Davis Ault added another title to Nevada Boxing’s long list of individual national champions. On the final day of the NCBA National Championships, Ault defeated Jacob Maslyk of Cincinnati in the 139-pound weight class final. The three-day event took place with a little over a dozen schools competing at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino from Thursday, April 4, to Saturday, April 6.
On the opening day of the tournament, three of Nevada’s four boxers had quarterfinal bouts. The fourth, Nate Strother, received a bye after gaining the No. 1 seed by winning the West Regionals at the 165-pound weight division. Although he earned the extra day of rest, Strother’s ambition to fight was still there.
“You know what would be better than a day off, if I was fighting,” Strother said.
Nevada’s first bout of the night was Dillon Maguin facing off against Navy’s Tanner Strawbridge in the 132-pound weight class. The first round was the most even round of the match as both fighters landed multiple heavy punches. The second round seemed to be Manguin’s weakest round as he was bloodied by a Strawbridge punch early in the round. In the final round, Manguin was looking to counter Strawbridge’s whenever he saw a weakness. Although he seemed to gain some points back, he ultimately lost in a split decision.
In Davis Ault’s first fight of the weekend, he was matched up against Brandon Martin of Oregon State. To no surprise, Ault walked into the loud roar of his hometown crowd before the fight started. Ault dominated the first round of the bout as he connected with multiple combos. The second round was not much different with the exception of the final second as both fighters were looking for knockout blows — none of which seemed to hit their target. Ault had a quiet third round but he hit Martin with two or three big hits in the final 10 seconds to seal the deal as he won in a unanimous decision
Nevada’s final fight of the night featured 147-pound Jimmy Verdi. He faced Jack Jeon of Navy in the Wolf Pack’s most physical bout of the night. Jeon was the main aggressor of the fight as he attacked Verdi as often as possible. Verdi carefully picked his punches and landed one solid combo toward the end of the first round. In the second round, Verdi took a lot of hits to the face but landed his own fair share of headshots as well. The third round was similar to the round prior as both fighters continued to land tons of punches in an exciting slugfest. Verdi was defeated in a decision by Jeon, who was the national runner-up in the weight class.
Although disappointed with not winning, Verdi was not completely dissatisfied with the loss. Both he and Strother mentioned how Jeon would be feeling the blows he took the next morning.
During day two, the national semifinals were held for each weight division. Nevada’s two most popular boxers Ault and Strother each had bouts.
In the 139-pound semifinals, Ault faced off against Kiel Hicks of Washington. Hicks’ supporters rivaled Ault’s supports in terms of noise, as the two boxers would face each other for the third and final time in the last two months. In their first bout, Ault defeated Hicks in front of his hometown fans, while Hicks got his revenge during the regionals at UCLA. The rubber match between the two went much like their first fight in Reno.
During the entire fight — and especially in the first round — the fighters’ prior history with each other was present. Both guys were being patient with each other as they waited for the other to make a mistake. The opening round may have been Ault’s weakest of the entire tournament, but it did not faze him. He bounced back in the second, possibly due to what coach Paddy Jefferson told him after the first round.
Ault and Hicks knew it would come down to whoever had the best third round. The fighters were duking it out as the winner would not only have bragging rights over the other in their budding rivalry but a chance at a national championship. In his closest fight of the weekend, Ault won in a split decision much to the delight of the Reno crowd. According to Ault, the win was a group effort.
“I put everything I had out there,” Ault said. “I listened to my coaches. We had a game plan and it was successful.”
Next up for Nevada was Nate Strother fighting against Ian Vernon of Penn State. Vernon defeated the defending national champion Levi Knox in a debatable decision in the quarterfinals. Strother had also defeated Knox during the West Regionals in March.
The veteran Wolf Pack boxer was composed throughout the fight not allowing Vernon to land heavy punches, only giving up weak jabs. Strother seemed to be the better fighter in the first round thanks to his composure. In the second round, Strother dictated the fight with his precise punching.
He carried his momentum from the second round into the third as he utterly dominated the first 30-45 seconds of the round. When the fight ended, it felt like an easy victory for Strother. The outcome was much different as Strother lost in a split decision, leaving many confused as to how he lost, especially coach Jefferson. Jefferson went to see the final scorecard, but it didn’t change his mind on how he thought Strother was the victor. Nate echoed his coach’s comments.
“I thought I fought one of the best fights of my life,” Strother said. “I thought I won every round but the judges didn’t think so I guess.”
The junior was honored on the final day with the bronze medal in the 165-pound division, as he looked forward to the future.
On the day of the finals for all of the weight classes, all eyes were on one fight. Davis Ault looked to add to another title to Nevada Boxing’s storied history. Ault faced Maslyk who looked to add a second individual title of the night for Cincinnati — Nathan Todd won for the Bearcats in the 147-pound weight class.
Ault used the energy from the crowd to help him control the first round of the match as he connected on plenty of solid punches. The second round was more even as both fighters got solid punches in on each other. But even with that, the advantage still leaned in Ault’s direction. The third round was a more intense version of the second round. With every hit, the crowd reacted with awe. Ault credited the crowd for pushing him when he was getting tired in the third round. When the match was over a hyped audience was eager to know the results of the fight.
In a split decision, Ault was named national champion. Ault was handed his title belt by Joey Gilbert — famed Nevada boxer who won three national championships and was a WBC-USNBC middleweight champion at the professional level.
After the victory, Ault was trying to find a way to put into words how much the title meant to him.
“Winning is undescribable,” Ault said. “It’s crazy. I was fighting back tears I was so happy. All the hard work I put in finally paid off.
He also described how it felt to win in Reno as a freshman.
“It was awesome being in my hometown, my first year and my first championship,” Ault said. “There’s nothing beating it you know? To do this not just for myself, but for my teammates and my boxing gym. It just means the world.”
Darion Strugs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dstrugs.