By Ezekiel King:
Nicklaus Flaz def. Jahi Tucker
Though there were flashes of brilliance, highly regarded prospect Jahi Tucker took his first loss to a solid boxer in Nicklaus Flaz. Tucker is incredibly quick and athletic, but his main issues lie in his ring IQ and defensive habits.
Despite being the taller fighter and having success at range, Tucker would often allow Flaz to step inside without circling out or throwing straights or uppercuts to intercept him. Once the fight got inside, Flaz began to make his money. Tucker started to brawl in close but kept his head high, bringing his hands back to cover, and crowded himself, nullifying his natural advantages.
If Flaz ever backed him up against the ropes, he tried to show off his head movement and counter but normally just ended up taking unnecessary shots to the body. From range, Jahi had more success, but there were still problems.
He would feint, move his head, and show off his footwork without actually throwing anything, and once Nicklaus realized there was little threat during these moments, he started to be more confident against the taller fighter.
There was no cohesion in Tucker’s game plan, he would start rounds strong before losing discipline and seemingly throwing whatever shots he felt like. His most impressive work, in my opinion, came in the sixth round.
He controlled distance, landed his jab frequently, and forced Flaz to throw single, telegraphed strikes that he had no problem avoiding. There were still occasional lapses in judgment, but by and large, he cruised in the round and began landing his power in the last minute.
He showed potential, was well conditioned, had great accuracy, is a gifted athlete, and perhaps most importantly, he’s only 20. He was given a little bit of a raw deal on the cards considering he was the A-side fighter, but not all is lost. He can learn and grow from this loss.
As for Flaz, this is the third upset he’s sprung since he took his first loss. He’s a very solid boxer and can certainly make a living as a litmus test for prospects at welterweight.
Rance Ward def. Husam Al Mashhadi
The next upset on the card followed a very different story. This was Al Masshadi’s first taste of real competition, and I don’t think I’d be remiss to say it was awfully sour. Al Masshadi fights like someone who’s crushed most of his competition inside a round.
He has confidence, and a big southpaw left hand but very little else. His jab looked weak, and his footwork was plodding, but on occasion, he could land a left that got some attention. Rance Ward lived up to his nickname… “Pressure.”
Walking through Al Masshadi’s strikes and making him work, by the third, it all paid off. Husam’s conditioning had fallen off a cliff. He stopped throwing, his footwork got worse, and he started reacting very poorly to anything that was landing from Ward. Ward got on the inside and bullied him, almost never getting punished for it.
Al Masshadi stopped looking to win and began looking to survive. Fortunately for him, Ward slowed down slightly towards the end because he was close to getting finished purely on exhaustion. He mustered one big burst in the sixth and final round, but after half a minute, it was all back to Ward. He’s fortunate he didn’t get stopped or hurt worse than he was in this one.
If Al Masshadi wants to make anything of himself beyond a half-decent club fighter, he needs to add depth to his game, test himself in sparring, and, dear god, get conditioned to go past the third round.
For his part, Rance Ward is a tough, muscular fighter with an unorthodox style. He’s not bad, but there’s a reason his record sits at 8-6-1, and any real prospect should be able to box circles around him.
Near Miss: Jared Anderson def. Charles Martin
It’s been talked about to death, but Jared Anderson nearly stumbled over a short-notice replacement in Charles Martin. The fifth and sixth rounds are our main focus here. Anderson had been switching stances and leaning back with his mouth open for most of the fight to this point, and it finally caught up with him.
Martin finally found the timing for a big left hand and almost couldn’t miss. Anderson found himself on the backfoot and constantly looking to clinch. After he survived the middle rounds, Anderson was back in control, however. It seemed the 11 days’ notice got to him, and Martin could never put up consistent offense again.
Anderson took a wide decision off the former world champion. Jared needs to clean up his defense, or even a fringe contender could catch him on a good night. He’s young and proved he has a chin, but he should take some more developmental fights with the top 40-25 guys before he thinks about a world championship.
Some people are overblowing Martin’s work, but it’s clear that the future of American heavyweight boxing will have to wait a couple of years.