Access to the boxing match of the century goes through Brooklyn — and Kelly Swanson.
The veteran publicist’s large home office in Downtown Brooklyn near Trader Joe’s is the hub for all the public relations for the megafight between Manny Pacquiao and her client Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on May 2.
With more that 20 years experience in public relations, Swanson is no stranger to being the point person at big events, but this one has been a bit overwhelming.
“I have 1,700 unread e-mails,” Swanson said. “I feel like I am reading every single one that is coming in, and they just keep coming in. I don’t know where they are coming from.”
She and her staff of four full-time employees are responsible for coordinating media credentials and press positioning for all of the fight-week events, how those events are going to be run, and any media availability for the fighters. There are 10,000-ticketed people expected for the weigh-in. It is the first time tickets were sold to a boxing ritual that is usually open free to the public.
“The magnitude of the event is what’s been the difference between other big events,” Swanson said. “We are doing the same things we do for a lot of the other big fights, just on a grander scale.”
She is grateful that her peers trusted her to handle an event of this magnitude. Even as a woman in a male-dominated sport, Swanson never felt she couldn’t compete for jobs like this.
She moved to Brooklyn and opened her New York office here in 2013. Swanson Communications, which also has an office in Washington, D.C., has done media relations for 11 boxing cards at Barclays Center.
“With Kelly’s agency based in Brooklyn Heights, she knows the borough, its fighters, and is a strategic expert when collaborating with us to develop fresh ideas,” said Barclays Center executive vice president and chief communications officer Barry Baum.
She got her start when she first moved to Brooklyn after graduating from the University of Vermont. Swanson later caught people’s attention as the publicist for former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe in the early 1990s. She eventually started her company in Washington, D.C., and added boxing clients like Bernard Hopkins and Mayweather, among others.
“I think we have been able to grow together,” Swanson said of Mayweather. “He keeps me on my toes. He has been very loyal to me.”
There is good reason for that. Newsday boxing writer Bobby Cassidy, who has worked with Swanson since her days with Bowe, spoke about her ability to read situations well as they unfold and her ability to protect her clients in even the most extreme situations.
“That might annoy reporters, but they aren’t the ones who pay her,” Cassidy said. “Kelly has a proven track record in boxing. What can happen that she can’t handle? She was there when [parachutist] Fan Man flew into the ring. She was there for the riot at the Garden after the Bowe-[Andrew] Golota fight. She’s basically seen it all.”
Her toughness comes from battling three brothers in an assortment of sports growing up, and it translates into everything she does. Swanson stepped into the ring herself for charity in 2013. She raised more than $11,000 for Gleason’s Gym’s Give a Kid a Dream Foundation. It offers disadvantaged and at-risk youth a chance to work with boxing trainers in hope of giving them a better quality of life.
Swanson trained with undefeated Gerritsen Beach fighter Heather “The Heat” Hardy and her trainer Devon Cormack. They could see why she has been so successful in such a tough business.
“She definitely approached her boxing the way she approached her career,” Hardy said. “She had a job that had to get done. There is certain preparation that goes into that job getting done and she didn’t slack off on anything.”
Swanson was the main event that night, and ended up stopping opponent Amy Handelsman 53 seconds into the first round. She plans on keeping her perfect record unblemished.
“I’m retired now though — undefeated with a knockout,” Swanson said.
On Saturday, she will be in a more familiar position outside the ropes as the unbeaten Mayweather puts his titles and legacy on the line in what is billed as the biggest fight in boxing history. Despite the long hours put into working an event like this, Swanson isn’t eager for it all to end.
“I want to enjoy it. I want to remember it,” Swanson said. “It’s going to be a huge historic moment for the sport and the sports world. I want to say, ‘Can I believe I was apart of that.’ ”