round super middleweight bout, Webster learned how big a mistake he had made.
Out of nowhere, Ballogou landed a looping right hand that crashed-landed on Webster's chin and dropped him like a rock to the canvas. Webster wobbled to his feet, but before long, another wild right by Ballogou leveled the heavily favored prospect once again.
To his credit, Webster rose from the canvas and survived the onslaught. Ballogou was winded at this point, but obviously still dangerous. As the round wound down, Webster whipped his attacker with a hard shot that signaled his return.
In the final round, Webster seemed fully recovered. He barked at Ballogou, and taunted him as he tossed punches his way. He should have been yelling at himself.
Toward the end of the round, Webster landed a flurry on the weary Ballogou, and Sabou staggered to the ropes. Referee Lindsay Page called it a knockdown. The bell rang as Page gave him a standing eight count, and the fight was over.
With the bullet successfully dodged, Webster took the unanimous decision by three identical scores of 77-72, improved his spotless record to 13-0 with 7 KOs. But this one will always have the footnote of almost being unlucky number 13. Let's hope the lesson was learned. Ballogou left 8-5 with 3 KOs.
Welterweight Juan Rodriguez remained undefeated, 9-0, 3 KOs, with his second round KO of Daniel Crabtree, 3-5, 3 KOs. Rodriguez floored Crabtree with a left hook and referee Alan Huggins didn't bother counting. The fight, originally scheduled for six rounds and cut to four at the last minute, ended at 1:59 of round two.
Millville, NJ middleweight Thomas Lamanna kept his undefeated streak going with a shutout points win over Nebraskan Sean Wilson. All three judges scored the bout 60-54. Lamanna improved to 8-0, 5 KOs, while Wilson slid to 5-10, 1 KO.
Wilkins Santiago of Lorain, OH won his six round middleweight bout with Trenton's Alando Swain. In round four, Santiago hit Swain with a stunning pole-axe of a counter right hand. Moments later, Santiago dropped Swain with another right. Swain survived, even winning the final round. But Santiago won the unanimous decision 58-55, 58-55 and 57-56. Santiago stayed unbeaten, 5-0, 1 KO. Swain lost for the second time, 5-2, 1 KO.
Welterweights Anthony Young, Atlantic City, and Jose Calderon, Puerto Rico, put on a fireworks show in their four rounder. Calderon dropped Young with a right hand in the opening round, and Young returned the favor in the third with his own straight right. Young also won the second and fourth rounds and brought home the unanimous decision by three official scores of 38-36. Young remained undefeated, 4-0, 2 KOs. Calderon went to 4-2, 4 KOs.
Patterson, NJ middleweight David Roman beat Dominique Foster, Hillard, Oh by unanimous four round decision. George Hill and Lawrence Lathan gave all four rounds to Roman and scored 40-36. Eugene Grant scored it 3-1 or 39-37.
Cruiserweights Stivins Bujaj, New York, and Livin Castillo, Atlantic City, opened the show with a scheduled six round bout. Bujaj ran the tables, winning the first four rounds before halting Castillo at 1:53 of round five. Referee Lindsay Page stepped in after Bujaj hurt the game Castillo, whose eyes were swelling badly.
The card was promoted by Nedal Promotions and KEA Boxing, and attracted about 1,000 fans to the legendary Superstar Theater at Resorts.