Unforeseen circumstances can sometimes open a door that would have remained shut tight.
Nigerian amateur champion Lateef “Power” Kayode might never have ventured west to California had a few people not made broken promises.
Nor would a certain screenwriter meet an aspiring prizefighter had a historic strike not occur in Hollywood.
Doors open and now Steve Feder manages Kayode (14-0, 13 KOs) who defends the NABO cruiserweight title against Ed Perry (18-4-2, 11 KOs) on Friday Dec. 3, at Chumash Casino. Gary Shaw Productions and Showtime will televise the event.
“I’ve been with him from the start,” said Feder, a screenwriter by trade. “I was at a gym in West Hollywood. I was training to keep in shape from the writer’s strike when I met him.”
Feder saw Kayode working out and soon discovered the lean African fighter was looking for a manager and trainer. It didn’t take long for Feder to realize something special about the boxer.
“I brought him to the Wild Card for sparring. Freddy (Roach) was impressed with Power. He was very green and raw. Typical of an amateur he was a headhunter,” said Feder about Kayode’s first day sparring at the Hollywood gym located on Vine Street. “I had the feeling when I saw him no matter what sport he took he would be an amazing athlete. The fact that he loves doing what he does I thought it was a pretty good risk to take. Once Freddie took him I knew we had something.”
Though two inches past six-feet in height, Kayode’s highest recorded weight has been only 208 pounds. Back in the 1960s that would have been satisfactory but nowadays that’s a cruiserweight. The heavyweights weigh an average of 230.
“He wants to be a heavyweight but we can work our way to that division,” says Feder, a screenwriter for 17 years. “No sense bulking him up just to get to the heavyweight division.”
The Wild Card Boxing gym has long been a haven for actors, writers and producers since its inception. Mickey Rourke was the first owner of the boxing establishment and it was turned over to Roach. Hollywood people frequent the upstairs gym daily.
When Kayode began working out routinely at the Vine Street gym it was apparent that he had great fighting tools. Sparring sessions with heavyweights became the norm but Feder did not want too much exposure.
“He’s constantly in with world class fighters,” says Feder who also manages Vanes Martirosyan, Jamie Kavanagh and Kingsley Ikeke. “The first real experience before pro was preparing Ola Afolabi. He had three weeks notice. He met with Lateef and a friend from Nigeria offered to prepare Ola. Once I saw Lateef spar with Ola, I knew Lateef was special.”
In 13 pro fights Kayode has blitzed through monster heavyweights and lightning quick cruisers with a combination of speed and muscle. One way or the other the Nigerian boxer has prevailed.
Despite his nickname “Power,” a moniker given to him on the streets of Nigeria, Kayode walks around the gym with a constant smile.
“When I came to New York I didn’t know where to go or how to get a train ticket. I didn’t know how to look for a manager or promoter. People didn’t believe I was a good boxer,” said Kayode about his first arrival in the United States.
Promises to land a promoter and visa went unfulfilled. A venture to Georgia proved to be a dead end. Finally, an offer to go to California proved to be the lifesaver needed.
Kayode was discovered by Feder, which led to hiring Roach, and now the African cruiserweight is fighting on television.
Though Kayode has been in California for two years he’s barely getting the hang of American food. It’s not easy.
“I had to tell my manager can you take me to an African restaurant,” says Kayode, 27, adding that he’s adjusted and can now eat American food like turkey, fish and vegetables.
Feder knows the drill.
“No matter where we are Lateef will find a place that has African food. In Detroit, in DC, in Maryland, he’ll find someone. One night it was a taxi driver who took him to a place and they kept the restaurant open for him,” said Feder who has slowly learned the different types of African food too. “Sometimes before a fight he has to get some good goat meat. I’ve eaten with him before. It’s little heavy.”
It’s all been a learning process for fighter and manager as Kayode deals with moving up the cruiserweight division rankings. Eventually he’ll be a heavyweight. But right now, the Nigerian prizefighter looks to make an impact on behalf of his countrymen.
“I want to say hello to the president and to the chief coach of Nigeria’s national team Obisia Nwankpa,” Kayode said. “I want to say how I’m happy for all the people supporting me. I love my country and want to make my country proud.”
Another door has opened and Kayode is powering his way through.