Top prospect, survivor Toka Kahn Clary returns on Saturday
This is the sport that exists for the busted souls, the ones broken by fates’ sledgehammer-right, but who still want to soldier on.
Boxing can be that glue, to help souls repair, and give the busted ones a reason to keep marching, when laying down in surrender seems an alluring choice.
Toka Kahn Clary (17-0 with 11 KOs) is a proud soul and I wouldn’t paint him with the broken soul brush. But if he let his guard down, and delved into his pool of emotions, I think he’d have plenty to process.
The 23-year-old Top Rank fighter, who is trained by Peter Manfredo Sr., gloves up Saturday night against Gabino Cota (18-5-1, 16 KOs) in Studio City, California.
We chatted a couple days ago and he told me about this fight. H also offered his take on his three years as a pro and his future prospects. And he touched on, lightly, some personal matters.
He and his parents came from Liberia, their homeland, about six years ago. They set down in Philadelphia, ready to soak up some of that American Dream. Fate crooked a sinister finger, though. Toka’s dad was shot and killed in Philly. “My father died,” is how the fighter put it to me.
Now he makes Rhode Island home and fighting is his glue. He remembers a bit of life in Liberia; “war was going on… So now I appreciate America, one hundred and ten percent.”
See that? Not bitter at what was taken from him, in brutally violent fashion. The kid sees the bright side of his existence.
I asked the esteemed matchmaker Bruce Trampler to help give me a sense of TKC the fighter. “Toka was a very good amateur (131-11), slow to develop but is getting better and learning his craft,” the Hall of Famer told me. “As a Liberian with no fan base and not Hispanic, we have invested in him for several years and hope to turn him loose a little later this year. Good kid, good trainer. Has a chance. Just needs experience.”
TKC told me he’s quite happy with how busy Top Rank is keeping him. And is definitively one to watch? “Am I a future star? Oh definitely,” he told me. “I’ve got all the tools, I’ve been doing this since I was 14. My time will come.”
Trainer Manfredo spoke of the Saturday off-TV test.
“Cota may have lost four of his last six but they were all title fights or on television against name opponents,” he said. “He has some pop, throws a zillion punches and just keeps coming forward. This is a good step up for Toka. Toka is ready for this fight. He’s had a lot of good sparring. Toka is aggressive, well-conditioned, a good defensive fighter who can crack. There wasn’t a 10-round fight available on this card but we wanted this fight. Toka’s still only 23 so there’s no reason to rush things.”
The fighter concurs. “Cota’s a real tough Mexican,” he said. “He throws a lotta lotta punches. He’s coming to win. It’s going to be an interesting fight. I’m ready for him. I will run him into a shot. Hit him to the body, early too. If the KO comes, I go for the kill. If not, I can box too. And a step up fight? It’s up to my team. I feel ready now. And at 126 there are real good fights. A year from now, whoever is in front of me!”