One “Extraordinary Women of the Ring”!
Krysti Rosario is one of the most dedicated individuals in the sport of boxing. You may not recognize her name but those in the amateur boxing world will quickly recognize her as one of the best USA Boxing and AIBA officials working as a referee and a judge today. With her blonde ponytail and slender build, the Southern California former fighter still maintains her championship form.
Women in boxing aren’t so rare these days, especially with females being allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time ever–beginning in London this summer. But when Krysti began her own career in combat sports, the pretty young woman had to battle against stereotypes in the fight game. With a passion for boxing, she continues to give back to the sweet science. For that, she deserves recognition.
I have wanted to do a story on the ex-athlete for a long time. I’d always run into her at amateur shows and tournaments and had also seen her in a chapter of “Extraordinary Women of the Ring” by Mary Ann Lurie Owen. We actually began this story over a year ago but then she and I both got too busy to ever catch up. With so many competitions taking place, free time was hard to find. Then as time went on, Rosario added new exciting projects and accomplishment to her already-impressive resumé! Now as the Olympic Games are on the horizon, I thought it would be the perfect time to shine the spotlight on someone who knows the ins and outs of women’s boxing very well–as both a fighter and an official.
Besides being a former champ, the New Jersey-born Krysti is also a college teacher, event coordinator, child rights advocate, commentator and much more. She had a stint helping with the L.A. Matadors Boxing Team and recently traveled to Spokane, Washington to work the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for women’s boxing, where the female elites competed in an historic competition.
A 1998 Everlast Women’s National Champion, she is a mother of two (Cody and Nicolas) who earned her Master’s Degree in sports management from Cal State Long Beach in February 2011. She is not only one tough cookie but she’s one smart lady too.
Working in a male-dominated sport is never easy. But Krysti keeps a strong stance in bringing both a professional and positive attitude in promoting boxing. She speaks her mind while maintaining class and poise. Not relying on her “California Girl” good looks, Rosario works hard at her craft. In this interview with the former boxer, hear what she thinks about the status of women’s boxing, how important it is to have role models and why she had to give up her own Olympic dreams. Meet Krysti Rosario, one of amateur boxing’s unsung heroes.
Michele Chong: Hi Krysti! I know you have a kickboxing background. But can you tell us a little about how you first became interested in boxing?
Krysti Rosario: Yes, I was competing in kickboxing and felt good and natural at it. Then my coach closed his gym. I had been going over to LA Boxing on Washington and Hope for sparring and ended up going back there to find a boxing trainer. I realized that I had to make a choice between kickboxing and boxing. Since my dream was to go to the Olympics, I figured that there was more chance that women’s boxing would be put in the Olympics before women’s kickboxing. So I ended up with a great trainer/ coach from South El Monte, Ben Lira.
MC: Your dream was to go to the Olympics (which will become a reality for women’s boxing this summer), but an eye injury forced you to stop boxing?
KR: Yes, my dream has always been to go to the Olympics. When I was in high school my dream was to go to the Olympics in track and field. I used to run sprints and loved it. But I was never fast enough. Then I was boxing and wanted to go to the Olympics but women weren’t in the Olympics yet. Then I had an eye injury and decided to call it quits. Now if we (women) were in the Olympics I would have kept going! Ironically my weight class (132 pounds) WILL be in the 2012 Olympics! But being able to referee in boxing has given me almost the same amount of satisfaction. My goal now is to get to the Olympics as a referee/judge. But who knows? Like anything else, there is politics. You can be the best referee, and if they don’t like you, then you won’t get there. Stay tuned to see if it’s in the stars for me!
MC: Who were your role models or mentors in boxing or beyond?
KR: My role model will always be my grandfather from my mother’s side. He was always there for me, when my father was not. My grandfather was great at business ,very intelligent, kind, loyal and we had a one-of-a-kind bond. Even though he died in 2000, my grandfather will always be one of the great loves of my life.
If I were to choose a “boxing” role model, it would be my coach Ben. He gives 100% of himself. Not only is Ben a coach, he is a teacher and a trainer. Not all coaches can teach, but Ben can. We didn’t always see eye to eye (I can be stubborn), but I have the utmost respect for Ben and know that what he was teaching me, helped me be the best boxer I could be.
MC: You are still extremely active and involved in the sport. Tell me about your work as a USA and AIBA official.
KR: In July 2009 I tested for AIBA (Amateur International Boxing Association). AIBA is the governing body for all Olympic-style boxing in the world. At the 2009 AIBA testing we had to take a written test, judge and referee most of the week of the U.S. Nationals. USA Boxing brought over two high-ranking AIBA’s from overseas. We also had one of our own U.S. high-ranking AIBA doing the testing as well. It was nerve-wracking, but fun at the same time. By the end of the tournament the AIBA testers had made their decision. Brent Bovell and I made AIBA. I was SO happy!
I love officiating. In particular, refereeing. I like to be close to the action. Since I am not competing anymore, it’s the second best thrill to be in the ring with these wonderful athletes.
MC: Women’s boxing was also showcased in the AIBA Dual Series in Oxnard in which you worked as an official. What was this groundbreaking event like?
The International Dual Series was a wonderful event that was the brainchild of Christy Halbert, Chair of USA Boxing’s Women’s Task Force and AIBA Women’s Committee Member. It was really well done but could have been even better if they would have followed Christy’s idea all the way. Terrell Harrison and the Oxnard PAL did a wonderful job hosting, as always. The competition was great and it was wonderful to meet everyone from Poland, Hungary, Spain, Canada and the two U.S. teams. I enjoyed refereeing and judging the event immensely.
