By Robert Coster
WBA female super featherweight champion Kina Malpartida is not your usual boxer, nor your usual boxing titleholder. She is college-educated, middle-class, the daughter of a Peruvian father and British mother, holds dual Australian and Peruvian citizenship and, to top it all, never had a single amateur bout before turning pro. Malpartida (15-3, 4 KOs) became Peru’s first boxing world champion in 2009 (TKO10 over Maureen Shea) and has since defended her crown six times. She has become a sports icon in her native Peru and made boxing popular in that Andean nation. The tall, wiry Kira recently retained her title (W10 over Marilyn Hernandez) in Jamaica on the December 8th WBA “KO to drugs” card. Fightnews talked to Kina as she was on her way back to Peru.
How did you get into boxing, Kina? What prompted a middle-class, college-educated girl like you to lace up the gloves and step into the ring to hit and get hit?
I had always been very geared to sports (surfing, karate) and always had a competitive spirit. When I discovered boxing in Australia, I loved it. By that time, I had a degree in hotel management but I decided that what I wanted was to become a pro boxing champion, not some person working in a hotel. I turned pro at age 23 in 2003, without a single amateur fight and I’ve never looked back. Boxing just fulfills me, thrills me, pushes me to the limits of my willpower. On my wall at home, I have my title belt, not my college degree.
So, you started your boxing career in Australia?
I have always been kind of restless. At 19, I left Peru and immigrated to Australia. There I got hooked on boxing, kept going to boxing shows. I admired the skills it takes to be a good boxer. I used to enjoy watching one particular boxer, Paul Briggs–the way he moved, the way he fought. In 2003, I said to myself “Let’s go for it” and I turned pro.
Why did you decide to move to the United States?
I won my first five pro fights in Australia but I felt that I wasn’t progressing, not getting the kind of coaching I needed. I left for the United States in 2005, moved to California where they have great gyms and great trainers, particularly the Maywood gym.
And how well did you do?
Not too well. In my first six fight in the US, I was 3-3. I had problems with my status, visa problems. It was a big distraction but I never thought of giving up. Before winning the WBA title against Maureen Shea, I had lost my two previous fights. Despite all that, I was improving, learning fast. Then, we got the call to fight unbeaten (13-0) Maureen Shea in Madison Square Garden. I was certainly the underdog. I stopped Maureen in the 10th round. It was a dream come true: becoming a world champion and in the Madison Square Garden to boot!
Then you decided to visit your parents in Peru?
Yes. What I didn’t know was that my victory had gotten great coverage there. When I stepped out of the plane in Lima, there was a crowd cheering me and a bunch of reporters. It was incredible!
So, you became a national hero in your native country?
Peru was hungering for a sports hero. I had no idea that I would set in motion all this national pride. My winning the title not only gave boxing a boost in Peru, but in other sports also. Since then, we have had a male world boxing champion, Alberto Rosell. Suddenly, boxing has become popular. I have defended my title three times in Peru in front of crowds of 10, 000-15, 000 fans, with national TV coverage.
Do you relish your hero status?
Of course, but basically because I can be a role model. The message is : if I, a young female, was able to make it on my own, you can do it . Peru is a poor country-we need heroes.