Ringside in Providence with Evander Holyfield: Toka TKOs Moralde

PROVIDENCE,​ ​R.I.​ ​—​ ​Forgive​ ​me​ ​if​ ​this​ ​strikes​ ​you​ ​as​ ​fake​ ​news​ ​or​ ​even​ ​a​ ​true​ ​form​ ​of​ ​divine providence,​ ​but​ ​55​ ​year-old,​ ​former​ ​four-time​ ​world​ ​heavyweight​ ​champion​ ​Evander​ ​Holyfield​ ​is now​ ​officially​ ​retired​ ​from​ ​active​ ​participation​ ​in​ ​boxing.​ ​This​ ​ringside​ ​reporter​ ​unexpectedly broke​ ​the​ ​good​ ​news​ ​of​ ​Holyfield’s​ ​final​ ​goodbye​ ​just​ ​three​ ​short​ ​years​ ​ago​ ​in​ ​2014.

That​ ​long​ ​overdue​ ​proclamation​ ​took​ ​place​ ​in​ ​downtown​ ​Portland,​ ​Maine​ ​where​ ​Holyfield​ ​told me​ ​before​ ​he​ ​told​ ​anyone​ ​else​ ​(at​ ​a​ ​local​ ​pro/am​ ​show​ ​where​ ​Holy​ ​was​ ​appearing)​ ​that​ ​he​ ​was “done​ ​fighting”​ ​and​ ​couldn’t​ ​find​ ​anyone​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​give​ ​him​ ​(i.e.​ ​promote)​ ​one​ ​last​ ​crack​ at ​the lineal​ ​crown.​ ​Unable​ ​to​ ​secure​ ​a​ ​much​ ​needed​ ​payday​ ​against​ ​then​ ​heavyweight​ ​champ Wladimir​ ​Klitschko,​ ​Holyfield​ ​has​ ​now​ ​thrown​ ​his​ ​pugilistic​ ​purpose​ ​into​ ​the​ ​ambitious​ ​world​ ​of promotion under the banner of Real Deal Boxing.

With​ ​a​ ​handful​ ​of​ ​small​ ​cards​ ​already​ ​under​ ​a​ ​newly​ ​minted​ ​promotional​ ​belt​ ​that​ ​includes twenty​ ​five​ ​fighters​ ​under​ ​contract,​ ​the​ ​two-time​ ​conqueror​ ​of​ ​Iron​ ​Mike​ ​Tyson​ ​was​ ​in​ ​downtown Providence,​ ​Rhode​ ​Island​ ​at​ ​The​ ​Strand​ ​ballroom​ ​on​ ​the​ ​first​ ​Friday​ ​in​ ​December​ ​of​ ​2017​ ​to support​ ​and​ ​promote​ ​his​ ​once-beaten,​ ​former​ ​can’t-miss​ ​featherweight​ ​prospect​ ​Toka​ ​Kahn, now known as Toka Kahn-Clary, having adopted his adoptive father’s surname.

“I​​ ​come​ ​from​ ​the​ ​ghetto​ ​but​ ​when​ ​I​ ​heard​ ​his​ ​story,”​ ​said​​ ​mama’s​ ​boy​ ​Evander​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Peter Manfredo​ ​trained​ ​25-​ ​year-old​ ​southpaw,​ ​“​I​ ​couldn’t​ ​believe​ ​that​ ​his​ ​life​ ​was​ ​harder​ ​than​ ​mine.”

That’s​ ​not​ ​fake​ ​news.​ ​It’s​ ​the​ ​real​ ​deal.

Toka​ ​never​ ​knew​ ​his​ ​African​ ​birth​ ​mother.

