Toka Kahn Clary Picks Up Easy Win; Napoleon-Espinoza Retains Title
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.
Alicia Napoleon Enters The Spotlight
By: Hans Themistode
With Claressa Shields taking her talents all the way down to the Jr Middleweight division, it has left a gaping hole. One that Alicia Napoleon is looking to fill.
Napoleon, (11-1, 6 KOs) currently holds the WBA Super Middleweight crown and is looking to defend her title against Schemelle Baldwin (3-0-1, 2 KOs) on August 29th, at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket.
With just four professional fights under her belt, Baldwin would seem to be an easy win for the current WBA belt holder. However, having sparred against her and acknowledging the accolades she has managed to win in the amateur ranks, Napoleon knows that this contest will be anything but easy.
“She has a great amateur background,” said Napoleon. “She has also won three golden gloves. I’ve sparred in the past with her so she might be new as a pro but she a really good fighter.”
There is currently a stigma surrounding women’s boxing. One that indicates that most of their contest end with the judges decision being announced.
As of now, women’s fights are contested in two minute rounds as opposed to the three minute rounds that are afforded to the men. Many believe that the shorter duration of time that the women have to work with leads to less knockouts. Napoleon on the other hand, begs to differ.
“I think women are built with more tenacity than men. I think we’re tougher and more durable. I mean we are built to bare babies so we can definitely endure a lot of pain. Maybe our strength won’t match a man’s strength but I feel that our tenacity is through the roof.”
It is hard to argue with the sentiments spewed by Napoleon. With her contest just two weeks away, Napoleon is fully focused on defending her title. Be that as it may, she can’t help but give her opinion on another big fight that is on the horizon.
Heather Hardy and Amanda Serrano are set to face off on September 13th, at Madison Square Garden. Napoleon is friends with both fighters and gave her take on what she is expecting in that contest.
“I’ve heard that Amanda hits like a mule and she is super strong. She is a really sweet girl to,” said Napoleon. “I love Heather, I’m a big fan, I work with her and I consider her a friend. She has a ridiculous chin. I think people are going to be underestimating Heather in that fight but a lot of people are going to be surprised. It’s going to be a helluva fight.”
Hardy vs Serrano is a must watch contest, but Napoleon vs Baldwin is a can’t miss fight as well. According to the current WBA world title holder, her upcoming contest will only go one way come fight night.
“I think that she is going to come in confident and strong. I am going to use all of my attributes in that ring. I can box and I can brawl and when I get the opportunities I will take them and win this fight.”