Undefeated featherweight prospect Toka “T-Nice” Kahn-Clary (16-0, 10 KOs) may be the best, relatively “unknown” prizefighter in the country, at least outside of New England.
A decorated American amateur who had a 131-11 record, highlighted by a gold-medal performance at the 2010 National Golden Gloves Tournament, Kahn-Clary returns to the ring this Friday night (Nov. 20) at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas against Mexican opponent Sergio “Cuatito” Lopez (19-9-1, 13 KOs) in what is supposed to be Kahn-Clary’s last scheduled eight-round bout before he graduates to 10-rounders.
“He’s a tough Mexican fighter who can box a little on the outside,” Kahn-Clary spoke about his next opponent, “but he comes forward, too. He’s experienced and has been in with a lot of good opponents.”
Lopez is a serious test for any prospect. His last three fights include a loss to 18-0 Alejandro Luna (KO4) this past August, 10-round split draw with 24-7-1 Joksan Hernandez, and a stunning fifth-round technical knockout of 16-0 Victor Betancourt.
“Lopez is a gamer,” Kahn-Clary’s head trainer Peter Manfredo, Sr. added. He’s tough but our plan is for Toka to take him apart and eventually take him out. Toka’s not far away from a really big fight, maybe 8-10 months. We were offered a big fight but, we need one 10-round fight first, and he get that fight early next year.”
Kahn-Clary, fighting out of Providence, is coming off his most notable victory as a professional last June, in which he stepped up in class to take on 33-11 Jonathan Perez, the former Colombian super bantamweight and World Boxing Council (WBC) champion. Kahn-Clary stopped Perez in the sixth round of their fight on a card headlined by Timothy Bradley’s interim world welterweight title win over Jessie Vargas at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The 23-year-old, who was born Toka Kahn, will never face obstacles in the ring more difficult to overcome than his early life experiences. Now a blue-chip prospect, he was born in Liberia and came to America with his younger sister to join their father when he was only six. He lived in Philadelphia only one year before his father was killed in a shooting. Toka’s arduous journey continued as he and his sister moved to Providence, where they lived with foster parents who, frankly, didn’t care what happened to them.
All signs pointed to Toka getting in trouble on the Providence streets as a youngster, particularly at times, when he was homeless. Fortunately, though, a friend brought him to Manfredo’s Gym in Pawtuckert, RI. Boxing truly saved his life. Manfredo, USA Boxing New England president Jim Perella and the couple that eventually adopted him, Andrea Watson and Ron Clary, dramatically changed his life.
Kahn-Clary signed a promotional contract with Top Rank, which, along with manager Mike Criscio and Manfredo, have moved Kahn-Clary at a steady, upward pace. Kahn-Clary, incidentally, will be fighting for the third time this year, after having five last year.
“Top Rank has done a good job keeping me busy,” southpaw Kahn-Clary commented. “I know that it takes time to climb the ladder and I still need to improve a few things. I need to beat a top fighter to get into the world rankings. I’ll be ready when I get that call.
“I’m ready right now for a 10 or 12 round fight. I’ve done a lot of sparring to help me get ready to step up. I’m excited about fighting 10 and 12 round fights because it’ll be a test for me and I love to be test. The top guys in my division are the (Gary) Russell, (Vasyl) Lomachenko and (Leo) Santa Cruz. I have the skills and heart to compete with them.”
Quality sparring in New England is at a premium, especially for a smaller-weight fighter such as Kahn-Clary, who has gained invaluable experience sparring with WBA super featherweight Javier Fortuna (29-0-1, 21 KOs), three-time US Olympian Rau’shee Warren and his fellow New England and friend, New Haven’s Luis “KO King” Rosa (21-0, 10 KOs).
“Peter (Manfredo) and me travel to Worcester (MA) and Connecticut to get good work,” the gifted boxer-puncher Toka-Kahn explained. “It’s been a great help for me. I’ve gotten a lot of valuable experience in there with fighters like Fortuna and Warren. I’ve seen their ring generalship, their movement, and I’ve learned from them. They’re smart. I’ve learned from them, even try to copy them. It’s not just about sparring, which is a learning experience. If you don’t learn from sparring, all you’ll ever be is a sparring partner.”
Manfredo has been around and he realizes that his prize student, Kahn-Clary, will need to go away to training camp for good sparring when he starts fighting 10-rounders. “I’m good friends with Freddie Roach and we’ll go out to California and train at the Wild Card Gym,” Manfredo concluded. “I’m very happy with the way Toka’s been moved. I have faith in Brad Goodman, who is one of the best, if not the best matchmaker in the world. They’ve moved Toka along at a good pace. They know what they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, Toka Kahn-Clary plans to make his name in boxing next year. First, though, he has to get past Lopez this Saturday night to keep his momentum going.
Follow Kahn-Clary on Twitter and Instagram @TokaKahnClary, or friend him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/tokakahn.