His​ ​Monrovian​ ​father​ ​brought​ ​him​ ​to​ ​America​ ​twenty​ ​years​ ​ago​ ​but​ ​was​ ​shot​ ​to​ ​death​ ​when Toka​ ​was​ ​just​ ​a​ ​young​ ​boy.​ ​Orphaned​ ​before​ ​he​ ​was​ ​a​ ​teenager​ ​but​ ​adopted​ ​by​ ​an​ ​American couple​ ​met​ ​through​ ​his​ ​training​ ​at​ ​Manfredo’s​ ​Gym​ ​in​ ​Providence,​ ​it’s​ ​a​ ​miracle​ ​Toka​ ​is​ ​where he​ ​is​ ​today​ ​with​ ​wife​ ​Devanni,​ ​their​ ​new​ ​daughter​ ​Adaline—and​ ​with​ ​a​ ​new​ ​purpose​ ​in​ ​his​ ​life.

“I’m​ ​fighting​ ​for​ ​my​ ​family​ ​now.”

Kahn-Clary​ ​is​ ​a​ ​Liberia​-born​ ​United​ ​States​ ​citizen​ ​currently living​ ​in​ ​and​ ​training​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Providence,​ ​R.I.​ ​After​ ​a​ ​decorated​ ​amateur​ ​run​ ​where​ ​he​ ​won​ ​the 2010/11/12​ ​National​ ​Golden​ ​Glove​ ​tournaments,​ ​Clary​ ​barnstormed​ ​to​ ​a​ ​19-0​ ​pro​ ​record​ ​before a​ ​90​ ​second​ ​first​ ​round​ ​KO​ ​loss​ ​in​ ​2016​ ​at​ ​the​ ​hands​ ​of​ ​Filipino​ ​Jhon​ ​Gemino.

A​ ​counter​ ​right​ ​hand​ ​from​ ​the​ ​journeyman​ ​Gemino​ ​put​ ​Clary​ ​down​ ​on​ ​his​ ​back​ ​and​ ​unable​ ​to recover​ ​before​ ​the​ ​count​ ​of​ ​ten​ ​in​ ​Kissimmee,​ ​Florida—in​ ​a​ ​Bob​ ​Arum​ ​promoted​ ​Top​ ​Rank​ ​main event​ ​no​ ​less.​ ​TR​ ​soon​ ​released​ ​Kahn-Clary.​ ​Critics​ ​immediately​ ​labelled​ ​Toka​ ​chinless.

Or​ ​even​ ​worse,​ ​heartless.

Evander​ ​Holyfield​ ​sees​ ​something​ ​else.​ ​A​ ​kid​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​work.​ ​Someone​ ​worth​ ​taking​ ​a​ ​risk​ ​on. “​Toka​ ​is​ ​a​ ​very​ ​disciplined​ ​person​ ​who’s​ ​been​ ​through​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​in​ ​life.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​be​ ​our​ ​first​ ​world champion,”​ ​says​ ​Holyfield​ ​of​ ​his​ ​upstart​ ​fighter​ ​and​ ​promotional​ ​company​ ​Real​ ​Deal​ ​Boxing.

Promotion​ ​might​ ​seem​ ​like​ ​a​ ​strange​ ​fit​ ​for​ ​“The​ ​Real​ ​Deal”​ ​given​ ​that​ ​Evander​ ​was​ ​never​ ​one to​ ​talk​ ​very​ ​much​ ​during​ ​his​ ​illustrious​ ​Hall​ ​of​ ​Fame​ ​career;​ ​Holyfield​ ​always​ ​finding​ ​it​ ​better​ ​to let​ ​his​ ​fists​ ​do​ ​his​ ​talking.​ ​As​ ​a​ ​new​ ​promoter,​ ​Holyfield​ ​is​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​mentorship​ ​and​ ​his famous​ ​fighting​ ​name​ ​in​ ​exchange​ ​for​ ​the​ ​hard​ ​work​ ​he​ ​expects​ ​from​ ​the​ ​boxers​ ​he​ ​chooses​ ​to sign.

