Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Commentary: 'A million emotions in one' as Tuckers restart their journey

Mark "TNT" Tucker pumped his fist as soon as the fight ended, yelled down to some of his ringside supporters and climbed up onto the ropes in each corner of the squared circle to salute the fans throughout Shipley Arena inside the Ag Center in Westminster Friday night.
"I'm still all wound up," the Eldersburg boxer said some 30 minutes after his first bout in more than 2 ½ years. "I felt good. I was excited. Very anxious. A million emotions in one."
Mark Tucker Sr. was excited, too. Wearing the hat of father he was proud of his boxer/son. Wearing the hat of trainer he was satisfied. And wearing the hat of promoter, well, he was already promoting the next card at Shipley, set for Feb. 21.
"We signed a contract," he said. "We've got a little website going on,, that seems to be working better than - and we spent a lot less money."
The website bears a slogan: "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."
Friday was a start. A restart, actually.
The 26-year-old Tucker envisions one day fighting for title belts and big paydays on television. He seemed to be somewhat on track for that during his first incarnation as a professional fighter, reeling off 15 wins in a row before stumbling to his first loss in March of 2011 and then taking a lengthy sabbatical as his family dealt with not one but two medical crises.
Meanwhile, the elder Tucker sees his cards at the Ag Center getting bigger and bigger names, drawing even larger crowds than the one he pegged at nearly 3,000 fans on Friday, and then from there, who knows. A second life as Bob Arum or Don King? He feels like he's wiser this time around and plans on staying in control to become successful.
It's a tough business and the odds are against them, but they're both fighters. To even have a chance at any of that, Tucker, first, had to win on Friday.
That figured to be a given considering his opponent, Rayford Johnson, sported an 8-13 record coming in. But Johnson showed up fit and lived up to his reputation of being a tough out, responding every time Tucker connected with a flurry of punches and probably stealing some rounds by being active just before each bell.
"I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park," Tucker said. "I knew he was a tough fighter and I knew he'd never been stopped."
Tucker won a unanimous decision. Using the 10-point system in the eight-round bout, he won 77-75 on one scorecard, 79-73 on another, and a perfect 80-72 on a third. (Hard to watch from ringside and imagine that Tucker won every single round of a pretty competitive fight, but that's boxing.)
Tucker looked to be in great shape and stronger than he was four years ago when these Shipley Arena boxing nights became pretty popular. He had a nice advantage in reach and he fought defensively when he had to, moving well laterally and tying up Johnson when necessary.
He would've preferred a knockout because even though he was pretty certain he had won once the fight ended, the boxer is never quite sure what the judges are seeing.
"You never know, especially being robbed so many times in the amateurs," Tucker said. "I would always like to take it out of the judge's hands, but that's just too much to ask sometimes."
Especially with 32 months between fights.
"I had a little bit of ring rust," he conceded.
But he finished strong, as his father/trainer/promoter expected him to.
"After the seventh round he said, 'I felt the rust come off in that round,'" the elder Tucker said.
Johnson complimented the victor and walked out of the arena with a butterfly over his left eye. Tucker looked none the worse for wear after 24 minutes of combat, although he conceded he'd be sore when he woke up Saturday morning.
But he woke up a winner, and that was the whole point. That makes the next card at Shipley Arena more interesting and it puts him in line for an incrementally better opponent. He's back on the journey he began at age 12 and put on hold for a while.
And as much as he wants to think years down the line and dream of making Floyd Mayweather money, he knew all that mattered on Friday was Friday.
"One fight at a time," Tucker said near the end of his training leading up to the fight. "You can't plan too far ahead or you'll trip over what's right in front of you."