MC: The London 2012 Olympics will feature the first-ever competition for women’s boxing. Right now, there are only three weight classes, but it’s a start! What are your thoughts on this?
KR: The London 2012 Olympics will have three weight classes of women’s boxing: 112 pounds, 132 pounds, and 165 pounds. I think it’s pretty pathetic. Why should it matter if the countries are getting medals from the men or women? They should have had women’s boxing in the Olympics ages ago and there should be full teams. I feel the same way about women’s wrestling as well…and they still haven’t put women’s ski jumping in the Olympics. All these contradictions, it’s sad. But at the same time, I’m jumping for joy that we will finally have women’s boxing in the Olympics in London 2012.
MC: What advice would you give to female amateurs or women pro boxers hoping to make their mark in boxing?
KR: Make sure that you have the best trainer/coach for you. As women, we are usually pretty loyal, but when it comes to boxing you may have to move on to a coach that suits your particular needs. There are many, many coaches out there and get the best one for you. If you are boxing pro than also make sure you have the best management. Don’t settle for less.
MC: Do you think that women’s boxers will ever be as prevalent as the men in the sport?
KR: I’m optimistic that it will. The sport is growing by leaps and bounds.
MC: What is the one thing you would change about amateur boxing…and the one thing you would change about pro boxing?
KR: I’d love to change the politics in both. But I’m afraid that is a fantasy, because politics is in everything!
MC: So you are a former amateur boxer, PE teacher, boxing official, grad student and mother of two? What’s your secret to balance everything?
KR: Thankfully “grad student” is off the list since I am finished. I really don’t think I have any secret to balance. I just do it. I get stressed sometimes like everyone else and really just try and enjoy everything that I am doing.
MC: You live in California but I also know you love the East Coast!
KR: I’m a Jersey girl…Born in Englewood, New Jersey. It doesn’t matter how many years I stay in California, I’ll always be an “East Coast” girl at heart!
MC: Besides boxing, what are your other interests?
KR: Is there anything else?!
MC: (Laughs) You’re right. Well I know one cause near and dear to your heart is to help in finding missing children. How did you become a child advocate?
KR: To be honest, my passion for helping the missing came out of fear. I was always afraid something would happen to my kids. So instead of giving into that fear I wanted to be helpful to others that have missing loved ones.
Lately I have not been nearly as helpful as I want to be. A while back my friend Jude and I started something called “Fight for the Missing.” This is where a professional boxer “sponsors” a missing person in the area that he/she fights. Jude would help contact the media outlets and make buttons of the missing person. Then at the show the fighter would promote this missing person. It’s two fold: great publicity for the fighter and great publicity for the missing person. Hopefully we will find people this way; I have to actively start this up again.
MC: You’ve accomplished an impressive feat in the world of education too. Congratulations on getting your Master’s Degree last year! You also completed a thesis about women in sports/boxing, correct?
KR: Thank you…I’m so happy to be finished with school. It was much harder going back now than it was when I got my Bachelor’s. For the Master’s Degree I had to do a Capstone, like a thesis but with a lot less time to do it in. It was on the “Perceptions of Women in Sports” and in particular, women’s Olympic-style boxing. The Capstone was called “The Women’s Road to London 2012.” I did a 27-question survey and got 113 participants. This was a very good sample size. I then wrote the paper and wrote up a mock event. The event was a women’s Olympic-style boxing showcase held at the Nokia in Los Angeles. Not only would we have the ten weight classes of women’s boxing, but we would have three internationally ranked women boxers from Ireland, Canada and India box against our #1s in the Olympic weight classes, 112 pounds, 132 pounds, and 165 pounds. We would also be showcasing women from other sports as well to come and talk to the audience during the break. Anyway, this is an idea of what I put together for my final paper, Capstone for my Masters Degree.
MC: You have also worked with many college athletes–both male and female?
KR: Yes, at El Camino and East L.A. College, I have a lot of students that are men that keep taking my classes. I was also on the Board of Directors for two terms as Athlete Representative to all the athletes.
MC: Your loyalty and dedication to the sport is obvious. I hope you keep on fighting in achieving your goals!
KR: Thank you!
While women’s boxing in the Olympics is now a reality come July, there are still many, many more frontiers to fight for in the sport.
Finding a steady voice in the sweet science, Rosario continues to impact the sport in a positive way and encourage other young men and women women along the way.
One thing I found out about Krysti is her sense of fairness. While I commended her for her work in women’s boxing, she made a point to say that she hopes to encourage ALL boxers, both men and women, boys and girls.
Another thing she is is a pioneer who can now pave the way for little girls who want to box. Olympic hopefuls who just happen to be female; girls who now have a chance to compete for a Gold Medal–unlike Krysti’s time when women were not given that same opportunity. Claressa Shields, Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza are three frontrunners America will be rooting for as the Olympic Games begin. You know Rosario will be watching and rooting for these gals who want to prove they’re just as skilled as the men. And maybe, just maybe you will one day see a smiling mug of an Olympian female boxer on a Wheaties box.
And who will be cheering the loudest for these fighters?
That’s right, it will be Krysti Rosario, a proud representative of USA Boxing and AIBA and a truly dedicated mentor in the sport.
Photos by Michele Chong
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