In the sport of boxing, you have the athletes that step into the ring, and the people that fight for the boxers outside of it. Whether it’s a promoter, manager, corner man, or just the family that support them as they step into battle. One underrated aspect of the game involves the people that help the boxers increase their popularity amongst fans and the media to draw interest in their fights. I recently had a chance to speak with publicist Kelly Swanson, who is the owner of the Swanson Communication, to discuss her role in the sport as head of one of the largest public relations firms who’s clients include boxing pound 4 pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr, and ageless warrior Bernard Hopkins.
During this special “On The Ropes” interview, I spoke to Kelly Swanson about how she found her way to the sport, and what it’s like being the publicist to the biggest stars in the game. Kelly also gives her views on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight never happening, working with Bernard Hopkins for over a decade, and if she could ever have imagined Bernard would be fighting to this age. Additionally Kelly spoke about the “Give A Kid A Dream” charity for which she will be stepping into the ring for on November 16th to fight for a great cause. You can learn more about the charity and donate by going to http://www.crowdrise.com/KellySwanson. Here is what Kelly Swanson had to say.
Jenna J: Kelly can you tell the fans a little about yourself and how you got into the sport of boxing?
Kelly Swanson: I grew up in Buffalo, New York and was always a big fan of boxing, and when I moved to New York city after college, I started working for a sports PR marketing firm, and some of their clients did in fact have boxing, Butch Lewis and Bob Arum were my old companies clients, and so I was able to dabble into it a little bit.
It was not until I really went out on my own that I was able to branch out and start getting more heavily involved with the boxing community and my first big client was Riddick Bowe, I did all his publicity, and one thing lead to another and I have been in boxing ever since.
Jenna: Now Kelly, you work with the biggest star in boxing today, Floyd Mayweather Jr, what is it like for you to be involved with his promotions which are huge events every time out?
Swanson: There has been at least three or four events that I have been involved with Floyd Mayweather Jr‘s career and I keep saying that I’m never going to see another one like it, and then I always see another one that’s even bigger then the last.
We just got finished with the fight with Canelo, that was just a gigantic promotion, it broke the records and we are really proud of our work, it takes a lot of work and commitment from everyone involved to put their all into it, but I have been in boxing 20 years, and I’m passionate about what I do and the part I play in this sport, so I’m very proud about what happened in September.
Jenna: There is one super event that never happened, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, why do you think that fight never happened and are you disappointed that you never had a chance to do promotion for a fight like that?
Swanson: Boxing always takes it’s twists and turns, and as the PR person I honestly do not get involved with any of the negotiations, I do know that Floyd was very serious about making sure that Manny would have agreed to blood and urine random drug testing and I don’t think that really got committed to until probably after the fact.
Everybody had their side and claimed certain things were going on, but from a major event standpoint, sure it would of been very exciting to be apart of that type of promotion, but again if something never happens you don’t know how a promotion would of turned out.
Jenna: You also do PR for Bernard Hopkins, how is it like working with someone as special as Bernard?
Swanson: That’s a perfect word for that, he’s such a special athlete and individual. Bernard teaches me more then anything else discipline, I have been with him almost ten years now, maybe a little longer and we tease each other that we are going to grow old together and we growing old together in boxing.
Every fight that he has, every day of his life, he’s disciplined in his diet, in his mental state, in his physical state, and how he treats people, in his faith, and that’s the discipline that I have rarely seen in people, including myself, so that’s a blessing to be able to work with somebody like him.
He is really good at what he does and he loves the press, so from a PR stand point he’s a really great client to have because he is willing to do pretty much anything that we need him to do from a promotion of his fight, so it’s really been a great experience to be able to work with Bernard Hopkins.
Jenna: Now, when you first started working with him, could you ever have imagined in your wildest dreams that he’d still be fighting today?
Swanson: You know, it never really crossed my mind. I know that when I first started working with him, I was a little scared of him because he was “The Executioner” back then and he was pretty mean, so it took a quick minute to get to know him, but as he’s grown with his career too, he’s matured and become a softer person, although he wouldn’t want me to say that but that’s my opinion.
He’s still very committed to his craft, but definitely has mellowed in his age and that’s how we saw “The Executioner” turn to “B-Hop” and then he had a lot of fun this last fight with renaming himself “The Alien.” Did I ever thing he would be fighting this long? No I was with him when he say at 40 years old he was retiring cause his mom said she didn’t want to see him fight past 40.
If you know boxing and you know fighters, you know that usually the first time around is not the first retirement, it’s not the last time around. I anticipated that he would have gotten back into he ring, but he’s doing so well and he’s fighting at that top level still, so I think it’s an unbelievable feat.
Jenna: Alright Kelly, lets switch things up here a little bit because I hear rumors that you, are actually going to be stepping into the ring. Are you spending a little too much time with Bernard, what’s behind this?
Swanson: Yeah, well listen, I’ve been in the sport almost twenty years and this is the first time that I’ve really thought about doing this, and as a matter of fact, I’d never looked at boxing as an alternative for my own exercise program.
I just recently moved back to New York City and Gleason’s gym is right down the street from where I live. So, early in the spring I said “You know what, I’m gonna go to the gym and start working out there and see what it will be like to just incorporate boxing into my physical activity.” So one thing led to another and I trained with Heather Hardy, who’s an undefeated female fighter who fights this Saturday in New York City on the 9th.
Gleason’s gym has this great program, the “Give A Kid A Dream” program, it’s a charity that provides boxing lessons and covers gym dues, transportation, trainers fees for disadvantaged youth in the New York City area, hoping that they’ll come and pick up boxing and then hopefully change their lives if they’re in troubled situations or if they’re just looking for something to do.
They have had a couple of amateurs that have come out of this program because of these efforts, so when I heard that it can help young kids and help boxing overall, I though “Alright, am I ready to do this?” and I said “Okay I’m gonna go ahead and try it.” It’s gonna be a great night, it’s on November 16th and it’s the “Fighters 4 Life” showcase.
It’s all as they say, white-collar boxing. We’ll enter the ring and we’ll have headgear on, it is considered an amateur bout, so I’ll have to get my amateur boxing card, which is fun too. I’m looking forward to it and I certainly hope that I win, otherwise I don’t know if I could stay in the sport much longer.
Jenna: Kelly, now that you’ve stepped in there and have been training a little bit, how has it changed your perspective on boxing?
Swanson: Boxing is really hard, there’s so much that you have to think about. It’s a lot harder than it looks, trust me because when I first got to the gym I’m like “Oh yeah, I’ve been around boxing for so long, this shouldn’t be a problem.” I had to clue how to throw a punch, let alone move and how to stand. I was just mimicking what I’ve seen from the fighters I work with and watch in boxing all these years.
My trainers are great, they’ve really helped me learn the fundamental skills of the sport. Now that I agreed to do this charity fight, it’s a whole different story, the training has intensified and I actually sparred this week with an amateur, a guy. I think he took it easy on me, but it was good to get in there and be opposite of somebody who is really standing in front of you. That’s what it’s gonna be like onNovember 16th when I’m in the ring looking at my opponent, so wish me luck.
Jenna: Can you tell the fans a little more about the “Give A Kid A Dream” program?
Swanson: Yes, it’s actually a fundraiser so I would appreciate your support. If you go to the websitewww.crowdrise.com/KellySwanson, you can donate in your name on behalf of me. We’re looking to raise as much money as possible, I have a goal of $7,500 so I’m a little less than 50% there so my last 10 day push I would greatly appreciate it.