PAWTUCKET â A strange thing happened to Toka Kahn-Clary on his way to making his pro debut earlier this month.
The Pawtucket junior lightweight was ready to debut in style â on the June 8 undercard of the marquee Kelly Pavlik-Scott Sigmon super middleweight fight at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He put in a strong training camp at Manfredoâs Gym. He and his opponent, Ivan Castellanos, easily made their weight. His fight was going to air live on ESPN2âs âFriday Night Fightsâ and a lot of his family members and friends back in Rhode Island were going to get to view it.
But when fight night finally came and Kahn-Clary was in the locker room, getting the finishing touches on his hands wrapped by his trainer, Peter Manfredo Sr. and anxiously awaiting to step in the ring, everything changed in an instant.
âAn hour before the fight, the kid I was supposed to fight came up to us and said that he didnât want to fight, that he was dizzy and he didnât feel good,â recalled Kahn-Clary. âWe really didnât know what his problem was. He just said he was sick.â
Just like that, the fight was off. Kahn-Clary was still paid for the fight, but he wasnât able to get a chance to make a strong impression in front of a sold-out arena and several dignitaries from the premier promotions company that signed him, Top Rank Boxing, Inc.
âI didnât think anything like that happened in the pros,â added Kahn-Clary. âIâve seen it happen in the amateurs, but not in the pros. I was upset because I had a lot of people who were there to see me fight. I had an opportunity to fight on ESPN2, and there were a lot of people who wanted to see me on TV. I had to explain to everybody back home what happened.â
Luckily for Kahn-Clary, he wonât have to wait long to finally make his pro debut, and he wonât have very far to travel, because on Friday night, the former National Golden Gloves champion will appear in the special attraction bout on the âTakeoverâ card that will be presented by Big Six Entertainment at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.
âIâm definitely happy,â Kahn-Clary said before his Monday night workout at Manfredoâs Gym. âI just turned 20 last Friday and it worked out really good for me. I have a lot of fans and family coming to the fight, and Iâm going to do my best to put on a good performance for them.â
Kahn-Clary will fight Jonathan Caban (0-2), who lives in Queens, N.Y., but trains out of New Bedford, Mass. Both of Cabanâs losses were via second-round knockouts to fighters who were both from Brooklyn, N.Y. and making their debuts, Scott Burrell on Dec. 16, 2010 and Angel Garcia last Sept. 23.
While most local fans who checked out Cabanâs record on boxrec.com and are expecting Caban to hit the canvas early and often, Kahn-Clary is anticipating the opposite and working hard for a battle that is scheduled for four rounds.
âI donât know much about him, but we train hard for everybody, and weâre working hard for this fight,â admitted Kahn-Clary. âYou canât take anybody lightly in boxing because you never know whatâs going to happen. You have to work hard every day no matter who youâre fighting.â
Kahn-Clary will be joined on the card by one of his sparring partners and another one of the stateâs top fighters and hardest punchers, Pawtucket welterweight Diego Pereira. He will take his 6-0-1 (2 KOs) record into a six-round showdown against one-time knockout artist William "Chino" Correa (9-5, 8 KOs) of Framingham, Mass.
Pereiraâs last fight was a true battle with another one of the regionâs top young unbeaten welterweights, Edwin Cruz (8-0-2) of New Haven, Conn. It was a spirited six-round majority draw last Nov. 5 at the Mohegan Sun Arena that many fans felt belonged to Pereira, but only saw one judge declare him a 58-56 winner and the other two each score the bout 57-57.
Correa, meanwhile, has been knocked out in three of his last four fights by boxers with a combined record of 34-2-1, and he hasnât knocked out anyone in four years.
Another 20-year-old Pawtucket fighter is also featured on the undercard, former Tolman High football standout Rameil Shelton, who will seek his first pro victory after four losses by taking on Jesus Javier Cintron (0-1-1) of Quincy, Mass. by way of Puerto Rico.
The main event features Providence heavyweight and 2004 U.S. Olympian Jason "Big Six" Estrada (18-4, 5 KOs), who will duel another former Olympian in Alex Gonzales (20-6, 10 KOs) of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico in an eight-rounder.
Estrada is coming off an impressive second-round knockout of veteran Dominque Alexander on March 9 in Providence, and Gonzales, a southpaw, is a former U.S. Boxing Association heavyweight champion who was a member of the 1992 Puerto Rican team.
Tickets are priced at $35, $45 and $75 and can be purchased by calling 241-3490, going online at www.bigsixentertainment, com or www.ticketmaster.com, or visiting at the Rhode Island Convention Center box office. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the first bout is scheduled for 7 p.m.