Nigerian Boxer Brings Power

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of,

004 IMG_8291 Kayode Lateef “Power” Kayode  recorded an impressive 10-round unanimous decision victory on an exciting night of fights on ShoBox: The New Generation on SHOWTIME®. The unbeaten cruiserweight Kayode (17-0, 14 KOs) proved too much for Matt “Too Smooth” Godfrey (20-3, 14 KOs) Friday night at the Chumash Resort Casino. Kayode controlled the entire fight and sent Godfrey to the canvas a total of three times, eventually winning by scores of 98-90, 97-90, 98-89.

With Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach in his corner, Kayode has officially “graduated” from ShoBox, according to ShoBox color commentator and boxing expert Steve Farhood. “Kayode is what he is,” Farhood said. “Boxers are always going to give him trouble, but he graduated tonight. And now he can aim for bigger things than ShoBox, which is a compliment.”

Kayode, of Hollywood, Calif., by way of Lagos, Nigeria, knocked Godfrey to the floor in rounds one, five and nine with a devastating display of body shots and power punches to the head of Godfrey. “I thought we would finish (Godfrey) off earlier, but he took some good shots,” Roach said. “It’s OK we went the distance. (Kayode) needs rounds. Overall I thought it was a good performance.”

Added Kayode, who won for the fifth time at Chumash and the third time in a row: “We said we were going to cut off the ring and that’s what we did. People here know what I can do now. They’ve seen what I can do. Now it’s on to bigger things.”

Kayode, 27, is now regarded as one of the sport’s elite prospects, which is quite a change from just a few years ago when he was stranded in New York. Accompanied by two friends, he came to the United States from his home in Lagos, Nigeria, to fight in a pre-Olympic tournament in Chicago.

Because of a miscommunication, when the three Nigerian men arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, there was no one there to meet them. They spoke no English and had no idea how to communicate to anyone whom they were, what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.

Kayode met several unscrupulous people along the way, all of whom identified themselves as players in boxing who would help him advance his career. Each only served to make the matter worse; he bounced around the country from city to city, essentially chasing false dreams. “For me to tell you that story, it would take days to go through everything,” Kayode said in his deep baritone. “It was a very difficult time in my life.”

He was working at a gym in Los Angeles, expecting to meet another potential manager, when he became acquainted with Steve Feder. Feder’s only connection to boxing had been as a fan, though his father had briefly managed fighters years ago.They struck up a friendship and Feder eventually agreed to become Kayode’s manager. Feder saw Kayode as a talent with frighteningly good power, but he was also very raw. Kayode only began to box when he was in his late teens in Nigeria, and only then because he kept getting mugged by gangs in a rough section of Lagos.

Feder believed Kayode had the talent to succeed at the highest level, but he also needed to be taught the game. And so he directed him to Roach, the four-time trainer of the year and perhaps today’s leading trainer. “Lateef has been blessed with a natural gift of power,” Roach said.

Kayode is well known to the frequenters of Roach’s now-famous Wild Card Boxing Club on Vine Street in Hollywood. He’s as diligent a worker as there is at the gym, which is saying something since one of the fighters who works there regularly is Roach’s prized pupil, Manny Pacquiao.

Kayode promoter Gary Shaw, who is convinced that Roach will be able to lead Kayode to a championship, said that the two will get plenty of private time soon. That, Shaw added, will lead to a huge improvement in Kayode. Roach had been devoting most of his time to training Pacquiao and Amir Khan, the World Boxing Association super lightweight champion who will defend his title against Marcos Maidana on Dec. 11 in Las Vegas.

After the Khan-Maidana fight, Roach won’t have to split his focus and will be able to direct all of his wisdom toward Kayode. “Manny is in the Philippines and Freddie will be done with Amir soon, and then you’ll see a marked improvement in Lateef,” Shaw said. “Lateef is still very raw and needs a lot of time refinement, which he’ll get by working with Freddie.”

Shaw compared Kayode’s tools and raw power to one-time top heavyweight prospect Ike Ibeabuchi, who was perhaps the most gifted heavyweight in the world but couldn’t stay out of trouble. Ibeabuchi is now serving a long sentence in a Nevada prison, his boxing career over. Ibeabuchi was 20-0 with 15 knockouts. Many considered him the fighter who would be able to knock off Lennox Lewis.

Shaw said that Kayode has the kind of raw power and athleticism that made Ibeabuchi so big in the 1990s. “Lateef’s punching power is very much like Ike and is what I would call spectacular,” Shaw said. “After he’s with Freddie for a while, he’s going to be scary good.” And if that comes true, Feder will be rewarded for his faith in a guy who had almost run out of options. The two have forged a close bond and each says they’re looking forward to making a run at the championship together.

It might have been crazy that day at Kennedy Airport to view Kayode as an undefeated world champion, but no more. Now, Kayode is an elite prospect who is good enough that he may be less than a year away from a title shot. “Lateef is an amazing guy, and to be able to share this journey with him is my pleasure,” Feder said. “He’s in love with boxing. He’s in love with the gym. It’s hard to find a guy who cares about what he does and about improving so much. It’s his dream to win the title, and I’m just fortunate to be a small part of the process.”