Round 2 – James Kindred, a “Special” Young Man Indeed

Lower Than Low in St. Joe - A Crying Shame for the Fight Game James Kindred Special Olympian

We probably don’t have enough space to tell you how special an individual James Kindred is. Suffice it to say that he is too special to have been involved in the events of April 16, 2016 the way they were mapped out for him.

Kindred has spent much of his life overcoming obstacles and quietng doubters, achieving at a level perhaps no one expected him to.

One of his preferred activities is dancing, which he picked up while he was still in grade school. It started, by all accounts, at aunt’s wedding. James showed some raw ability. But things may have gotten a little out of control that first time, as he kicked off his show – inadvertently – getting dangerously close to hitting his grandmother in the head.

Young Kindred did not have formal training at the craft of dance, but that did not deter him. And there wasn’t a lot of shyness about it; he has always been willing to show off his moves in front of anyone who wanted to watch (“I love to dance, and I’m going to dance until I can’t dance anymore”). So it was inevitable that a “formal” audience would one day come.

He had been a contestant in the local “St. Jose’s Got Talent” competition and was a finalist in 2013. But one thing that is indisputable about James Kindred is that he is a young man of uncommon courage. So there was absolutely no equivocation about aiming for the top, before about as large an audience as would be imaginable, or at least putting forth his best effort to do so. The NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” their counterpart to Fox’s “American Idol,” was his target destination, and led him to an open audition in Kansas City a couple of years ago.

If it was fear of failure he was looking to conquer, he most certainly did it.

Affable and agreeable, James Kindred loves to have fun, enjoys the camaraderie of being around people, and does have an athletic bent. So it certainly is no surprise at all that he would be a participant in Special Olympics – since 1997, in fact.

Started literally out of her own backyard in the early 1960s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy, Special Olympics has grown into an organization that is active in 172 countries. the Special Olympics World Games, which takes place every two years, could arguably be the world’s largest sporting event, taking into consideration all the volunteers and coaches involved.

The oath of Special Olympics is, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

While one would never argue that it isn’t nice to win, for participants like Kindred there are a number of objectives. It brought something special to him: “We’re just out here, not to win, not to lose, but we’re here to have fun,” he said. “We don’t claim people as friends here, we claim people as family.”  With regard to blood relatives, though, one Special Olympics volunteer we spoke to said that she never noticed any of Kindred’s family members at his competitions.

Kindred is a good athlete, having been selected to compete in the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games. He competed for Team Missouri in flag football, along with his best friend, a boy with Down Syndrome named Tanner Hrenchir, with whom he also worked as a bag boy at a local supermarket. It was all part of a special needs employment program.

One tremendous influence on him was Kathy Grossman, the mother of a champion Special Olympics track athlete, when she was a spectator. Then she got certified as a coach. Kindred said it was a “blessing” to compete on coach Grossman’s team. He says “blessing” a lot. She said “darling” a lot, referring to her athletes.

She said, “If you ever want to be uplifted……. look right here.”

On the heels of Kindred’s latest Special Olympics activity, and his dance audition, he sought to climb another mountain; this one, in its own way, was much more daunting.

He wanted to have a professional fight. In a ring. Against a real, live professional fighter.

Such an aspiration may not be the most unusual thing in the world. Except in this case, there was a bit of a problem. Not only did Kindred not have any boxing experience, even as an amateur. He is also 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.”

Yes, that presented a problem indeed.

Now project that kind of delusion onto someone who – and we say this with all due respect – intellectual disabilities.

Somewhere along the way, James Kindred decided that there was going to be new ground to be traversed, new goals to achieve, new fears to conquer. And that led him to a boxing dream.

This is a part of the sport that appears glamorous to the pedestrian observer. It is illusory, to a large extent, but there is a tendency on the part of the layman to think he or she can “do it.”

For those not familiar with boxing, there are a couple of things that are imperative to point out. One of them – and excuse this as there is no intention to condescend – is that 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.

We’re not trying to make this series a legal argument, per se, as I am not an attorney, but 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.

Without getting too clinical about it, and without an official diagnosis, which customarily we would not be entitled to, someone with an IQ of 75 or below would generally be classified as having an “intellectual disability.” And according to the Q&A section of the Special Olympics website, “To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction.”

Keep in mind that there is a reason you don’t see hard contact or collision sports in the Special Olympics – they carry a level of risk that the competitors may not be in a position to understand.

Even though he would be considered “high-functioning,” James Kindred likely did not fully comprehend what he was asking to be involved with as he was placing phone calls to Missouri-based promoter John Carden in early 2016. He wanted to fight, and truth be told, Carden was not necessarily all that particular about who he put on the “B” side (i.e., the loser’s side) of his shows. Previous experience was not always required. Kindred had reportedly been working out at a local Title boxing club (which has since been closed) for the sake of fitness, but that consisted largely of hitting a heavy bag. He had not engaged in any sparring.

In other words, no one had punched back.

As Carden summoned him, and Kindred headed to the weigh-in, one had to wonder whether Kindred realized the seriousness of the situation; that in about 24 hours, a veteran of 15 pro fights – ten in boxing and five more in mixed martial arts – was going to be trying to punch his lights out.

Clearly John Carden had no interest in cluing him in at all.

(Both promoter John Carden and Tim Lueckenhoff of the Missouri Office of Athletics have refused to answer questions related to this series of stories)