by David P. Greisman
BoxingScene.com: You’ve got a fight coming up on Oct. 6. What do you think about your opponent and the fact that you’ll be fighting in Pomona?
West: “I’m glad that I’ll be fighting in my hometown after three years of fighting in other countries, mainly. I’m excited about being in my hometown, and also being on Shane Mosley’s first pro card as the main event. That was a blessing in disguise. I never saw it coming. It’s an all of a sudden opportunity that had knocked.
“I know I’m fighting Christina Ruiz. I do remember the day she fought Emily Klinefelter. They were fighting for a title in Emily’s hometown. Emily was supposed to be the one to win, and she [Ruiz] sent her into a coma, and Emily had to have open brain surgery. She hasn’t boxed since. I know Emily very well, because I used to be in the amateurs with her, and we were amateurs at the same time going to nationals together.
“After that fight, I didn’t know who Christina Ruiz was, but Emily was writing me on Facebook, telling me ‘There’s this girl named Christina Ruiz that you need to fight, Kaliesha? Can you fight her? I just got caught with a good punch.’ She was telling me to fight her, because she couldn’t win. I was just listening, like, ‘Are you OK?’ She can’t box anymore, but that’s how I remember her, and that was a while ago. I think it was about two years ago.
“My dad, even before that, always had her as someone that he knew I’d meet up with eventually because of our weight class, and we’re both in America. I’ve seen a couple tapes on her. I’m just listening to what my dad tells me on how to fight her.”
BoxingScene.com: What do you see in Ruiz? What kind of an opponent do you think she’s going to be for you?
West: “I think she’s going to be a tough Joe Frazier or George Foreman type of. I know she fights one style, and that’s get in and brawl. She’s one of those tough ones that don’t go back and don’t go down. She has a good chin. She’s just a straight out fighter, kind of like a Chavez type of fighter.”
BoxingScene.com: Is this fight personal because of what she did to your friend Emily?
West: “No, not at all. Emily wanted it to be personal. I haven’t talked to her since, but after that night I think Emily just needed some time to rest and heal and look back at things. It’s not personal to me. Back then I was a bantamweight, and I know this girl always fought at heavier weights, so I didn’t even know that I’d meet up with her. My dad’s the one that keeps track of who I fight. I just fight.”
BoxingScene.com: This is potentially a very difficult opponent. As you said, this is someone who is very aggressive, who’s naturally bigger than you, and is both of these things in your first fight in some time at 122 — I know you fought there earlier in your career. Is this too tough an opponent for your real debut at junior featherweight?
West: “You know what, with the California Athletic Commission, there is no choice. I have no choice but to fight a really tough opponent. I’ve always fought the best around the United States. Ada Velez, Ava Knight twice, even Rolanda Andrews was a real risk taker, her being so much heavier than me and having her power and being on a winning streak before she fought me. There’s never really been too tough of a fight, because I feel that I’ve always had to fight tough whenever I fight in the states because of our athletic commission. So I’m prepared, because I expected that.”
BoxingScene.com: What do you need to do to beat her?
West: “I think I have to realize my speed that I have against her and get my combinations going without giving her a breather, not allow her to set up her shots. That’s what she’s best at, is setting up her powerful shots. I definitely want to be the busier, faster fighter.”
BoxingScene.com: You have fought at this weight before, but how does it feel being four pounds above where you were previously? How are you carrying the weight?
West: “I think it’s going to be a good weight for me, because just to make 118 I was drying out like 8 pounds, and that is a lot. Normally, especially for women, you’re supposed to just dry about half of that, about four. So I would get down to about 124, and then my weight would just stop, no matter what I would do, no matter eating right, matter how much I’d run. And then I’d have to starve myself and run with the sauna suit on and then spit pounds for the last six pounds.
“So I know I’ll be more comfortable, but my dad wants to see how my performance is. But people don’t realize that I’m not a full-time boxer. I also go to school. I work a full-time job, and I box. I’m pretty sure if I could live and train and go gung-ho and be a full-time boxer that I’d probably be able to make 118, no problem. But it’s not like so that. Your body is so consumed with living a normal life that it’s twice as hard to do and to be comfortable at.
“But another thing is I’ve been making 118 since I was 14 years old. A decade later, I now have hips that I never used to have. It’s scientifically proven that women’s hips become wider to deliver babies as they grow older. So I’m not the same form. I don’t have the same form as I did when I was 14, 13. Why am I still making that weight?”
BoxingScene.com: You’re fighting near your hometown. What are the benefits of fighting close to home, and is there additional pressure that comes with fighting at home?
West: “One thing I like about when I travel is I get so tunnel vision focused because I don’t understand the language. When I was in Europe, I didn’t understand what was going on. When I was in Peru, they all spoke Spanish, and Mexico, too. So it’s easy just to stay focused. Out here, it’s like every little thing everyone says, you understand. So when people are saying, ‘Hey, you better not get knocked out, or hey I’ll be there with all my kids,’ it’s like oh my goodness. But I don’t really let it consume me.
“I like that I’m in my comfort zone, and I don’t feel out of my dynamic. If I forget something, I can just go 30 minutes home and get it. It’s more of like a safe feeling.”
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts about fighting in the main event?
West: “I feel honored to be in the main event, because it shows a lot. It says a lot about Shane Mosley Promotions alone, for them to have their very first card being a female main event, it shows that they don’t have discrimination, they don’t have sexism. They’re all about promoting the best fighters in the area that they can afford to have on their cards, regardless. I’m like being a part of any movement that’s for the positive, that’s for the better. If I’m going to be the part of a movement where a promoter has no problem promoting female fighters, then I’m thankful.”
BoxingScene.com: Is it too much to do, having work, school, training and then the publicity for being in the main event in a local card?
West: “I don’t think the average person can do it. But because I think I have like ADHD, I’m in a million different places anyway. My mind runs a million miles per hour. I think bc I’m that type of person, I can do it. I really don’t see your normal average person doing this. I don’t think they’d be able to do it. Sometimes I have breakdowns. I’m not perfect. I have breakdowns where there’s a lot of pressure, and everyone’s calling me.
“I end up isolating myself and disconnecting myself from everything: Facebook, everything. I won’t talk to anyone. And then everyone gets mad at me for not talking to them, but it makes me feel better. It kind of like rejuvenates me. It’s like taking a drink of water after a long run.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]