Krysti RosarioBoxer Who Wants Gold

Hopefully, the next generation will get to do so much more and will be able to reach their dream of going to the Olympics! Just the thought gives me goose bumps!
—Krysti Rosario

When amateur women’s boxing exploded on the scene in the late 1990s, one woman had been preparing all her life for the opportunity to box in a sanctioned bout: Krysti Rosario. The fierce boxer from Los Angeles hit the ring swinging at the 1998 Everlast Women’s Boxing championship. After defeating her first opponent in the 132-pound weight class, she was already planning her next victory. There was no time to gloat: “I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” she said. Rosario emerged at the end of the four-day competition as the champion. She was well on her way to realizing her dream: an Olympic gold medal.

 She Came Out Kicking

Rosario was an athletic child, but she couldn’t find the sport that would make her a champion. She tried everything, but always came in second. As the athlete explained in an interview with, “I ran track for many years, starting when I was a little girl running the 50-yard dash up until the end of high school. I was good, but not good enough. Always second. Very frustrating. Then I found boxing!”

Rosario was also a competitive kickboxer, but when her gym closed down she turned to boxing. “I was kickboxing competitively before I boxed,” she says. “I felt like I needed to make a choice: boxing or kickboxing. Once I was sparring a girl in boxing and I kicked her. Oops! So, I felt like I needed to concentrate on one sport. I chose boxing.”

 Going for the Gold

Rosario found her perfect coach, Ben Lira.

Rosario’s dream has always been to go to the Olympics, and she thought she had a better chance in boxing than kickboxing. Looking for a trainer to help her reach her goal, she turned to LA Boxing. “I really liked it there. The energy and excitement was all around you. Everyone was training: men, women, pros and amateurs,” explains Rosario. After trying out a few trainers, including Dub Huntley, former trainer of Laila Ali, she found her perfect match in Ben Lira from South El Monte. Lira’s all-or-nothing attitude matched Rosario’s.

Using the fighting experience she had gained as a kickboxer, Rosario put together her signature boxing strategy: She studied her opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and she always had a plan for their defeat. “In amateur boxing we call it ‘boxing,’ not ‘fighting,’” she explained. “Amateur boxing can be very technical, like a chess game. Strategy is important. If you look at the women that are now going from the amateurs to the pros, you will see experience, technique and skill.”

In 1998, Lira took his boxers to the Everlast Women’s Nationals, where Rosario finally made her mark. That same year, Rosario served as the captain of the U.S. amateur women’s team. In the first-ever international duel between women’s national teams, the United States defeated Canada six bouts to one. After this historic event, Rosario brought home the silver medal from the 1999 Everlast Women’s Nationals. In 1997 and 1998, she was the champion of the national Blue & Gold amateur invitational.

Despite all these accomplishments, Rosario didn’t make it to a world championship or to the Olympics for one simple reason: The opportunity didn’t exist. While there is finally a world championship for amateur women’s boxing (the inaugural Women’s World Championship took place in Pennsylvania in 2001), today’s athletes are still years away from the Olympics. Rosario never even had a chance to win the gold she’s always wanted: “Even now, I want to go to the Olympics so bad that I can taste it. It’s just not fair.”

“Women have been boxing for a long, long time,” she explains. “It’s time that we were in the Olympics. Actually, it’s way past time.…Women are boxing in many, many countries. The ultimate goal for many of these women is the Olympics. They train as hard as the men, sacrifice as much as the men and love boxing as much as the men. So why shouldn’t we get that gold?”

 All or Nothing

Rosario stopped boxing in 1999 due to eye surgery. Without the possibility of an Olympic gold, she felt that continuing in the sport wasn’t worth losing her eyesight. But Rosario hardly threw aside her gloves. Today, she serves as a referee, trainer, announcer and judge for women’s boxing. She was elected to serve as the athlete representative on USA Boxing’s national board of directors, where she represents all USA Boxing athletes—men and women. Rosario and a group of young boxers pose at the 2004 women's nationals.Of course, Rosario doesn’t take the job lightly. “Being elected an athlete representative is wonderful,” she says. “I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to take this job on, because I am not here to do this halfway. It's all or nothing.”

Perhaps Rosario’s largest role in the sport she loves is as an advocate of girls’ boxing. She is a mentor to many young female athletes who feed off her commitment and enthusiasm for the sport. “There are so many amazing little girl boxers now,” she says. “It’s awesome. My advice to them and all women is to go for that goal....Even if we are not in the Olympics now, train like we are. Make sure you find a good gym with a good coach—a coach that will train you as a boxer, not as a girl.” In the ring and out of it, Krysti Rosario’s knockout attitude is changing the athletic world for women and girls.

:: Nora Pierce


© 2005–2006, Women of Action Media, LLC