J.R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Boxing returned to…an unlikely spot in the first place…Westminster, MD, an agricultural town north of Baltimore, close by the Pennsylvania Border. There hadn’t been a card here in four years. But prior to that, the Shipley Arena on the Carroll County Agricultural Center was a hotbed of provincial boxing. And every show was built around one fighter, local sensation Mark Tucker. Then Tucker suffered his lone defeat, nothing more hurtful than a decision on an undercard eight.
But lots of bad things were happening on a larger stage. The sudden death of friend and mentor David Blessing was followed by a near fatal accident to brother Timmy and a serious illness to father Mark Sr. Thankfully, they both recovered. But the effect on Tucker’s career was debilitating. DiBella cut him loose. “You can always find new jobs,” the fighter opined. “But you’ve only got one family.” He continued, “It’s exciting to be fighting back at home. It’s nice to bring the sport back to this area.” His father concluded, “I’d be dead without his help.”
The main eight pitted Mark Tucker Jr., 180 ½, Eldersburg, MD, 16-1 (7), against Texas import Rayford Johnson, 182, Austin, 8-15 (3).
The contest was fast paced and although it lacked sustained trading, it made up for it with frenetic movement, tactical maneuvering, and crowd interest. The tall and rangy southpaw favorite successfully held the invader at bay with a flickering jab while remaining constantly on the move. The smaller Johnson wanted to get to closer quarters but could never move inside and ended up following his opponent around while relying on trying to land the right hand payoff. Whenever Johnson got close, Tucker’s long arms would either parry him or tie him up.
Starting the third, the frustrated visitor began high-stepping and almost running at his tormentor, but that got him nowhere. Late in the round, he adopted another tactic: flurrying at the ten-second tap, trying to steal the round and bringing up the crowd. Johnson landed a few clean rights in the fourth but couldn’t put anything together. A wild exchange finished round five, with Johnson managing two clean shots. But he’d been getting outworked during the round. He tried it again in the sixth, but Tucker had been having a good round. The seventh may have been Johnson’s best as he landed a few jolting shots, but Tucker came back to outwork him in an eighth that fittingly closed with a good round. John Gradowski scored 80-72, Don Risher 79-73, and Dave Braslow 77-75. The verdict was fair. The underdog gave the hero a good workout, but the hero clearly was busier.
“I knew it wasn’t gonna be an easy fight,” Tucker explained. “He’s got an upside down record. I knew he was tough.” Making use of tactical advice from another local fighter, Venroy July, who had been in trouble against Johnson before coming on to win, Mark explained, “I knew I just had to box him and keep him at the end of my punches and use my jab and work around him.”
In the six, the action was a lot better than the scores would indicate as returning Jessie Nicklow, 163 ½, Balto., 24-3-3 (8), pitched a unanimous shutout of game and willing Joshua Robertson, 164 ½, Lynchburg, VA, 5-4 (1). Nicklow made a strong statement in the opening round with a high scoring percentage of well-placed blows. The less talented underdog tried to make up for it in the second with a spirited body-head attack. But he dropped his left after firing and a slick right counter buckled his knees. The last four were furious trading, but the more polished favorite covered well, worked the body, and answered back with better hands. Robertson too landed some crunching body blows, and gave Jessie all he wanted in a good fight. But there was no doubt as to the winner.
Jeremy Trussell, 164 ½, Balto., 6-0 (5), sized up awkward lefty Travis Davidson, 164, Bedford, VA, 1-1 (1), and took just two serious punches to KO him. As Travis tried to circle and turned sideways, a lightning quick double right to the kidney and over the top to the head leveled him. Travis crashed on one side onto the canvas and failed to beat the count at 1:20, scheduled four.
The pro-am card on 11/15/13 was promoted by The Maryland Boxing Club (Mark Tucker, Sr.), with Chris Middendorf matchmaker. Brent Bovell and Dave Braslow refereed. The arena set up for about 1200 was only about one-third full. But the fans enjoyed a good show, and it’s a promising start on the long road back.
119 - Derrick Brown, Mobtown BC, Balto., dec. Vincent Goedecki, Legends BC, Mechanicsville, MD, 3.
132 – Mack Allison, Upton BC, Balto., RSC3 Pierce Hirtel, Legends.
178 – Maurice Burrell, Mobtown, RSC2 Sylvester Daye, Upton.
141 – Jorge Galvan, Mobtown, DQ1 Lee Bolden, Legends, mouthpiece.
201+ - Shaundre Kellum-Gee, Mobtown, dec. Calvin Countess, Charm City Boxing, Balto., 3.