NIAGARA FALLS — If life were like a video game, all Nick Casal would have had to do was either hit the continue button on his Xbox or deposit more money in the coin slot of the machine to return to the stage where he had left off in his quest to become a world champion.
Real life isn’t that simple.
Neither were the circumstances surrounding the head injury that suddenly derailed the Niagara Falls boxer’s rise up the ladder, but the 28-year-old is ready to begin another climb he hopes leads to championship glory.
The journey begins in Casal’s hometown Feb. 27 as he will headline an 11-fight card at the Niagara Falls Conference and Events Center.
Casal (22-4-1, 17 KOs) will fight journeyman Shakha Moore of Norwalk, Conn., in the six-round main event between light welterweights. The fight will be Casal’s first since he KO’d Michael Anderson in the third round at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 15, 2011.
“He’s always wanted to fight in his hometown,” said trainer Ray Casal, who is Nick’s father. “I’m excited for him. Hopefully everything goes good.”
Nick Casal’s last win set himself up for a shot at the World Boxing Organization’s intercontinental championship against Ruslan Provodnikov in what would have been a nationally televised card from the Seneca Niagara Casino in June 2012. It should have been a fight that positioned him for a future bout against someone in the top 10 – provided he won of course – but a month before the fight Casal was ambushed and beaten unconscious with a crowbar when he went to pick up his then girlfriend, who unbeknownst to Casal was at her ex’s house.
Michael Vicki recently was sentenced to five years for the assault on Casal. The attack was so severe Casal needed hundreds of staples and stitches to close gashes on his head and body. Casal also suffered a bruised brain, according to statement made by Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffman.
Lucky for Casal, the injuries weren’t more severe. The incident is officially in the past as far as he was concerned Tuesday during an afternoon news conference at the Conference and Events Center promoting “The Fight in the Falls” card.
“It was a bummer. Things happen for a reason. It’s water under the bridge,” said Casal. “I don’t want to talk about that too much. I was getting ready for a shot. ... I had a couple fights fall through last year. ... I can’t wait to get in the ring. It’s a new chapter in the book.
“I feel in a couple of fights I’ll be in that position, again.”
The Feb, 27 card, sponsored by Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons’ Rochester-based Pretty Girl Promotions, will have quite the local flavor as the two co-feature bouts include promising Amherst boxer Vincent Arroyo (12-1, 7 KOs) and Buffalo cruiserweight Greg Brady (4-1, 4 KOs). Area pros making their debut on the show include Buffalo’s Michael Jackson, 26, and Jack Ventry, 18, of Niagara Falls.
Arroyo hasn’t fought since September 2011, when he scored an impressive victory on Showtime over Hector Sanchez. After the win, he got into a legal spat with his handlers over money and his contract. His welterweight opponent for the fight has yet to be named.
“It’s a great honor,” said Arroyo of being selected to fight on the show. “I’m just hoping me and Mercedes can find the right opponent for me to perform ... I’m very happy I’m doing what I’m actually supposed to be doing.”
Brady faces unbeaten Joe Shojgreen (8-0, 7 KOs) in a six rounder.
But this card might as well be called The Nick because most eyes on fight night will be focused on Casal, who last fought in his hometown of Niagara Falls as a 16-year-old amateur.
Casal won national and world titles during a highly decorative amateur career. He did have Olympic dreams but suffered a shoulder injury during a qualifying tournament that derailed the quest. He turned professional instead at age 18, signing with veteran manager Shelly Finkel – who at the time had a working partnership with Showtime’s Gary Shaw.
Casal, who won his first 14 fights as a pro, made a couple mistakes early in his career, which affected his in-ring performances and led to him being dropped by Finkel.
Just when it seemed like his career was going nowhere, Casal picked himself up off the scrap heap and had won four straight fights, three via TKO, before being attacked. That last win, which came on a Bernard Hopkins undercard, opened plenty of eyes.
The Casals are hoping those he impressed still have long memories, but Nick first must prove once again he’s still got it. The quest begins on his home turf.
“If a crowbar can’t knock me out, I don’t think any fist can,” Casal quipped.
Others on the card include past state Golden Gloves champion Emanuel Colon, Milos Pantelic, Mike Bissett, Michelle Cook, Ivana Coleman, Aleem Whitfield, Phil Rose, Jesus Gonzalez, Carl Davis, Brandon Williams, Jennifer Woodward and Kylie Angel Fallis.
Ticket prices start at $30 and can be purchased through “Ticket Fly” or at Casal’s Boxing Club, 1767 Maryland Ave., Niagara Falls. For more information, visit www.prettygirlpromo.com or call (585) 281-2540.