Boxing gets hammered quite a bit by folks who think it is a brutal exercise reserved for throwbacks and misfits with nothing else going for them but a useful amorality.
But the overwhelming majority of fighters who take part are for the most part decent souls, and most of them see the sport as not a degrading enterprise or last-resort vocation, but rather a valiant endeavor which allows them to focus on a mighty goal and give them a compelling reason for being.
Issouf Kinda is one of the decent souls; the Burkina Faso product who lives in the Bronx is one of the athletes the sport should be spotlighting that much more, because his is a quintessential American-New York immigrant tale.
The 24 year-old Kinda excelled in Africa and was hoping to make the 2008 Olympics. But the Olympic plan didn't come to fruition. He knew to make a leap, and cover ground professionally, he'd do better in the U.S., so he came here in 2007. "He had zero money in his pocket," his manager, Long Island-based Jack Stanton, told NYFightBlog. "And he didn't speak a word of English." Yet he found a gym -- you can picture Kinda making punching motions toward strangers, shrugging his shoulders, hoping they could read minds and point him to a gym -- and started teaching himself English.
He turned pro in January 2009, and has amassed a 14-0 record, with 5 KOs. Saturday night, he fights in the main event of a Joe Deguardia card in Westbury, Long Island, taking a considerable step up in competition to face off with 24-7-2 Mike Arnaoutis, a 33 year-old Astoria, Queens, boxer who is trying to get back to contender status.
Stanton, whose brother Larry is remembered as a decent welter who boxed from the '60s to the early '80s, clearly adores Kinda. He said the boxer works full-time at a soul food restaurant in Harlem, and then trains after that. Stanton said that the eatery boss tells him Kinda is the type who eagerly accepts any and all tasks with a smile.
"He's so grateful, every day, he takes out the garbage with no problem, and he does the same thing in the ring. And he supports his whole family in Africa," Stanton said. If he's not the blessed with A-grade fluidity and arsenal, Stanton said he makes up for it with willpower. "He has more desire than 10 normal kids, and it will overcome any athletic shortcoming," Stanton said.
Arnaoutis was on a severe slide, losing to Victor Ortiz on 2009, starting a five-losses-in-six-fights skid. But he's won his past two, and has to know that his chances to get back to a decent place are getting scarce. Kinda will be scheduled for 10 rounds for the first time. The scouting report on Kinda tells us that Arnaoutis best be ready to rumble, and keep up a stiff pace, the whole 10.
The card unfolds at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, located at 960 Brush Hollow Road. First bell is 7:30 p.m.