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Ringside in Providence with Evander Holyfield

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  • Ringside in Providence with Evander Holyfield

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    BY JEFFREY FREEMAN

    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.

    REAL​ ​DEAL​ ​UNDERCARD​ ​RESULTS

    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

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    I asked Evander about AJ and Wilder.

    Here is what he told me:

    "Joshua is one of the better fighters, you got a guy who won the Olympics, which means he was best amateur. As a professional, he’s proven that fact when he fought Wladimir Klitschko that he comes up from the ground and keeps his composure. Deontay may be the lesser experienced fighter but his confidence is so great that he finds himself winning and that’s it. You gotta have faith in what you have. You can’t think about not being tall enough or being too thin, you have to fight with what you have. That’s what Deontay do real well, he fights with what he has."

    Comment


    • #3
      We have seen a few fighters get starched early in their career recently and then bounce back to have success. Two examples are Badou Jack and Youndale Evans. Kahn Clary may be another one. Naturally talented but written off entirely by many, including his former promoter Top Rank, after one early knockout loss. But he is talented and hungry to make it in this sport. I think he has a future and should certainly get an opportunity to prove himself with the depth at 126.

      Speaking of that division, Top Rank does have a belt holder and budding star in Oscar Valdez. Not long ago, many in the sport thought Top Rank was prepping to move Kahn Clary into a fight one day with Valdez. Valdez wants a fight with Carl Frampton but that is not likely at least in the immediate future. Valdez has some work to do and things to tighten up before that fight. May a fight with Kahn Clary get revisited?

      I like what I saw from Fabio Turchi. Fluid movement and fluidity in his punches, he kind of made me think of him as a poor man's Usyk. Still some work to do but some serious potential. Holyfield and team need to have a solid plan on how they move him but there is something there to work with.

      A final note on this card and the telecast. Paulie Malignaggi was part of the broadcast team and during the Turchi fight discussed Italian boxing. He stated how big the sport was there in the early 80's and 90's. And then went on to explain what happened to its popularity. He said boxing on television was very big and then some promoters starting getting greedy matching their guys for good paydays against overmatched opponents. And several mismatches took place on television. Quickly Italian tv pulled the plug on the sport and stopped buying these mismatches. It ended quickly he stated (boxing on television) and has not come back.

      Televised mismatches in boxing, where have we seen a lot of that recently?

      Comment


      • #4
        Good point about Badou Jack.

        Toka definitely has the tools and the drive.

        I'm interested in seeing what he can achieve.

        Comment

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