Yusaf Mack put on a dominant performance defeating Omar Sheika by convincing unanimous decision Friday night. The light heavyweight showdown for the USBA title headlined at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City and was promoted by Nedals Promotions and KEA Boxing.
Yusaf Mack had a history of having difficulty against pressure fighters, especially late in fights. Most recently he was stopped by Tavoris Cloud last year in a bid for the IBF title. Mack had started strong, but faded late in the fight when he engaged Cloud instead of sticking to his boxing game plan and was eventually knocked out.
Tonight it was a different Yusaf Mack. He didn't waiver from his game plan and got stronger late in the fight. Early on, it was clear Mack (30-4-2, 7 KOs) was the superior boxer and could have his way with the veteran warhorse. Sheika (32-12, 21 KO) came forward with his usual aggression, but Mack was a step ahead each time. Mack began opening up in Round 2 and found he could hit his opponent with ease. He moved in and out repeatedly snapping Sheika's head with the jab and a strong right hand over the top.
In Round 3, Mack started to slip a bit, allowing Sheika to press him to the ropes. Correcting his mistakes of the past, Mack quickly got back to his game plan the next round staying in the center of the ring. He landed with accuracy and was gone before Sheika could retaliate. By Round 5 he was mixing in uppercuts from both hands and seemed he could not miss with his accurate punches.
At the halfway point it seemed both men were beginning to tire. The constant movement for Mack seemed to be wearing him down. Sheika was still pursuing, but had lost steam and his punches were coming from wider angles due to fatigue.
Mack had stated leading up to the fight this would not be the same Mack Attack that faded at the eighth round. He made good on his statements as he found a second wind late and again began taking the fight to his opponent. He attributed hard work, discipline, and "running my ass off" to his new found endurance.
Mack closed the championship rounds with the same fire he had early. Despite Sheika's never-quit attitude and pursuit, this was going to be Yusaf Mack's night. In front of a vocal crowd supporting the two local fighters (Sheika from Paterson, N.J. and Mack out of Philadelphia) Mack controlled the 10th and 11th rounds. Then in Round 12 the accumulation took its toll as Mack dropped the iron-chinned Sheika with a left hook. Sheika made it up and managed to survive the round.
The scorecards were a formality as it was clear who the man was on this night. Mack won by scores 119-107 and 118-109 twice. The Boxing Tribune had it 119-108. Mack stuck to his game plan as he said he had to do leading up to the fight. The few times he fell into Sheika's fight, mixing it up in close, he employed a solid defense to avoid getting hurt and quickly moved the fight back to a long range boxing match to gain the edge.
The Boxing Tribune spoke with Mack and trainer Buster Custus afterward about the keys to winning and correcting past mistakes. Mainly being in shape to have stamina and following the plan.
"What I say, eighth round I'm gonna turn it up," Mack said. "I feel good. I didn't feel tired. I wasn't breathing hard.
"I stuck to the game plan. He stunned me with a couple of overhands. I think if I wasn't in shape he probably would have knocked me out. When he buzzed me I shook it off, get my Mayweather on a little bit and do what I got to do."
Custus summed up Sheika's toughness and Yusaf's performance that allowed him to overcome his opponent's aggression.
"I knew Omar was going to dig down deep and give us his last great fight; I knew that, I told him that," Custus said. "It's a crossroads fight for him. Everyone's thinking he can't make it past eight rounds and all that (stuff). Basically he trained at home for this fight. So he went home at night like he's supposed to and did some of the things he's suppose to. He took shots another guy might have gone out on. It was one of his best fights."
Mack stated he wants to get another title shot after his performance tonight.
"I'm going to do a little tune up on Percy's (trainer Buster Custus) card July 7," Mack said. "Then hopefully get back in there with Cloud or hopefully fight the winner of (Saturday night's fight between) Bernard (Hopkins) and Chad (Dawson)."