“A​ ​big​ ​part​ ​of​ ​me​ ​now​ ​being​ ​a​ ​promoter,”​ ​Evander​ ​says,​ ​“is​ ​how​ ​I​ ​can​ ​help​ ​boxing.”​ ​Holyfield sees​ ​a​ ​void​ ​between​ ​the​ ​wisdom​ ​of​ ​his​ ​ring​ ​experiences​ ​and​ ​the​ ​inexperience​ ​of​ ​those​ ​he​ ​hopes he​ ​can​ ​share​ ​them​ ​with.​ ​“The​ ​problem​ ​with​ ​millennials​ ​is​ ​there’s​ ​nobody​ ​there​ ​to​ ​teach​ ​them.”

Clary’s​ ​outspoken​ ​trainer​ ​Peter​ ​Manfredo​ ​Sr.​ ​is​ ​willing​ ​and​ ​able​ ​to​ ​pick​ ​up​ ​where​ ​Evander leaves​ ​off,​ ​telling​ ​me​ ​and​ ​the​ ​un-PC​ ​Providence​ ​sports​ ​media​ ​that​ ​his​ ​fighter​ ​wants​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a legend​ ​in​ ​boxing​ ​before​ ​he’s​ ​all​ ​done.​ ​Tough​ ​Toka​ ​talk​ ​but​ ​Manfredo​ ​also​ ​sees​ ​the​ ​big​ ​picture. “To​ ​make​ ​money​ ​and​ ​be​ ​a​ ​legend​ ​in​ ​this​ ​game,​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​take​ ​people​ ​out,”​ ​he says.​ ​“You​ ​knock​ ​people​ ​out,​ ​people​ ​are​ ​gonna​ ​wanna​ ​come​ ​see​ ​you,​ ​they’re​ ​gonna​ ​fear​ ​you.”

“I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​be​ ​recognized​ ​just​ ​like​ ​Evander​ ​after​ ​I​ ​stop​ ​fighting,”​ ​eagerly​ ​insists​ ​Clary.​ ​At​ ​a Wednesday​ ​afternoon​ ​press​ ​conference​ ​during​ ​fight​ ​week​ ​for​ ​Clary’s​ ​homecoming​ ​against undefeated John​ ​Vincent​ ​Moralde,​ ​Holyfield​ ​outlined​ ​his​ ​promotional​ ​philosophy:

“I​​ ​bring​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​to​ ​the​ ​table​ ​but​ ​I​ ​won’t​ ​say​ ​I’ll​ ​make​ ​my​ ​fighters​ ​champions.​ ​I​ ​will​ ​give​ ​them​ ​an opportunity​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​champion.​ ​I​ ​had​ ​opportunities​ ​and​ ​I​ ​never​ ​quit.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​correct​ ​your​ ​mistakes, set​ ​goals​ ​and​ ​never​ ​quit,​ ​you’ll​ ​reach​ ​that​ ​goal.​ ​I​ ​can​ ​give​ ​advice​ ​because​ ​I’ve​ ​done​ ​it.​ ​These fighters​ ​need​ ​to​ ​believe​ ​in​ ​me​ ​but​ ​more​ ​importantly​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​believe​ ​in​ ​themselves.”

Moralde​ ​didn’t​ ​need​ ​a​ ​famous​ ​promoter​ ​to​ ​make​ ​a​ ​name​ ​for​ ​himself​ ​in​ ​2015​ ​when​ ​he​ ​tragically killed​ ​Australian​ ​Braydon​ ​Smith​ ​in​ ​a​ ​ten​ ​round​ ​bout​ ​that​ ​saw​ ​Smith​ ​battered​ ​and​ ​Moralde​ ​leaving without​ ​a​ ​scratch.​ ​Brought​ ​in​ ​to​ ​lose​ ​the​ ​fight​ ​to​ ​the​ ​hometown​ ​Down​ ​Under​ ​fighter,​ ​the​ ​Filipino Moralde​ ​left​ ​the​ ​ring​ ​with​ ​a​ ​green​ ​WBC​ ​title​ ​belt​ ​while​ ​Smith​ ​lost​ ​his​ ​life​ ​two​ ​days​ ​later.

