The Liberia-born Toka-Kahn, fighting out of Cranston, RI, makes his new promoter’s banner debut this Saturday night in the Real Deal Championship Boxing series televised opener on CBS Sports Network (10 p.m. ET start), airing live from Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. This event is part of six-week “I Am Ali” festival, concluding July 15, to honor the late, great Muhammad Ali in his hometown.
Kahn-Clary takes on dangerous Dominican Angel “El Gato” Luna (11-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round featherweight bout.
“Toka is an exceptional talent,” Holyfield said. “Not only is he a hardworking, humble and respectful young man, he is a very talented and accomplished fighter. We expect him to have a very bright future and are excited to have him on the Real Deal Boxing team.”
“I met Evander Holyfield when I was in the amateurs,” Kahn-Clary remembered. “Everybody in boxing likes and respects him. He is one of the best heavyweights of all-time, the best cruiserweight ever. I’m so excited to sign with his new company. They want to make champions – I want to be world champion – and compete with the top promoters in boxing.
“I loved Muhammad Ali, not only because he was a great fighter, but for what he was and did outside the ring. He opened doors for so many like me in boxing and life. I’m honored to be fighting on this card in his hometown.
“I’m also very excited to be fighting on television for the first. I plan to win impressively. A fighter is only as good as his last fight and I want to catch the eyes of everybody watching my fight to let them see my talent. I always study my opponent. He’s a good fighter, looks strong, and he will fight to the best of his ability.”
Kahn-Clary has bitter feelings about his former promoter, Top Rank, which released him after his first professional loss last September, when Toka was caught by a devastating punch early by Jhon Gemino (14-7-1) for an opening-round knockout defeat.
“It happened so fast,” Kahn-Clary explained. “I just ran into a right. My legs were squared, not in a proper boxing stance. I didn’t lose too often in the amateurs (131-11), other than to high-caliber boxers, and I started second-guessing myself after my first pro loss. I decided to become a man and get past it. I had left my trainer,
Peter Manfredo, Sr., for one fight but we’re back together. He’s a great trainer, the best in New England. I have a new advisor, Seth DeRobbio, who was at my first fight. We’ve been friends for a while and we really trust each other. We want to get to a high level together.
“I’ve been a pro five years now. Top Rank never gave me my minimums (fights per year and purses) and my manager at that time didn’t help. They never put me on television. Top Rank didn’t know what to do with me after my loss. I just wanted another opportunity like they’ve given other fighters after a first loss. I was begging them to put me back in the ring. I just wanted to redeem myself. They never did things in my best interest and, I guess, they lost faith in me. It’s no big deal but I’m on a mission to knock out as many Top Rank fighters as I can.”
Overcoming one loss in the squared-circle isn’t a problem for the soon-to-be (June 22) 25-year-old Kahn-Clary, who has overcome so many more challenging and exceedingly dangerous obstacles during his young life. Born Toka Kahn, he knew very little about his real mother as a child, even admitting to not knowing how many siblings he has today. His father moved to Philadelphia and in 1998, when Toka was six, his father brought him and his younger sister there to live with him. Sadly, though, his father was later shot to death, leaving Toka and his sister alone. In 2000, they moved to Providence (RI) to live with a family that, frankly, didn’t really care what happened to them. All signs led to Kahn falling in with the wrong crowd and getting into serious trouble. He was homeless for a while but, fortunately, he found boxing and that became his salvation.
Kahn was saved the day a friend took him to Manfredo’s Gym, then located in Pawtucket, RI, where trainer Manfredo, Sr., USA Boxing/New England president Jim Perella and the couple that eventually adopted him, Andrea Watson and Ron Clary, completely changed his once-hardened life.
Before he was adopted, no matter the weather, Toka rode his bike six or seven miles each way to the gym from his make-shift residence, which didn’t even have electricity. He never told anybody, never complained. One day Andrea told the quiet, private kid in the gym that Christmas was coming and she had a present for him – an extra bedroom.
Toka developed into a decorated U.S. amateur boxer, collecting numerous medals at national tournaments, highlighted by his gold-medal performance at the 2010 U.S. National Golden Globes Championships. He was also a silver medalist at the 2009 National Golden Gloves Championships and 2011 U.S. National Championships, as well as a bronze medalist at the 2012 U.S. Nationals Championships.
“Toka is an unbelievable boxer and an even better person who’s overcome so much adversity,” DeRobbio commented. “Now, with a better support team then he’s ever had, there’s no stopping him. I will give this young man 150-percent.”
Having won his last two fights against Mario Antonio Macias and Francisco Medel, both by knockout, Kahn-Clary is getting back to where he was before suffering his only pro loss, as one of the top prospects in boxing, and going beyond. Only now a living legend has his back, Evander Holyfield. The sky’s the limit!