Wendy Toussaint drives a bus to pay his bills while he pursues a bigger dream in the boxing ring. NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost; Additional footage: Star Boxing/Spencer Bernard

Boxer Wendy Toussaint says the question kids on his Deer Park school bus always want an answer to is a simple one.

“They're always asking me if that hurts, does the punch hurt, when you get hit,” he said.

Toussaint said he tells them, “A little bit.”

But, not as much as it hurts when he hits someone.

Born in Haiti, raised in Cayenne, French Guiana, Toussaint emigrated to the United States when he was about 20 — and has been a professional fighter since 2013.

On Friday night, Toussaint, 31, of Huntington, will put his WBA Continental USA Super Welterweight title on the line in a 10-round championship bout against contender Mponda “The Egyptian Prince” Kalunga (11-2, 3 knockouts) — a bout that Toussaint and manager-trainer Kevin Zaharios hopes will propel the boxer into the Top 10 rankings and earn him a shot at a major title fight. The bout will be at The Paramount in Huntington. 

Certainly, it's been a long, tough road for Toussaint (15-2, 8 knockouts).

Limited amateur boxing experience back in French Guiana, coming to a new country where he didn't have contacts in the boxing world, a series of what those close to Toussaint called “management issues” that made it hard for the fighter to get on the path to a big title fight — all helped stall his journey.

“I love this kid like my son,” Zaharios said. “But it's been a long road.”

Zaharios first got together with Toussaint about seven years ago, only to have early progress hindered by the pandemic. And, due to his limited experience, he lacked name recognition — which likely caused promoters to shy away.

“Thing is,” Zaharios said, “everywhere we go, every gym we walk into, they all say the same thing: He's a world-class fighter. He's got all the tools. And I think now, where we've got him, he's got a very legitimate shot. We're looking for the next step.

“He wins this fight, he's got it.”

Toussaint, who is 5-10½ with a 71-inch reach and goes by the nickname Haitian Fire, has an easy smile, a joyous laugh — and lightning-quick hands.

“He's like a super, super nice, sweet and quiet guy,” said friend Matt Pomara, who hosts a podcast called “Life's Tough: Boxing is Tougher.”

“But in the ring? He's like a [expletive] lunatic.”

To date, Toussaint's only losses are a technical decision to USBA Super Welterweight champion Ardreal Holmes Jr. at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, a bout stopped after Toussaint was head-butted by Holmes, and a knockout loss to 2016 U.S. Olympic boxer Charles Conwell. Conwell's previous opponent, Patrick Day, died days after that bout from injuries authorities said he suffered in the ring against Conwell.

Toussaint first started boxing in Guiana after his cousin Angela went to the gym to learn to fight because she was getting picked on in the neighborhood.

“I didn't want to just sit watching her,” he said. “I said, 'I want to do this too.' And, when I did, I loved it, I liked it, and then there was this coach and he said: 'Oh, you could be a good fighter.' That was the motivation.”

Toussaint said although friends and acquaintances poked fun at his name no one ever started a fight with him over it.

Mostly, he thinks, due to his disarming personality.

And yes, Wendy is his given name.

“Sometimes, I go to my mother, I say, 'Mom, why you call me like that?' She says, 'This isn't me,' this was my father. And my father say, 'No, this is your mother [who named you].' I guess,” Toussaint, who has a brother and two sisters, said, “I don't know why they call me like that. But, in French Guiana, no one calls me Wendy. They don't.”

Toussaint, who Zaharios says is ranked 13th in the U.S. and 38th in the world, is thrilled to finally be in position to capitalize on all his hours in the gym, all his hard work.

No matter what, Toussaint will be back driving his school bus next week in Deer Park.

“I'm in two different worlds,” he said. “But I know when I'm inside the ring — and when I'm outside.” And besides, he said, “The children, they make me laugh.”

Boxer Wendy Toussaint says the question kids on his Deer Park school bus always want an answer to is a simple one.

“They're always asking me if that hurts, does the punch hurt, when you get hit,” he said.

Toussaint said he tells them, “A little bit.”