None​ ​of​ ​that​ ​made​ ​any​ ​difference​ ​to​ ​Kahn-Clary.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​Real​ ​Deal​ ​Boxing​ ​V​ ​main​ ​event,​ ​Toka stopped​ ​the​ ​formerly​ ​unbeaten​ ​Moralde​ ​after​ ​seven​ ​rounds​ ​of​ ​mostly​ ​one-way​ ​traffic.​ ​Toka started​ ​strong​ ​behind​ ​a​ ​busy​ ​southpaw​ ​jab,​ ​keeping​ ​most​ ​of​ ​his​ ​follow-up​ ​left​ ​hands​ ​home​ ​early. Moralde​ ​offered​ ​little​ ​in​ ​the​ ​way​ ​of​ ​resistance​ ​and​ ​was​ ​bruised​ ​around​ ​the​ ​right​ ​eye​ ​during​ ​the first​ ​round.​ ​Gradually​ ​Toka​ ​turned​ ​up​ ​the​ ​torque​ ​frequency​ ​to​ ​the​ ​body​ ​and​ ​by​ ​the​ ​fourth, Moralde​ ​was​ ​reeling​ ​around,​ ​missing​ ​more​ ​than​ ​landing​ ​but​ ​generally​ ​not​ ​punching​ ​at​ ​all.​ ​After three​ ​more​ ​rounds​ ​of​ ​that,​ ​Moralde​ ​was​ ​done​ ​on​ ​the​ ​stool,​ ​victim​ ​of​ ​a​ ​sustained​ ​body​ ​attack.

“Toka​ ​made​ ​the​ ​guy​ ​quit,”​ ​said​ ​Evander.

Kahn-Clary,​ ​who​ ​weighed​ ​in​ ​at​ ​125,​ ​improved​ ​his​ ​record​ ​to​ ​24-1​ ​(16)​ ​while​ ​Moralde​ ​heads​ ​back to​ ​General​ ​Santos,​ ​Philippines​ ​with​ ​the​ ​first​ ​loss​ ​on​ ​his​ ​record,​ ​falling​ ​to​ ​19-1​ ​(10).​ ​After​ ​the homecoming​ ​victory​ ​for​ ​a​ ​minor​ ​WBC​ ​title,​ ​Toka​ ​talked​ ​about​ ​the​ ​future.​ ​“We​ ​ain’t​ ​stopping​ ​here. We​ ​got​ ​a​ ​new​ ​promoter​ ​and​ ​we’re​ ​bringing​ ​the​ ​world​ ​championship​ ​home​ ​to​ ​Providence.​ ​I’m ready​ ​for​ ​anyone​ ​at​ ​126​ ​or​ ​130​ ​pounds.​ ​Evander​ ​fought​ ​everybody.​ ​I​ ​wanna​ ​follow​ ​that​ ​road.”

If​ ​he​ ​does,​ ​it​ ​ends​ ​in​ ​Canastota.


Fighting​ ​for​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​Italy,​ ​cruiserweight​ ​southpaw​ Fabio​ ​“Stone Crusher” Turchi, 200,​ ​Florence,​ ​13-0​ ​(11),​ ​stopped​ ​Detroit’s​ ​Demetrius​ ​Banks,​ ​201,​ ​9-4​ ​(4)​ ​in​ ​the​ ​corner​ ​after​ ​four rounds.​ ​Turchi​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​Holyfield’s​ ​key​ ​signees.​ ​The​ ​plan​ ​is​ ​to​ ​ultimately​ ​move​ ​the​ ​cruiserweight bruiser​ ​up​ ​to​ ​heavyweight.​ ​“That’s​ ​where​ ​the​ ​money​ ​is​ ​at,”​ ​said​ ​Holyfield​.

