Boxing legend Holyfield endorses Kahn-Clary

Boxing legend Holyfield endorses Kahn-Clary

Former four-time world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, left, congratulates Toka Kahn-Clary after he captured the WBC USNBC featherweight title in the main event of last Friday night’s boxing show at The Strand in Providence. Fighting in Rhode Island for only the fifth time in 25 pro fights, the former Shea High student recorded a seventh-round technical knockout. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Former Shea student wins WBC USNBC championship at Strand boxing show

PROVIDENCE – When a former four-time world heavyweight champion, who is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, thinks the world of you, that means something.

And Evander Holyfield, who was in the area last week to promote last Friday night’s “Real Deal Championship Boxing V” card at The Strand Ballroom & Theater, thinks very highly of Toka Kahn-Clary, a former Shea High student and former Pawtucket resident who is the World Boxing Association’s 14th-ranked featherweight boxer.

“Of all the fighters we have – and we have 36 – I would say he’s the best one so far,” said Hall of Fame fighter Holyfield, who, along with longtime promoter Sal Musumeci, head up Real Deal Sports & Entertainment. “This young man just has the determination. He’s carrying himself really well, he’s family oriented, and he’s a person you could be proud of.”

Holyfield and Rhode Island fight fans were certainly proud of Kahn-Clary after he handed WBC Asian Boxing Council champion John Vincent Moralde his first defeat in 20 pro fights in last Friday’s 10-round main event, as Kahn-Clary, who lives in Providence, captured the vacant WBC USNBC featherweight title with a seventh-round technical knockout that was televised live on CBS Sports Network.

Kahn-Clary’s victory capped a historic night that not only saw The Strand host its first boxing card in 20 years – Nov. 26, 1997, had been the last show – but also saw the 25-year-old fighter win his biggest title to date while fighting in his home state for only the fifth time in 25 career fights.

“It’s a great experience,” Kahn-Clary said. “I never had anything like this before. It feels good to be back home, and it’s important because my family and friends see me doing this all the time. They see everything on Facebook and Instagram and they’re always supporting me, and when they actually get to come and see me, it’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking too, because you want to look a certain way, but it’s more exciting.”

Kahn-Clary, who spent his freshman and sophomore years at Shea before transferring to E3 Academy and graduating from the Providence school, certainly looked good in taking down Moralde (19-1, 10 KOs) and improving to 24-1 (17 KOs). The story of this fight was the potent body shots Kahn-Clary landed on his Filipino opponent, especially during the last five rounds, and they were so effective that Moralde, who decided enough was enough, was unable to come out for the eighth round and quit on the stool.

“My trainer (Peter Manfredo Sr.) told me after the second and third rounds to keep going to the body, and I hit him with some good body shots,” Kahn-Clary said.

That victory not only capped a very eventful 2017 for Kahn-Clary, but it’s also erased the sting from the night of Sept. 23, 2016. That’s when Kahn-Clary suffered his first pro loss after racking up 19 victories when an unknown fighter, Jhon Gemino, knocked him out with a right hook in the first round of their fight in Kissimmee, Fla.

After that defeat, the Las Vegas-based Top Rank Boxing, who had Kahn-Clary in its stable since he turned pro in 2012, released him from his contract.

But Kahn-Clary came back to claim his next two fights near his backyard, knocking out Mario Antonio Macias less than three months later at Twin River in Lincoln and Francisco Medel on May 13 at Plainridge Park Casino, in Plainville, Mass. After his win over Medel, he signed a three-year contract with Real Deal Sports & Entertainment, and on June 24, he made an impressive national television debut for Real Deal by posting an eight-round unanimous-decision victory over Angel Luna in Louisville, Ky.

On Oct. 19, Kahn-Clary fought in his first main event in Atlanta, Holyfield’s hometown, in front of another nationally televised audience, and he delivered a second-round knockout of then-unbeaten David Berna to capture the vacant WBA North American Boxing Association championship.

Two notables Kahn-Clary recalled from that fight: It came on Holyfield’s 55th birthday, and when you fight in a main event ...

“They treat you really special,” Kahn-Clary said with a laugh. “They put you in a room by yourself and everything. It’s really good.”

Speaking of Holyfield, Kahn-Clary has had an excellent relationship with the legendary fighter, whose pro career, which began in 1984 and ended six years ago, saw him produce a 44-10-2 (29 KOs) record and his share of championship belts.

“It’s really good,” Kahn-Clary said. “He gives me a lot of positive advice. He’s very well respected everywhere he goes, and I’m just blessed to be part of his team. They opened a lot of doors for me.”

And what does Holyfield and Real Deal Sports & Entertainment think of Kahn-Clary?

“We want Toka to be our first world champion, and this performance should put him in good position,” he reported to the media after Friday’s win. “It’s very important to build his fan base at home in Providence, and we look forward to promoting here in the near future.”

Outside the ring, Kahn-Clary has experienced a few more highlights. Two months ago, he got married to Divani, and three weeks ago, their daughter, Adeline, was born.

And Kahn-Clary, who had switched trainers in 2016, reunited with Manfredo Sr. after his loss to Gemino, and he’s valued his time with the veteran trainer, whose gym, which had been on Conant Street in Pawtucket before moving to Narragansett in 2013, is now located on Park Avenue in Cranston.

“After I lost my first fight, I didn’t know what to do with my career,” said Kahn-Clary, who lives “literally two minutes down the road” from the gym. “I was just in a fog. I just needed to get my head right. Leaving Peter wasn’t the right thing to do. I sat down, I thought about it, and we just talked and we patched it up. You’ve been seeing us together for a long time, and you will see us together for a lot longer.”


E-Cubed Academy in Providence is so proud of Toka, a member of our graduation class 2011!