By: Robert Aaron Contreras
The main event well underway, the bell clanged to end the ninth round and that soft lull hung above the ring—that fleeting moment when both fighters simultaneously stop, their oscillating arms suddenly at a standstill. Toka Khan Clary turned away from his opponent and toward his daughter in the crowd. He blew her a kiss. This night was theirs.
With the the esteemed Freddie Roach in his corner, Clary (27-2, 18 KO) was too sharp and too fast for his opponent Irvin Gonzalez (12-1. 9 KO), winning across the board by scores of 99-91, 99-91, and 98-92. After the fight, Roach chimed in with his summary of the fight.
“He was in and out,” Roach said. “A couple rounds he took off and let the guy steal a couple. But he fought a great fight. Speed is a great asset.”
The win earned Clary the NABA super featherweight title, just a makeshift regional strap but at least made his presence felt in the 130-pound class, leaving the featherweight ranks behind for good.
“I want to thank God and my family. I want to thank Freddie and the whole Wild Card team,” Clary said after the fight. “Gonzalez is tough. I’m happy I got the win… I sill got a six pack, I’m staying here—126 be killing me.”
Clary’s gameplan was clear. He secured the center of the ring, getting off punches before Gonzalez knew what hit him. Gonzalez was too limited to keep up with Clary’s fencing work, consistently pawing out a southpaw jab before spearing a left cross down the middle.
With the approach, Clary built up an early lead and carried it across the finish line. Gonzalez had infrequent opportunities to bang up close. But after some brief exchanges in the middle part of the fight, Clary became more patient in the latter half and by this point had Gonzalez’s timing down. When the Massachusetts resident plowed forward, Clary changed levels and tossed an overhand left across his man’s chin.
The rest of the way, Clary’s pressure had Gonzalez on the ropes: sticking out a right hand and following it up sweeping right and left hooks. Sometime in the tenth round, the ref had to separate the choppy smothering going on but there was no doubt who the fight belonged to.
Clary has now won back-to-back fights—both under Lou DiBella’s promotional banner—including eight of his last nine since a shocking KO defeat in 2016 to Pinoy sparkplug Jhon Gemino. He has been dealt just one more loss since then, a points defeat last year to Kid Galahad in what was a title eliminator.
Still only 27, his trek to a world title at 130 pounds is now underway.
Alicia Napolean-Espinoza def. Schemelle Baldwin by fourth-round TKO
Alivia Napoleon-Espinoza (12-1, 7 KO) is still the WBA champion after defending her title over Schemelle Baldwin (3-1-1, 2 KO), routing the challenger in four rounds.
The super middleweight champion since a decision victory over Hannah Rankin, “The Empress” Espinoza extended her winning streak to five straight and showed off her punching power in the process.
To Baldwin’s credit, with just four fights under her belt, she immediately took the center of the ring in the opening frame. She looked slick, sitting behind her shoulder ala Floyd Mayweather, but Espinoza’s stickler of a jab closed distance and rattling left hooks easily gave the defending champion the round.
Espinoza took control early in the second round, opening with a long body jab. She hooked off her jab well, stepping to her left almost simultaneously to avoid return fire. It would become clear that attrition is her game, boxing wonderfully to start before eventually forcing her opponent to succumb to her imposing physicality.
As such, Espinoza’ really poured in on in the third and fourth rounds. At 1:30 of the fateful fourth round, punches clinked off Baldwin who could not muster up any offense of her own and referee Al LoBianco waves things off, stepping between the lioness and her prey.
Napolean-Espinoza continues to be a real attraction in the Tri-State area, competing between Queens, Brooklyn, New York, and now Connecticut.
Another Connecticut favorite in Helen Joseph, by way of Nigeria, also triumphed over her competition. Joseph (17-3-2, 10 KO) pitched a shutout over six rounds, winning 60-53 three times over, defeating a young Hungarian by the name of Martina Horgasz (5-4, 4 KO). She is now unbeaten in her last six bouts.