Undefeated​ ​featherweight​ ​prospect​ ​Irvin​ ​Gonzalez,​ ​8-0​ ​(7),​ ​Worcester,​ ​MA,​ ​fighting​ ​for​ ​the​ ​first time​ ​on​ ​live​ ​TV​ ​and​ ​looking​ ​to​ ​impress​ ​Evander​ ​Holyfield,​ ​scored​ ​a​ ​crowd​ ​pleasing​ ​third​ ​round knockout​ ​of​ ​Columbian​ ​Marlon​ ​Olea,​ ​13-1​ ​(12).​ ​Gonzalez​ ​trapped​ ​his​ ​opponent​ ​in​ ​a​ ​neutral corner,​ ​uncorked​ ​a​ ​straight​ ​right​ ​to​ ​the​ ​solar​ ​plexus—and​ ​Olea​ ​was​ ​down​ ​and​ ​out​ ​at​ ​1:14.

Look​ ​for​ ​Holyfield​ ​to​ ​sign​ ​Gonzalez.

Popular​ ​local​ ​junior​ ​welterweight​ ​Nick​ ​DeLomba,​ ​12-2​ ​(2),​ ​Cranston,​ ​RI,​ ​and​ ​Luis​ ​Cruz,​ ​12-4​ ​(6), Bronx,​ ​NY,​ ​fought​ ​eight​ ​honest​ ​rounds​ ​at​ ​close​ ​quarters,​ ​exchanging​ ​hard​ ​body​ ​punches throughout.​ ​DeLomba’s​ ​face​ ​swelled​ ​up​ ​early​ ​from​ ​Cruz’s​ ​punches​ ​but​ ​“Cruz​ ​Control”​ ​couldn’t match​ ​the​ ​volume​ ​and​ ​variety​ ​of​ ​DeLomba​ ​who​ ​won​ ​a​ ​UBF​ ​title​ ​belt​ ​with​ ​a​ ​unanimous​ ​decision by​ ​scores​ ​of​ ​79-72​ ​and​ ​78-73​ ​twice.​ ​Cruz​ ​lost​ ​a​ ​point​ ​in​ ​the​ ​fourth​ ​for​ ​a​ ​borderline​ ​low​ ​blow.

Junior​ ​lightweight​ ​Timmy​ ​Ramos,​ ​4-0-2​ ​(4),​ ​Framingham,​ ​MA,​ ​drew​ ​with​ ​Phil​ ​Davis,​ ​1-1-1, Worcester,​ ​MA,​ ​in​ ​a​ ​scrappy​ ​four​ ​rounder.​ ​Ramos​ ​used​ ​his​ ​size​ ​and​ ​range​ ​while​ ​Davis​ ​fought like​ ​a​ ​man​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​a​ ​contract​ ​with​ ​Real​ ​Deal​ ​Boxing.​ ​Scores:​ ​39-37​ ​Ramos​ ​and​ ​38-38​ ​twice.

Debuting​ ​welterweight​ ​Poindexter​ ​“Savage”​ ​Knight,​ ​1-0​ ​(1),​ ​Philadelphia,​ ​PA,​ ​won​ ​his​ ​first​ ​fight as​ ​a​ ​professional​ ​with​ ​Evander​ ​Holyfield​ ​watching​ ​at​ ​ringside,​ ​pummeling​ ​Samuel​ ​Forjoe,​ ​0-2, Bronx,​ ​NY,​ ​with​ ​body​ ​punches​. ​Referee​ ​Danny​ ​Schiavone​ ​stopped it​ ​at​ ​1:03​ ​of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​round.

Flashy​ ​junior​ ​middleweight​ ​Jeremy​ ​“J-Flash”​ ​Nichols,​ ​8-1-1​ ​(2)​ ​Las​ ​Vegas,​ ​Nevada,​ ​decisioned an​ ​uninspired​ ​Daniel​ ​Sostre,​ ​13-16-1​ ​(5)​ ​Vega​ ​Maja,​ ​Puerto​ ​Rico,​ ​over​ ​the​ ​six​ ​round​ ​distance​ ​by scores​ ​of​ ​60-54​ ​and​ ​59-55​ ​twice.​ ​Nichols​ ​teed​ ​off​ ​at​ ​will​ ​on​ ​the​ ​very​ ​defensively​ ​oriented​ ​Sostre.

Photo credit: Emily Harney

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