Boxing Dishonored: The Backstory on Estrada vs. Adkins

Seniesa Estrada squared off against Miranda Adkins in the third fight of the evening on DAZN's July 24 return to boxing.

Estrada, age 28, has a 19-0 (8 KOs) ring record and is the WBC silver female light-flyweight champion. She can fight.

Adkins, a 50-to-1 underdog, was born and raised in Kansas. She began training in martial arts at age 39 and is now 42 years old. BoxRec.com listed her record as 5 wins with 5 knockouts in five fights. Her first four opponents had been making their pro debut. She fought one of them again in her fifth outing. None of them has ever won a professional fight or lasted past the first round against a fighter other than Adkins. At present, they have a composite ring record of 0 wins and 8 losses.

Against Estrada, Adkins evinced no idea of what to do in a boxing ring and never threw a punch. She got hit with six of the seven punches that Seniesa threw. The slaughter ended seven seconds after the opening bell with Adkins lying unconscious on the canvas.

The fight card was promoted by Golden Boy which arranged for Adkins's services through John Carden. According to Boxrec, Carden has been a boxing promoter since 2006 and has promoted shows in Missouri (23), Kansas (15 ), Iowa (1), and Nebraska (1). In recent years, Kansas has been his promotional base.

Carden's company - Carden Combat Sports - promotes itself with the tagline "The Legacy Continues." Many of it fights resemble toughman/toughwoman contests.

Carden is Adkins's promoter and de facto manger. They appear to have been married in Pololu Valley, Hawaii, on May 25, 2019, and listed Bed Bath & Beyond as their online bridal registry. Social media posts by Adkins earlier this year suggest that the couple might have since separated.

The most recent fight card promoted by Carden Combat Sports took place in Abeline, Kansas, on June 6, 2020. There were thirteen bouts - eight regular boxing matches, two bare-knuckle fights, two kickboxing fights, and one MMA contest. Two weeks before the event, the fighters were asked to fill out coronavirus participation questionnaires. At the weigh-in, their temperature was taken. That was the only coronavirus "testing" required by the Kansas Athletic Commission, whose website states, "For promoters, Kansas has never been more open for business or ready for promotions to come into the state. The commission has gone to great lengths to make our process as easy as possible and have developed several initiatives designed to help make our state more promoter-friendly."

Charles Jay is one of the best investigative journalists in sports. Between 2002 and 2005, he wrote 175 articles about boxing under the title "Operation Clean-Up."

Two years ago, Jay wrote a penetrating investigative piece that explored a 2016 fight in Missouri between a club fighter named Bryan Timmons and a young man named James Kindred. It was, Jay wrote, "perhaps the most egregious and despicable thing I have ever heard of in boxing, and I've been in and around the industry for over thirty years."

As recounted by Jay, Carden, who then ran a promotional company called Legacy Boxing, was promoting an April 16, 2016, fight card at the No Place Bar in St. Joseph, Missouri, and needed an opponent for Timmons, a 35-year-old local club fighter with a 3-7 ring record who had lost four fights in a row. Carden's solution was to book 33-year-old James Kindred, who had never boxed as an amateur or pro, as the opponent. There is no evidence that Kindred had even sparred in a gym.

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At the weigh-in (where Kindred appeared without representation), Carden was advised by Dave Callaway and his son Joey (local residents who Carden later described as “good friends” of his) that Kindred was intellectually challenged and should not be in a boxing ring.

More specifically, as Jay wrote, "Kindred is what is known as a 'special needs' individual; someone referred to in some circles as 'intellectually-challenged' or, by those not of a politically-correct nature, 'mentally retarded.'” Indeed, Kindred was so cognitively challenged that he had been allowed to compete at the 2014 Special Olympics.

"James Kindred wanted to be a fighter," Jay wrote. "Just like some of the guys he’s seen on television. The thing is, a perfectly reasonable argument can be made that he had no understanding whatsoever about what he was about to get into. Boxing is an activity where an opponent is throwing punches at you in an aggressive manner. It is hard enough to engage in this if you have not had gloves on in a competitive situation. But there is something that is absolutely essential, and that is the very specific understanding of the potential dangers that are involved. Such a thing might be referred to as the 'reality of consent.' As someone certified to be involved in Special Olympics competition, there is every reason to believe James Kindred did not possess the capacity for this."

So what happened when Carden was advised of Kindred's status?

"One would expect," Jay wrote, "that there might have been surprise and/or shock on the part of Carden, and that he would have scrapped the fight (he had thirteen scheduled) or at least sought some counsel by way of the boxing commission which had regulatory and medical personnel on hand."

