ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Sakaria Lukas took a 30-hour transatlantic trip from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, to Philadelphia for his televised fight Saturday night against Tugstsogt Nyambayar.
Multiple connections and layovers proved to be well worth Lukas’ trouble. The huge underdog, a full-time sergeant in the Namibian Marine Corps, gave the heavily favored Nyambayar a very difficult fight in the opener of a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader from Borgata Event Center.
Their 10-round junior lightweight bout resulted in a controversial split draw, though, because referee Eddie Claudio called what should’ve been a ruled a knockdown for Lukas early in the eighth round the result of a slip. Repeated replays by Showtime clearly displayed that a left hand by Lukas sent Nyambayar to the canvas, but New Jersey State Athletic Control Board commissioner Larry Hazzard repeatedly told Showtime’s Jim Gray as they watched footage that a punch didn’t cause Nyambayar to go down.
Not counting that knockdown for Lukas caused him to settle for a split draw. Had one point been deducted from Nayambayar, as it should’ve been, Lukas would’ve won a split decision.
Judge Anthony Lundy still scored Lukas a 96-94 winner, but judge Ron McNair scored their fight 96-94 for Nyambayar. Judge Robin Taylor scored it a draw, 95-95, but Lukas would’ve won by one point on her card if Claudio counted that knockdown for him.
The 29-year-old Nyambayar (12-2-1, 9 KOs), who represented Mongolia at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, went off as a 25-1 favorite over Lukas (25-1-1, 17 KOs), according to Caesars Sportsbook.
Lukas replaced Nyambayar’s original opponent, Vic Pasillas, on less than one week’s notice because Pasillas (16-1, 9 KOs) contracted COVID-19. The 37-year-old Lukas has only lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Isaac Avelar (then 15-2) on the Errol Spence Jr.-Danny Garcia undercard 13 months ago at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Nyambayar landed a right uppercut on the inside that forced Lukas to hold 55 seconds into the 10th round. The final three minutes of their back-and-forth fight were largely competitive, though.
Lukas drilled Nyambayar with a right hand and then a short left jab that clearly caused a knockdown early in the eighth round. Claudio called it a slip, though, and the action continued without a point being deducted from Nyambayar.
Nyambayar and Lukas traded on the inside with just under a minute to go in the seventh round. Neither fighter landed many flush punches during those three minutes.
Back-to-back right hands by Lukas got Nyambayar’s attention with just over 1:10 remaining in the sixth round.
Nyambayar landed a straight right and then a right uppercut about 25 seconds into the fifth round. A right hand by Lukas moved Nyambayar into the ropes and made him hold Lukas with 1:55 to go in the fifth round.
A right uppercut by Nyambayar wobbled Lukas and made him hold with just under a minute on the clock in the fifth round.
A left hook by Nyambayar landed about 1:10 into the fourth round. That didn’t deter Lukas from coming forward and unloading wild right hands.
Lukas caught Nyambayar with a left hook in the opening minute of the third round, immediately after Nyambayar connected with a right hand.
Nyambayar knocked Lukas off balance with a jab about 15 seconds into the third round. Claudio questioned Lukas’ willingness to continue before the third round began, though Lukas himself didn’t seem to indicate that he didn’t want to fight after having success in the second round.
Lukas landed a left hook with just under 10 seconds to go in the second round, when he had much more success than he did during the first round. A left hook by Nyambayar wobbled Lukas just after the midway mark of the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.