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LINCOLN â€” Itâ€™s a 45-minute drive from Pawtucket to Manfredoâ€™s Boxing & Fitness in Narragansett for Toka Kahn-Clary and Thomas Falowo, and because of the 72 miles they have to travel roundtrip to work out with their trainer, Peter Manfredo Sr., the two often carpool back and forth each night.
But tonight, they wonâ€™t have to share a ride. Instead, they will make a short trip to the Twin River Event Center and appear in separate six-round bouts on Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.â€™s â€śHome Sweet Homeâ€ť card.
The 21-year-old Kahn-Clary, a super featherweight prospect who owns a 9-0 mark (6 KOs) and fights for Bob Arum's Top Rank Boxing in Las Vegas, Nev., will make his first appearance in his home state in 16 months when he takes on Dominican Republic native Carlos Fulgenico (19-12-1, 12 KOs).
â€śItâ€™s good to be back home,â€ť offered Kahn-Clary, who fought six times last year in five different states. â€śI have a lot of friends and family coming here and I just want to give them a good show. They know that Iâ€™ve been winning, and I just want to show them that I have also been improving.â€ť
Kahn-Claryâ€™s last fight was on Dec. 7 in Atlantic City, N.J. against another undefeated fighter, Ramsey Luna of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Luna, who was seeking his 12th victory, overcame three strong rounds by Kahn-Clary by sending him to the canvas twice in the fourth.
Nevertheless, Kahn-Clary came back in the fifth round and handled his opponent the rest of the way to score a narrow 57-55 victory on all three of the judgesâ€™ cards.
â€śThatâ€™s the first time I ever touched the canvas,â€ť said Kahn-Clary. â€śI was shocked when that happened because Iâ€™ve never been in that situation, but I had to get up and keep fighting. (Luna) was a good competitor, so I had to dig down deep, and it was good that I was able to pull it out.â€ť
Tonight, Kahn-Clary will face a battle-tested veteran in Fulgenico, who is 12 years older than Kahn-Clary and looking to stop a seven-fight losing streak, the last five losses coming to undefeated fighters.
â€śHe fought a couple of world champions,â€ť said Kahn-Clary. â€śHe comes to fight, and weâ€™re not taking him lightly. Heâ€™s a pretty good opponent and heâ€™s going to test me, but weâ€™ll be ready.â€ť
Falowo, a hard-hitting middleweight, will take a 10-2 record (7 KOs) into his battle with Jaison Palomeque, a native of Arpartado, Colombia who is 14-8-1 (9 KOs), and like Fulgenico, looking to return to his winning ways after dropping four of his last five fights.
Falowo is six months removed from his last fight, an unanimous-decision loss to Chicago native Chris Chatman, who sent Falowo to the canvas in the fourth round before holding on to win the eight-round fight by three scores of 77-75 and improve to 10-2-1. The defeat ended a four-fight win streak for Falowo.
The eight-round main event is an intriguing matchup that has raised plenty of eyebrows. It will feature a pair of 40-something super middleweights in former two-time world champion Glen Johnson, 45, and Pawtucket resident Jaime Velazquez, 42, who is making the granddaddy of comebacks and returning to the ring after a long 15-year layoff.
Velazquez (11-5-2, 6 KOs) was one of New Englandâ€™s top boxers in the mid-90s, producing an 11-1 record between 1995-97. He fought Scott Pemberton for the New England and EBA titles on March 18, 1998, but lost that fight and proceeded to go 0-3-2 over the next 16 months.
Johnson, who was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, but has lived in Miami, Fla. in the last 30 years, has a 53-18-2 (36 KOs) record, 21 years as a pro under his belt, and a superb resume that includes IBF and IBO world titles.
Johnston has also fought in 11 world-title bouts, and his stunning knockout victory over Roy Jones Jr. in 2004 came in a year he captured both the IBF and IBO belts and was named the Boxing Writersâ€™ Association of Americaâ€™s Fighter of the Year.
Another R.I. fighter on the undercard is Kevin Harrison-Lombardi, a super middleweight prospect who was a standout football player in the early 2000s at East Providence High. Harrison-Lombardi, who is 4-0-1 in his 15 months as a pro, will fight Antonio Chaves Fernandez (4-12-2) of Brockton, Mass. in a four-rounder.
Only $41 tickets remain for the show, and they can be purchased by calling CES at 724-2253/2254, going online at www.cesboxing.com or www.twinriver.com, or visiting the Players Club booth at Twin River or any TicketMaster location.
The doors open at 6 p.m. and the first bout will get under way at 7. Twin River has also waived its 18+ rule for the show, and anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and enter through the West entrance.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24