But he didn't. And as Jay explained, "No one from the commission ever bothered to do the logical thing a reasonable person might do when they want to find a 'fighter' who has no professional or amateur experience, which is to perform a simple Google search. Yours truly, upon first hearing the name 'James Kindred,' was able to find his Special Olympics page through Google in less than a minute."

Fight night arrived. Then fate intervened. A local woman (Jay withheld her name to protect her privacy) was at the fights. She was friendly with Bryan Timmons and his wife. She was also a long-time Special Olympics volunteer. The woman asked Timmons’s wife who Timmons was fighting and was told that it was James Kindred. The woman knew Kindred from her work with the Special Olympics and advised the Timmonses of the situation. Bryan’s first instinct was to withdraw from the fight. He and the woman went over to Kindred to tell him, and Kindred started crying. He said that this was his dream and he didn’t want people to say there was something he couldn’t do.

Timmons then did something extraordinary. “I didn’t want to fight him,” he told Jay. "But didn’t want him to feel not good enough and was scared he would try again and who knows what?"

So Timmons went in the ring, pulled his punches, and went through the charade until the referee called a halt to the "fight" fifty-seven seconds into the second round.

“In the end, I’m glad it was me,” Timmons said. “I hated it at the time, but he could have got real hurt had it been someone else.”

Yeah. Kindred could have wound up unconscious on the ring canvas like Miranda Adkins.

BoxingScene spoke this week with Tim Lueckenhoff (executive director of the Missouri Office of Athletics).

"I had no clue at the time that he [Kindred] was a Special Olympian," Lueckenhoff said. "He passed all the pre-fight medicals including the psychological exam. The doctor who examined him didn't pick up on the intellectual problem. Technically, it's not against the law for someone with special intellectual needs to fight in Missouri, although we don't approve of it."

Then Lueckenhoff added, "Unfortunately, John Carden does a lot of shows that aren't what you'd want them to be. As far as he's concerned, it seems to be all about putting bodies in the ring without regard for the skill level or safety of the fighters. He promoted a number of shows here. And then, after this one [the Kindred fight card], we suggested that he promote somewhere else. Most of his shows since then have been in Kansas, although he did co-promote one here with Darrell Smith last year [Miranda Adkins's second fight against Shania Ward]. That one was pretty bad. The opponent didn't know what she was doing and looked like she just wanted to get paid and go back to Kansas."

That brings us to the July 24 confrontation between Seniesa Estrada and Adkins. Internet writers have heaped adjectives on the butchery, calling it "brutal ... ugly ... repulsive ... appalling ... gross ... revolting ... disgusting."

How did it come about?

Adkins was a late replacement for Jacky Calvo, who was slated to fight Estrada but suffered a knee injury two weeks before the bout.

"We wanted to do right by Seniesa and get her a fight," Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz told BoxingScene.com. "So we started calling around right away. It was hard because there's a limited number of women in her weight class; very few top fighters are willing to fight on short notice; and we're in the middle of a pandemic. Then a booking agent I called [Diaz declined to say which one] told me about Miranda. She wasn't ideal. Her age worked against her and the opposition she'd fought was extremely limited. But she was an undefeated professional boxer. So I called John Carden. We made the deal and he flew to Los Angeles with Miranda. I'll take the blame. My goal was to get a fight for Seniesa. The most important thing now is that Miranda is okay."

The fight was changed from ten to eight rounds in light of Adkins's limited experience. It could have been scheduled for eight seconds and wouldn't have gone the distance.

Clearly, the California State Athletic Commission should have been more vigilant. But there's no need to beat up on CSAC executive director Andy Foster because he's already beating up on himself.

"It's fair to criticize me," Foster told BoxingScene. "I didn't think Adkins would win. But Golden Boy brought the fight in, and I looked at her record. Five knockouts and five wins in five fights. The WBC had approved her as the opponent for one of its title fights. And even if a fighter hasn't beaten a quality opponent, if they've knocked out everyone they've fought, they might be able to fight. What can I say? I should have checked it out further. I got duped by her record and made a mistake."

DAZN wasn't responsible for making the fight. It streamed the entire card and was focused on quality control for the main event. That said; it was disheartening to hear blow-by-blow commentator Todd Grisham celebrate the knockout and triumphantly proclaim, "One of the quickest knockouts in women's boxing history. You witnessed it live here on DAZN."

John Carden is also to blame. He's an experienced boxing guy. Adkins might not have fully understood the peril she was facing. It's possible that she had never even been hit hard in the head by a world-class professional fighter before. But Carden knew what Adkins was getting into against Estrada. One assumes that the $10,000 purse weighed heavily in the decision-making process at his end.

Estrada's purse was $75,000. She did her job and showed no joy in the slaughter.

Boxing needs more vigilant regulation. Without it, malignancies will continue to spread.

Thomas Hauser's email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing  – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. He will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020.

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