But, not as much as it hurts when he hits someone.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Wendy “Haitian Fire” Toussaint, 31, of Huntington, has been a professional boxer since 2013.
  • He will put his WBA Continental USA Super Welterweight title on the line Friday night in a 10-round championship bout against contender Mponda “The Egyptian Prince” Kalunga at The Paramount in Huntington. 
  • Toussaint, who was born in Haiti and raised in Cayenne, French Guiana, is a bus driver for the Deer Park School District.

Born in Haiti, raised in Cayenne, French Guiana, Toussaint emigrated to the United States when he was about 20 — and has been a professional fighter since 2013.

On Friday night, Toussaint, 31, of Huntington, will put his WBA Continental USA Super Welterweight title on the line in a 10-round championship bout against contender Mponda “The Egyptian Prince” Kalunga (11-2, 3 knockouts) — a bout that Toussaint and manager-trainer Kevin Zaharios hopes will propel the boxer into the Top 10 rankings and earn him a shot at a major title fight. The bout will be at The Paramount in Huntington. 

Certainly, it's been a long, tough road for Toussaint (15-2, 8 knockouts).

Limited amateur boxing experience back in French Guiana, coming to a new country where he didn't have contacts in the boxing world, a series of what those close to Toussaint called “management issues” that made it hard for the fighter to get on the path to a big title fight — all helped stall his journey.

“I love this kid like my son,” Zaharios said. “But it's been a long road.”

Pandemic hinders progress

Zaharios first got together with Toussaint about seven years ago, only to have early progress hindered by the pandemic. And, due to his limited experience, he lacked name recognition — which likely caused promoters to shy away.

“Thing is,” Zaharios said, “everywhere we go, every gym we walk into, they all say the same thing: He's a world-class fighter. He's got all the tools. And I think now, where we've got him, he's got a very legitimate shot. We're looking for the next step.

“He wins this fight, he's got it.”

Toussaint, who is 5-10½ with a 71-inch reach and goes by the nickname Haitian Fire, has an easy smile, a joyous laugh — and lightning-quick hands.

“He's like a super, super nice, sweet and quiet guy,” said friend Matt Pomara, who hosts a podcast called “Life's Tough: Boxing is Tougher.”

“But in the ring? He's like a [expletive] lunatic.”

Wendy Toussaint trains at Heavy Hitters Boxing Fitness and MMA in...

Wendy Toussaint trains at Heavy Hitters Boxing Fitness and MMA in Ronkonkoma on Feb. 17. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

To date, Toussaint's only losses are a technical decision to USBA Super Welterweight champion Ardreal Holmes Jr. at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, a bout stopped after Toussaint was head-butted by Holmes, and a knockout loss to 2016 U.S. Olympic boxer Charles Conwell. Conwell's previous opponent, Patrick Day, died days after that bout from injuries authorities said he suffered in the ring against Conwell.

Toussaint first started boxing in Guiana after his cousin Angela went to the gym to learn to fight because she was getting picked on in the neighborhood.

“I didn't want to just sit watching her,” he said. “I said, 'I want to do this too.' And, when I did, I loved it, I liked it, and then there was this coach and he said: 'Oh, you could be a good fighter.' That was the motivation.”

Ranked 13th in U.S.

Toussaint said although friends and acquaintances poked fun at his name no one ever started a fight with him over it.

Mostly, he thinks, due to his disarming personality.

And yes, Wendy is his given name.

“Sometimes, I go to my mother, I say, 'Mom, why you call me like that?' She says, 'This isn't me,' this was my father. And my father say, 'No, this is your mother [who named you].' I guess,” Toussaint, who has a brother and two sisters, said, “I don't know why they call me like that. But, in French Guiana, no one calls me Wendy. They don't.”

Toussaint, who Zaharios says is ranked 13th in the U.S. and 38th in the world, is thrilled to finally be in position to capitalize on all his hours in the gym, all his hard work.

No matter what, Toussaint will be back driving his school bus next week in Deer Park.

“I'm in two different worlds,” he said. “But I know when I'm inside the ring — and when I'm outside.” And besides, he said, “The children, they make me laugh.”

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