Sports

Former BHS star is golden in the ring

Christina Swanson (right) puts her hands up during one of her bouts at the 2007 Women’s National Golden Gloves tournament in Hollywood, Fla.  - Courtesy of Chris Odom
Christina Swanson (right) puts her hands up during one of her bouts at the 2007 Women’s National Golden Gloves tournament in Hollywood, Fla.
— image credit: Courtesy of Chris Odom

Christina Swanson wins Golden Gloves title in Florida.

When Christina Swanson took up boxing a few years ago to help her keep in shape for swimming, she said she wanted to have a goal to strive toward – to come away with a title.

That goal was realized when the boxer, ranked third in the nation in her weight class, won the Women’s National Golden Gloves boxing championship on the weekend of July 14 at the Mariott in Hollywood, Florida.

Swanson, 25, won the 138-pound title by earning a 4-1 decision over New York Golden Gloves semifinalist Melissa Bopp of New York City and a 3-2 decision over Delissa Watson of Columbus, Ohio.

Swanson then won a 5-0 decision over Sara Elliot of Kutztown, Pa. in the championship fight for her first title in her amateur career.

She was a silver medalist in the open division at the Golden Gloves last year.

The 2000 graduate of Bainbridge High School and member of the 200 medley relay team that won a state title in 1996 and 1999, said she wanted to redeem herself after what she felt was a poor performance at the USA Boxing Championships in Colorado in June.

“I didn’t put too much pressure on myself or say ‘I was going to win,’” she said. “I just took it a day at a time.”

What helped her this time was moving down a weight class to compete with girls who were her size.

Another key in her success was having the tournament in her backyard, ensuring she would have a fanbase that included not only her trainer Tony Betancourt and her boyfriend, boxer Wilky Comphort, in her corner, but many of her co-workers from Hollywood Beach Ocean Rescue, where she works, who showed up as well.

Swanson also had some of the kids she coaches on a local swim team and their parents come down to cheer her on.

Even her mom, Jane, flew in to show support for her daughter.

“It was quite a fan club,” she said with a laugh. “It was a wild group.”

But Swanson said she was happy to have them cheering her on during her fights.

“It takes the pressure off,” she said of their support. “It makes a big difference, especially when you have to travel to tournaments and you’re all alone.

“The fans help take your mind off of things so you don’t get stressed out,” Swanson continued. “You can have fun with it without worrying about getting all uptight about it.”

While she didn’t want to predict a championship win, Swanson did say she said she was “pretty confident” she would come away with the title.

Having that confidence is part of Swanson’s personality, as she also described herself as a “super-competitive person.”

“I can’t play chess because I’m too competitive and I get frustrated when I don’t win,” she said. “Anything I do – Monopoly, any kind of sport – I get real competitive.”

That competitive streak helped push her to success with the high school swim team, the Bainbridge Island Swim Club and earned her All-American and Academic All-American status in high school.

From there, she attended Washington State University on a scholarship and swam for the team there.

But after two years, she, along with eight other girls, transferred to other schools because of differences with the coach.

Swanson also left because “I wanted to go somewhere that was warm and where I could swim outside.”

So she transferred to the University of Miami where she became an All-American there as well.

But it was in Los Angeles where she first took part in boxing.

“I was a little interested in boxing and I knew this girl who introduced me to a trainer,” Swanson said. “I picked it up and I’ve loved it ever since.”

After a while, Swanson said she wanted to go pro, but didn’t know much about competing as one, so she got into the amateur scene and “tried to win a national title.”

While she did come away with one, Swanson said she’s had to put in a lot of time in the ring to get there by learning the intricacies of the sweet science and the difference between it and the sport she’s grown up with.

“I’ve had to work a lot harder,” she said. “When you swim, sometimes it’s easier to give up. You can quit or slow down.

“In boxing you don’t have that choice to quit or give up. I’ve had to push myself farther and push through the pain. But I’ve gotten in a lot better shape because of it. The muscles I use in swimming work real well.

“My personality also works real well,” she continued. “You can’t get mad when you get hit. People think you get to be angry, but you need a calm head.”

She’s also gotten to enjoy being a boxer.

“People who don’t know or have never seen women’s boxing, a lot of times they come out (of a fight) and say the best fight was the women,” Swanson said. “It’s nice being in a growing sport and having people recognize it.”

Being a female boxer – which she said she “never saw herself as one” – also gets a mixed reaction from people she knows.

“Some people have said ‘I can see that,’” she said. “Others say ‘Gee, I never thought you would do that.’”

But she’s glad she has her parents in her corner.

“My dad hated it at first,” he said. “He didn’t like seeing me fight. But more and more he watches me. My mom, she comes and watches me all the time. She loves it.

“She was my swim coach growing up and now she wants to be my boxing coach. She tries to give me advice all the time.”

Her mom will continue to give advice as she’ll box in a tournament in two months in California and keep up her national ranking, where she estimates she’ll be at number one when they come out.

She’ll continue to box as an amateur and “have fun. It’s really fun.”

After California, Swanson will take some time to figure out the next step, which means turning pro.

Eventually, she’ll fight her way back home.

“I hope to come to Seattle and have a reunion fight out there,” Swanson said.

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