By Thomas Gerbasi
If you’re on this side of the boxing ropes, you know who Kelly Swanson is. From Riddick Bowe and Bernard Hopkins to Floyd Mayweather, she’s been the publicist to some of the greats, and she’s probably seen enough over the course of her career to perhaps want to step away from the sweet science once her work day is done.
Not Kelly Swanson. In fact, when she moved to Brooklyn earlier this year, she figured that she finally had the opportunity to add something new to her exercise regimen.
“I moved to Brooklyn in January, and always in the back of my head I said I wouldn’t mind doing boxing as an exercise,” she said. “I always exercised, but I never thought ‘oh, let me try boxing.’”
Yet after a trip to the storied Gleason’s Gym, she was ready to see how life was on the other side, signing up for an early morning boxing class with unbeaten up and comer Heather Hardy and her coach Devon Cormack. It wasn’t what she expected.
“They’re very serious and they teach you boxing,” said Swanson. “It wasn’t just ‘let’s exercise and throw some punches.’ So right away they taught me how to stand and all the basic elements of boxing. And I started to really like it.”
At this point, Swanson’s story mirrors that of practically everyone that decides to give the sport a try. But there’s a twist, and in less than a week, she’ll go one better than most when she steps into the ring for the first time.
That’s not a typo. On November 16, Swanson will fight a to be named opponent at Gleason’s as part of the Fighters 4 Life Showcase that will raise money for the gym’s Give a Kid a Dream program. Established in 1991, the charity takes kids from the community and puts them in Gleason’s every summer to teach them the sweet science and keep them off the streets. For Swanson, once she heard about the fight night and the charity, deciding to put the gloves on for real was something she had to do.
“It’s a great charity because they raise money to be able to give to the kids in the community,” she said. “And if you can get a couple kids off the street and turn their life around, why not?”
Why not, indeed. But wouldn’t writing a check be easier?
“I’ve been going consistently and I feel really good and comfortable with my boxing ability for a volunteer charity event, so I said okay, I’m going to do it,” said Swanson, who is hitting the gym with Hardy and Cormack on an average of four days a week.
She’s already sparred, which she describes as “very scary” and “different,” and like any of us amateurs who have stepped into the ring, she’s found out that the sport is a lot harder than it looks.
“The hardest part is how much you have to remember,” she said. “It’s just so much harder than people realize, and there’s so much more to it. It gives me a whole other level of appreciation for sure. Everyone wants to throw punches, but you have to learn how to get out of the way and move your feet. You kind of throw caution to the wind and just think offense, and they’ve noticed that I’m offensively-minded, so they’ve been teaching me how to move my head and slip punches.”
That’s the tough part. What was easier was getting a positive response from the boxing community and those close to her, all of whom have been extremely supportive, even if Hopkins was initially shocked by his publicist’s decision to fight for charity. The future Hall of Famer will be at Gleason’s this Saturday though, and a number of Golden Boy Promotions fighters Swanson works with, such as Danny Jacobs, Paulie Malignaggi, and Marcus Browne, are also expected to be in attendance.
“I got such a great response,” she said. “My mom is coming from Buffalo to see this, my sister and my brother are going to be there, and it’s a big deal. I’m really proud of this and I’m so glad people reacted the way they did. I feel surrounded by the love of my family and my friends, and my boxing family.”
It’s a situation that has almost left the publicist speechless, as she admits that she’s not particularly comfortable on the other side of the notepad. “I’m a publicist, we’re not supposed to be doing interviews, but it’s all for a good cause, and that’s the most important thing. I’m really happy that I can help these kids.”
And though she said that this is going to be her only fight, that is a statement that comes with a qualifier.
“I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pick this us way back when,” she laughs. “I think I might have been a fighter, because I do like it.”
To donate to Give a Kid a Dream, visit www.crowdrise.com/KellySwanson