A Real Knock Out
Pro boxer Kathy Rivers proves that
rough and tough is beautiful too-
by Carol Ann Weber
You just dont expect to see a six-foot blonde, professional
sportswear/bikini model with sapphire eyes slugging it out in the boxing ring. But
theres Kathy Rivers, pivoting on her well-turned ankle while executing a quick right
cross - and the crowd goes wild. Then, just one minute 32 seconds into the first round,
her opponent crashes to the canvas and the referee begins a slow 10 count, while Kathy
walks disgustedly to the neutral corner muttering under her breath, "Pathetic, just
pathetic." You see, Kathy not only came out this balmy Florida evening to win, but to
give the 2,000-plus crowd at the Miccosukee Indian Gaming casino what they paid for - a
really good fight. Rest assured this was no "foxy boxing" match either, but a
legit four-rounder on the undercard of the televised Michael Nunn fight. After all, Kathy
is the number-one ranked light heavyweight (her fighting weight is 175 pounds) by all
three sanctioning bodies, and has vowed to become the first female light heavyweight
champion of the world.
As womens boxing continues to gain in popularity,
it seems that talented athletes are coming out of the woodwork, bringing back to the sport
the come-out-swinging, toe-to-toe kind of action that seems to be missing in many of
todays mens matches. Ever since Christy Martin broke ground in the first
televised womens bout on a major undercard (the 1996 Tyson/Bruno fight), at least
one womens match is included with every major fight, and all-womens cards have
sprung up across the country. According to Mike Scionti, executive director of the Florida
Athletic Commission, women give the sport renewed credibility because "the dont
hug and hold. They are a lot more honorable and a lot less mouthy." And it
doesnt hurt when theyre also drop dead gorgeous.
"I enjoy modeling and boxing," says
Kathy with an indiscernible accent (kind of Southern drawl meets Midwestern twang),
"and I think the two compliment each other, at least in me." What? Boxing and
modeling compliment each other? What about your face? Obviously having answered that
question one too many times, she fires back, "Look, Im 5 and 0 and dont
have a scratch on me
if I get into the ring and am worried about getting hurt, I
shouldnt be there. The person with the stronger mind will always win."
In boxing, as in nature, the strongest will prevail.
When this 31-year-old champ climbs through the ropes, the sweet laughing-all-the-time,
porcelain-white-smile, all-American-girl next-door turns into her opponents worst
nightmare, for she will not denied. Kathy doesnt run hundreds of miles in the soggy
Florida heat, lift thousands of pounds of weight, spar several times a week, and beat the
heavy bag to a pulp to lose a fight. And her trainer/boyfriend Bert Rodriguez sure she
[A]bout a week before [my first] fight,
[Bert] went really hard with me sparring," she recalls. "The last week is very
mentally stressful. You have totally killed your body. You need to rejuvenate. But he had
intensified the sparring to almost every day.
"I got mad and yelled at him for something. I
started to cry in the ring - its just so draining, and because of our relationship,
we were both taking it more personal. He said, "Fine. Youre not going to
fight. I said, F---- you! Im fine! So then he says,
"youre ready. It was a test. He didnt want me to crack under
pressure up there."
Bert also pulls no punches when they spar, and neither
does Bonnie Canino, his business partner in their US 1 Fitness Gym chain. Bonnie also
happens to be Kathys first trainer and the person who arranged her first fight.
"If Im not totally focused or get distracted during the sparring session,
hell pop. me. But then, sometimes I get him really good, too," says Kathy with
a child-like grin. Bonnie, by the way, was Berts first female protégé, and got him
hooked on training women boxers. Bert (who holds black belts in six different martial arts
disciplines) says before Bonnie, women werent allowed to train in his gym. "But
I saw in her what I always looked for in the guys. . . and I figured, why not work
with her. If its the right stuff, it doesnt matter whether its in a
mans or a womans body. " (Bonnie went on to win both the
WIBF and the
IFBA world featherweight titles and is considered one of the best female boxers in the
Kathys also got the right stuff claims Bert. She
trains like tehours a day. So
you say you want to be a boxer, young woman? Well, try the pros training schedule.
Pump iron on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; run five miles on Monday (along with the
weights); do bag work, sparring and wind sprints on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and on
Wednesday, along with the weights, run seven miles to the beach and back, and be sure to
include the steps down to the beach.
Currently, Kathys emphasizing upper-body training
with the weights, "but Im going to start legs again because the power of your
punches comes from your legs."
Theres been an ongoing debate between the
"old school" trainers and the "new age" guys about the pros and cons
of weight training for boxers. The "old school" holds that weights slow a boxer
down and keep him muscle bound, while the "new age" proponents believe weight
training, when properly combined with road work and bag work, gives a boxer the
competitive edge. "I love the weights," says Kathy. "When I first started
training with Bonnie and Bert, I stopped weight training. But I felt weak. I didnt
have the strength. It makes sense to train specifically for the sport you are doing. For
example, if my back muscles are the ones Im using, I want to make them stronger.
On April 21, 2000, Rivers
TKO'd Taquella Hoskin of
Ashtabula, Ohio at 0:51 in the first round. The crowd
was very upset at the fight being stopped and booed as
they announced that Hoskin's did not want to continue.
Rivers record is now 9-2.
NOT EXACTLY A COAT HANGER KIND OF
Kathy began her modeling career four years ago, when she
first met Bert. He encouraged her to contact modeling agencies, and the prestigious Ford
agency offered her a contract for the "plus size" category. "At the time I
was a size 14, but I had also started training with Bert. I went down to a size 9. The
Ford agents said they could make me a star if I went back up to a size 14. But I
didnt want to put on the weight I worked so hard to get off. Besides, Im much
more of a sports oriented person." So Kathy posed for a couple of swimwear ads
)looking great in a bikini), modeled for a suntan product, did a couple of commercials,
one for a fitness supplement, Vanadyl Sulfate, and the other for a cruise line called
Vegas Express (she got the free trip, too!) as well as a commercial for a gym and a local
"I knew I didnt have the physique for runway
modeling. I would have to get down to 125 pounds, or go up to more than 180 pounds to be a
plus size. Im much happier being a boxer, and being me."
It seems that being true to herself has always
worked for Kathy Rivers. When she was just a kid and wanted to play baseball
on the local
all-boys Woonsocket, RI, Little League team, she became the teams first girl member.
And then in her 20s, when she wanted to work on cars at the Fort Lauderdale
auto body shop,
Kathy endured three weeks of the silent treatment before her fellow grease monkeys finally
accepted her. Now, shes turning all of her unique qualities into an advantage, as
she paves the way for a new and different kind of woman - big, beautiful and tough. Bert
sums it up this way. "In mens fighting, its always the heavyweights who
make an impression, and Kathys a big girl. She definitely makes an impression."
WBAN wants to give a special thanks to Oxygen Magazine
for permission to run this article. Photographs are by Sandy
Goldberg. TL Fox