The February 9th edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series was certainly a good one. With a replay of Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV, as well as a pair of bouts between Baha Laham (11-0-1, 4 knockouts) vs. Tyler Asselstine (12-1, 7 knockouts) and Nate Campbell (36-10-1, 26 knockouts) vs. Kevin Bizier (20-0, 14 knockouts), all signs pointed to this being one of the more exciting telecasts.
The first televised bout of the evening featured a pair of rising featherweights who were looking to land another win on the path to future contendership. On paper, this fight between Tyler Asselstine and Baha Laham looked like it was just going to be an absolute drubbing. Where Asselstine had a full camp, Laham took the fight on four days notice, and early on in the bout this fact was made obvious.
At the start of the opening bell, Asselstine began his assault early by ripping shots to the body of Laham. Laham would keep his arms high and try to respond with his own mix of hooks and straights, but Asseltine’s superior movement was too much early on. This patter would continue for the first three rounds. Asselstine would attack the body, move out, and continue the attack. Compared to Laham’s plodding style of footwork, Asselstine seemed to bank on just how effortless his movement was as he weaved in and out of the pocket. Things began to take a bad turn for the Canadian by the fourth round.
By the fourth round, it was becoming apparent that Laham wasn’t going to be put away. The surprise though came in the fact that he just seemed to be getting better as the fight went on. In the fourth, Laham began coming forward and finding success with powerful hooks that quickly got the judges and Assesltine’s attention. From this point forward, this fight turned into a bout with a competitive back-and-forth that no one expected. As the brutal exchanges continued for the rest of the 10-round bout, the question that arose was whether the judges would award Asselstine’s higher output, or the fact that Laham was landing the much more significant shots. With both fighters battered and bloody, it was power that killed speed as Laham was awarded the razor-thin majority decision with the scores (95-95), (96-94), (96-95). It will be interesting to see where Asselstine goes from here after many touted him as potentially being the next great Canadian champion. As far Laham, one can only imagine what he’d be capable of with a full training camp.
In the main-even of the evening, the surging Kevin Bizier took on 40-year old veteran Nate Campbell in a fight that wasn’t necessarily competitive, but just as exciting as the previous bout. As the fight began, two things became obvious: 1. Kevin Bizier is a massive welterweight 2. For an “old man”, Nate Campbell looked solid. Unfortunately for Campbell, this bout played out in a way that many predicted. Bizier applied pressure and constantly forced Campbell to the ropes, while Campbell would try to delay the inevitable with his own looping power shots. This rinse-and-repeat style of fighting would go on to be the story of this 8-round fight, with the only difference being that Campbell began to grow and more exhausted as the punishment continued. Campbell continued absorbing punishment along the ropes, and it became obvious that there wasn’t much else he could do. The end came in the eighth round when Campbell decided to not answer the bell, and stay on his stool. For Bizier, the win gives him a “big name” win for his steadily improving resume, but the future is much more foggy for Campbell. With his 41st birthday looming, the question now rests on whether Campbell will retire, or continue risking his health in a seemingly futile attempt to regain a major title.
With new questions arising where old ones were answered, Kevin Bizier and Baha Laham have proven that they are fighters to watch as they continue on their quest to contendership.