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Boxing Champions Christina Kwan and Kaliesha West Raise the Stakes In and Out of Ring
December 14, 2013


(DEC 14) INDIANAPOLIS, IN  - When it’s your turn to act at the poker table – it’s the moment for clarity, for wisdom, for experience and for logic to surface. It’s mind over matter. For every move there’s a counter. And for every action there’s a reaction. Poker takes us on a journey that makes us run scenarios over and over in our own minds – hoping that every decision, every move was the right one. Will we ever know if we got our opponent to fold the best hand? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure, they may never know what we held either.

In this battle of a constant negotiation for a pot, it’s like traveling through life and determining your own path. Will you succumb to the pressures and dictations of others, or will you turn the tables on them and bring them into your world where you take charge of what happens. “It’s not a maybe. It’s a certainty,” says Christina Kwan, a poker player who is also a former U.S. National and World Amateur Champion in boxing at 95-pounds. She’s petite but fiercely determined. I watch her play a few hands of poker with some friends at her Kwan International office at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and she doesn’t care who it is, she’s going for the win.

It’s that determination that led Christina to become the first boxing titlist to cash in a World Series of Poker event last year. Christina continues to comment in between hands, “Who is poker? Poker is anyone in any country, any culture, all ages. That’s how we came up with Project All In. That’s what the staged poker table inside the boxing ring is for.”

Outfitted with multiple cameras and microphones, Project All In is a live streamed interactive broadcast that shows a non-cash poker game where the worldwide audience can interact with the players in real time. “If they think a player did a bad move, they can say it!” exclaims Christina. “But likewise, the player at the table has the opportunity to defend their moves.” She laughs as she starts to show the charisma that is the staple of her compelling personality. Project All In, however, is meant to have significance even beyond the scope of the broadcast. It’s a lifestyle brand – providing a metaphor that parallels Christina’s commitment to all that she’s involved in: business, boxing, poker and motorsports.

The boxing ring inside her office isn’t there for mere decoration or even as just a stage for Project All In. After leaving the sport for six years, she came back solely fixated on winning a professional World Championship. So why the decision? She certainly had built a successful business. She didn’t need boxing to make a living.

A deeper reveal brings me to the rather hostile side of the boxing business. “You see, back then, we relied on the promoters. We relied on them to make or break our careers. Would they give us a fight on their card? Would they promote us?” she explains as her tone quickly changes to serious. “And don’t even get Kaliesha started on how she’s been treated even as a current world champion and I can relate to it – she’s right. However, I can’t change the business. That’s why we’ve come together. That’s why we’re taking this approach from an entirely new angle.”

She is talking about Kaliesha West, the two-time World Champion at 122-pounds who has openly pointed out the perils of the sport on public platforms. It wasn’t just the respect the two have for one another that brought them together; they share more passions than just boxing. “She’s an amazing person. Together, we just understand each other. She brings an enhanced dimension, a skillset, to Kwan International and it’s an exciting future endeavor,” Chistina forecasts.

While the two know the hard work and sacrifices they’ve endured in and out of the ring, they equally share passions for poker and motorsports, a big factor in collaborating on projects outside of boxing. When you look at the scope of the Kwan office, you are quickly reminded by the diversity in all that it represents. Rather than seeing prominent boxing companies displayed from walls and rafters, you see major automotive influences – to the tune of Aeromotive Fuel Systems, a sponsor of Christina’s 18-foot 1300-horsepower drag boat that she will race in the televised Lucas Oil series; SEMA, where Christina is currently serving her third elected term to the women’s board; and Swisstrax, Race Ramps and TRE Racing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, companies like LG electronics, Pictographics and Deja Soleil Swimwear make Christina’s representation vastly impressive.

She isn’t solely defined by boxing, but it is a defining attribute of her. Most thought they knew her game plan when she departed from the sport, but what many were about to find out was the check-raise move she was about to show. Flipping the script on promoters and those largely engrained in boxing’s systematic approach to producing fight events, Christina has solidified her position on a fight card that is solely promoted by the automotive and motorsports industry – but that’s because she’s opened those doors.

When you’ve had the chance to sit down with Christina and spend some time listening to her – you realize that her weaving of multiple industries together in a joint effort to cross-expose – to cross-market – is an innovation of its time. She’s successful and the question is really when the others will catch-up. Her intellect continues to stir new waves – a force of nature that no one in boxing has ever seen before. Joining forces with Kaliesha, some say that these two may very well be the most multi-dimensional boxers the sport has ever seen. Reaching new levels and breaking through the glass walls, it is Christina’s determination and willingness to put it all on the line that makes every effort a committed one. She can sum it up in three words, “I’m all in.”

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