By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
As an 8-year-old at Ordway Elementary School, she shaved her head. "I wanted to be like the boys," she remembers, her blue eyes shifting under a pair of thinly plucked eyebrows. "I didn't really fit in."
Swanson has a habit of downplaying a story. A packed crowd is "a pretty good turnout," a busted lip "sort of hurts." And if she can answer a question in one word, she won't yak for five minutes. She greets friends with playful punches to the gut and sidesteps questions about her feelings.
For that reason, her urge to whack people is a mystery. She can't — or won't — explain where it comes from. "I don't know. I wasn't abused. I didn't grow up on the streets. It's not like I'm angry. It's just how I am." She is content to be a contradiction: a good suburban girl who can snap your nose.
Of course, there have been rough times. Her older sister, Anna, says Christina "was the emotional buffer for all the dysfunction that went on in our household. When her parents had marital problems, Christina internalized it. That stuff has a way of accumulating over the years, Anna says. "She has the perfect boxing personality. She holds things inside and then just explodes."
In middle school, classmates heckled her for being a tomboy. She was strong and competitive. One snotty popular girl told her, "The boys only hang out with you because they're scared of you."
Christina planned to get out of town as quickly as possible, ditched high school, and commuted to Seattle Central Community College at age 17. A Washington State University swimming scholarship was her ticket out. "She was a sparkplug," says her roommate Katie Barnes. "She had this really tough personality."
In 2001, Swimming World magazine profiled Swanson and the team on their way to an Olympic training facility. After two years, she clashed with a male coach she calls "sexist" and transferred to the University of Miami, where she became an All-American swimmer.
After her 2004 graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to be with her sister. There, she got a job at a hectic Starbucks down the street from a school, Anna says. One stressful afternoon — after dealing with a group of troublemaker students — she quietly lost it. She picked up a heavy bag of coffee and threw it against the floor. Beans scattered everywhere, and she walked out without a word.
Her fiery side cropped up in other places too. In winter 2004, she and Anna donned eye shadow and went for a drink at a hip-hop club on Sunset Boulevard. Anna soon felt a hand grab her butt. She turned around to find a hulking, six-foot-tall man and pushed him away. He swung drunkenly in retaliation.
Christina went ballistic. She launched herself over tables with clenched fists and was then "carried out by two bouncers," Anna recalls. "She was always getting in fights. It was good for her to put gloves on instead."
A couple of months later, in February 2005, she began boxing in an amateur league. Back then, trainers and promoters didn't want to waste their time on a no-name. Especially a girl. "I'd go to a lot of tournaments by myself and try to pick up someone to work my corner," Swanson says. A lot of times, she left without a fight.
Her first match was at a small gym in the Santa Clarita Valley, where a few fans dotted the audience. "All the guys I knew from the gym were pumping me, making me feel like I was better than I was. I didn't have a clue. I caught a wild haymaker in the chin," she says, pausing as if she can still feel the sting. "That kind of gave me stars."
Money was running low in Los Angeles, so she moved back to South Florida. She got a job at US 1 Fitness Center in Dania Beach and met two-time world featherweight boxing champion Bonnie "The Cobra" Canino. The pro started giving her pointers. "She's natural athlete, and I knew it wouldn't take much to get her fights," Canino says. "She's a real crowd pleaser."
At the gym, she also met a Haitian-born professional middleweight named Wilky Campfort. He too was struggling to get noticed. He had a chiseled chest, playful personality, and a crush on Christina. They made a bet on a football game; she won, so he took her to IHOP. They started to date and moved in together shortly after.
Campfort might be the only man on the planet with an excuse to hit his girlfriend. When Christina can't find a sparring partner, the couple meet at Fight Club and beat each other silly. He left her with a black eye once, she says. "I can't play around," he explains. "I have to get her ready... It's my job. I have to protect her."
At Fight Club, Swanson was a curiosity at first. Pretty soon, her talent demanded attention. Says tattooed 28-year-old employee Anthony McKnight: "She can whip your ass and mop the floor with any girl."
Through gym friends, she was introduced to Luis Lagerman, a retired fighter with a tough-love coaching approach. He generally trains only men, but he and partner Matt Baiamonte decided to take a chance on Swanson. "I see money in her," Lagerman says simply. "I work with talent. She's determined, and she's ready to go pro. She's cute too — that sells."