I crack myself up as I ask Kelly Swanson a question that I've asked her clients countless times.
"What is your prediction?" I ask the Brooklyn resident, who will glove up to fight a three-round bout for charity on Saturday night at Gleason's in Brooklyn.
"If I can fight my fight, and pull off my game plan, I can stop my opponent," she tells me on Wednesday afternoon. I don't doubt it, especially when she tells me that client Bernard Hopkins, the 48-year-old light heavyweight champion, will be working her corner.
Don't tell her foe, but she tipped me off that Floyd Mayweather's "check hook" is her favorite strike, and she could easily see that stopping her opponent, either to the body or the head.
Swanson, one of five kids, grew up in Buffalo and got into boxing after deciding in college that she wanted to get into the sports business. Swanson liked boxing, getting into it as a kid watching the 1976 Olympic Games, featuring Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinks brothers. The University of Vermont grad wanted to get a job working with Howard Cosell, the loquacious foil to Muhammad Ali, and while that didn't happen, she did meet ex-champion Jose Torres while she was working at a NYC restaurant.
Torres helped introduce her to someone at Alan Taylor Communications, the PR firm. She was there for seven years and decided to go her own way after tasked with an account which included representing a cereal brand.
"It was a reading program, going to libraries, sponsored by this cereal," she told me as I tried to get a sense of why she was choosing to glove up and fight.
She'd met Riddick Bowe while working at the Olympics in 1988, and when Bowe, a Brooklyn native, started to take off, Swanson was hired on by his manager, Rock Newman, who used to do PR for Don King. Now a DC resident, Swanson was on the Bowe merry-go-round until he left the game in 1996; she greatly enjoyed the ride, she said, which included his megabouts with Evander Holyfield, and visits with marquee names like Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II. Her association with Hopkins, the apparently ageless wonder who is defying the immutable law of aging, beating down young guns while holding the IBF light heavyweight crown, began when Hopkins fought for King.
The last couple years, she's held down the PR fort for Hopkins, as well as Mayweather, the Michigan native who signed a six-fight, $250 million-plus deal in February with Showtime. I dare say keeping those clients happy would be enough on the plate for most folks, so I asked Swanson why she's doing this. To prove something to herself? To better comprehend what her clients go through?
"First, I'm doing it for the kids," she says. "Also, the opportunity to experience something I never experienced in my career, to feel what it feels like to be in the ring and come full circle. I've worked every aspect for the fighters, their personal and professional sides. ... but I could never relate to this part, I've never done it. It's an opportunity to know that, and I already have a newfound appreciate for exactly what they do."
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