Featherweight prospect Toka Kahn Clary returns to action this Friday night on CBS Sports Network, and he’ll be taking to the ring in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, for the first time since his professional debut in 2012.
Kahn Clary (23-1, 16 KO) will be facing another young fighter on the rise, John Vincent Moralde. For Moralde (19-0, 10 KO), from the Philippines, it’s anything but a home fight. It’ll be just the second time in his career that the 23-year-old Moralde has fought outside of his home country, following a 2015 win in Australia.
Promoter Evander Holyfield, the former world heavyweight champion, is familiar with the situation facing “T-Nice.”
"There's a lot of pressure fighting in a big fight for the first time at home. I remember my homecoming in Atlanta, back in 1985, and there were a lot of distractions,” he said. “Everybody who knew my name showed up, most looking for free tickets. I was skeptical about ever fighting there again. Everybody's different, though."
For Kahn Clary, 25, the fight is about more than a homecoming, as he became a father for the first time earlier this month. "Now, I'm fighting for my family, not just Toka anymore,” he said.
One has to wonder, too, if the pressure of impressing will get to Kahn Clary, who suffered an upset setback in September 2016, when he was knocked out in 90 seconds by Jhon Gemino. Since then, he’s won four straight, three by stoppage.
“I feel good. I had to have patience and faith in my craft to get here,” he said. “If you keep working hard, doors will open, and when they do you have to jump right through. I want to win impressively, dominate the fight.”
“Toka is a top prospect who is becoming a contender. A lot of fighters don't even get to this point,” trainer Peter Manfredo Sr said. “This fight is a major opportunity to get him closer to where he wants to be, not just a world champion, but for his name to be remembered in boxing. He wants to be a legend. He has to remain focused because this is the first time he'll have a big crowd behind him.”
"Toka may be our first world champion,” Holyfield added. “He's a very disciplined person who has been through a lot. I come from the ghetto but, when I heard his story, wow, I couldn't believe his (life) was harder than mine."
"I see a lot of top fighters in my weight class. I'm not going to name any until after this fight, but I have the talent to beat them,” Kahn Clary said. "I want to be recognized after I stop fighting, like Evander, who everybody knows, likes and respects."