Nineteen-year-old Toka Kahn-Clary, of Providence, qualified to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials by capturing a Silver Medal at last week’s 2011 USA Boxing National Championships in Colorado Springs.
Kahn-Clary, who now sports a 76-8 amateur career record, travels again later this week to compete in the final Pan-American Games Qualifier in Panama City. He is attempting to qualify for the 2011 Pan-Am Games, October 17-30, in Mexico.
At the double-elimination U.S. Olympic Team Trials, July 31-August 6 in Mobile, Alabama, Toka will be rated No. 2 in the 132-pound division. The winners there in each of the eight divisions will become members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, which will participate in the 2011 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan to qualify for competition in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Last week at The Nationals, Kahn-Clary won four of five matches, including a 23-22 semi-finals victory against No. 1 seeded Kenneth Sims, Jr., in what arguably was the best match of the entire tournament.
In the championship match against defending champion Jose Ramirez, the two boxers were deadlocked after one round but Toka took an eight-count due to an unintentional head-butt in the second, and they went toe-to-toe in the third and final round. Ramirez captured gold, 28-20, for the second year in a row.
“Toka gained a lot of respect,” Kahn-Clary’s coach Peter Manfredo, Sr. reported. “The best trainer in the world, Freddie Roach, presented awards to both boxers after their match and he said to me, ‘A helluva fight and your kid can really fight.’ It was quite a compliment coming from Freddie. Toka was at the top of his game in the semi-finals. He was sharp: hand speed, accuracy, and intelligence.
"Toka was unbelievable and I think he would have been named Most Outstanding Boxer of the tournament if he had won gold. Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials was a great accomplishment. He’ll be matched in the opening round against the No. 7 seed. Ramirez will be No. 1 but one more spot will be determined this weekend to complete the eight-boxer field.”
Kahn-Clary, a Liberia-native who moved to Providence 12 years ago, had already captured top honors in the 132-pound lightweight division this year at the at the New England Tournament of Champions at Foxwoods Resort Casino (CT), New England Golden Gloves Tournament in Lowell (MA), and Northeast Regional Championships at Lake Placid (NY).
Last year in the 123-pound bantamweight class, Kahn-Clary captured a gold medal of the National Golden Gloves Tournament, as well as bronze in The Nationals.
If Toka earns a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, he will become the third straight Olympic boxer from Rhode Island, joining Jason Estrada and Demetrius Andrade from the 2004 and 2008 squads, respectively.