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Monday, February 3, 2014
Casal ready to move on from brutal attack

By Michael Woods

I felt bad asking the kid about that night, felt like that consummate pesky reporter, especially after he asked me to concentrate most heavily on his forthcoming fight, in the ring, and not the night he got attacked by a guy with a tire iron, leaving him with gashes on his head that will make your stomach churn if you track down the Google image.

But what happened to Nick Casal, a 22-4-1 junior welterweight prospect from Niagara Falls, N.Y., on the night of May 12, 2012, does have quite a bearing on where he is today, so, all apologies to Nick, I'd like to quickly touch on that attack and then move on to the future, rather than the darker past.

Casal was looking toward the biggest opportunity of his professional life, having signed to fight Ruslan Provodnikov on June 29, 2012, for the WBO intercontinental 140-pound crown, in Niagara Falls. But that outing was scrubbed when Casal was attacked on May 12, in Niagara Falls, by a man using a metal object. That man, Michael Vicki, was charged with first-degree assault, and on April 26, 2013, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the attack, which left Casal needing almost 200 stitches and staples. But that vicious assault didn't sap Casal's desire to move forward with his career as a prizefighter, or his wish to make up some ground and take down some of those fighters he tangled with in the amateurs who have received shots at crowns.

"I'm 100 percent," Casal told me at a lunch meeting at Junior's in Brooklyn with new promoter Mercedes Vazquez Simmons, who is staging a showcase for Casal on Feb. 27 at the Conference and Event Center in Niagara Falls. "I felt I would have beaten Ruslan that night," continued the 28-year-old. "It would have been a war, but I would have won."

"I think he's a future star," the promoter told me. "This whole experience has changed him for the better. He's focused, determined. But this is his first fight with me; we'll see how it goes."

Casal, nicknamed "Hands of Gold," came off as no extrovert, but he has a humble, gentle manner. The promoter says that in the ring, he shows an aggressive streak, and she expects that will be on display against 11-19 foe Shakha Moore on Feb. 27.

Casal reiterated that the attack, which was spurred by jealousy, he said, as the assailant was angry that Casal was dating his ex-girlfriend, didn't leave him diminished. He didn't almost die, he says, and his skull wasn't even fractured. Tough noggin' on that Casal, as the crowbar wasn't enough to render him unconscious even though the cowardly attacker ambushed him. "But I'm just focusing on this upcoming fight," Casal said. "All I've been thinking is, 'When can I fight again?'" He made sure to mention that these days, he's a homebody with a new girlfriend.

Casal last gloved up in October 2011, and rides a four-fight winning streak. I confess, I will root for the low-key kid. After all, he didn't reach across the table and whack me when I pointed out that, if he packed on 60 pounds, he looks a bit like the notorious George Zimmerman,