Billed as the “Fight of the Century,” the May 2 boxing match between eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao and undefeated, five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is predicted to be the highest grossing fight in history. That said, Pacquiao has already won the fight for marketing dollars – and, as the Philippine congressman’s deal agent and executive vice president of global business development and marketing for Top Rank Boxing, Lucia McKelvey ’00 has it all down to a sweet science.
It’s a Sunday morning. Her hair is piled up in a messy ponytail, and her thin, white wifebeater is still a little damp from the tension she sweated out during the early morning’s kickboxing workout. She’s sitting alone in her Washington, D.C., apartment. She looks around at her wilted plants, her still-made bed, her unpacked suitcase. It’s the first time she’s been home all week, and it’s strange to be here. Lucia McKelvey thrives outside of her comfort zone.
The Las Vegas boxing gym is dark, dank – the kind of place you don’t want to go without a bottle of Purell close at hand. The manager is gruff, rough around the edges, and his office is a smoky, wood-paneled box with a steel tank desk and a buzzing overhead light. She sits on a green plastic–covered chair with the stuffing busting through its seat and – sensing he thinks he has more important things to do than talk to her – gets straight to the nitty-gritty before he can lose his patience. Lucia McKelvey knows how to handle all kinds.
This is L.A. dining at its swankiest. To the right is her client, Filipino boxer and congressman Manny Pacquiao, and his team – most of whom have been by his side since his days living in a box on the side of the road. To the left are the bigwigs from Hewlett Packard – all men who’ve always been wealthy, always been powerful. She raises her glass to toast the $1 million contract she has recently negotiated between the two – the first deal she’d made since becoming Pacquiao’s endorsement agent a month earlier. Lucia McKelvey doesn’t just talk the talk.
Her voice is confident as she strolls into the executive boardroom of HBO’s New York City high-rise. She commands attention, immediately silencing the swishy shuffling of the papers in front of the suited, grey-haired execs. They nod at her findings: The digital market research she’s done speaks for itself. Knowing full well these men have their own research and experience to back up their own objectives, she makes the case for her vision for the future of boxing. Lucia McKelvey is willing to put up a fight.
No matter where she is, whom she’s with or what she’s up against, Lucia McKelvey ’00 always holds her own.
The exception to prove that rule is an aside worth noting – one that gives our subject’s future success in the boxing industry something of an ironic hook:
When she was in third grade at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, Lucia McKelvey got beat up in the girl’s bathroom. By Laila Ali.
“My daddy’s a famous boxer, and he taught me how to punch,” her classmate had threatened, unprovoked, before driving her fist into the 9-year-old’s gut, overpowering her with just one blow.
Her first encounter with boxing had knocked her right off her feet.
It was, however, the last time she’d lose her footing – the last time she’d get knocked down ever again. And, by the time she was seated next to Laila Ali at the Women’s Sports Award Foundation dinner some 25 years later, she was well on her way to being counted among the top ranks of the boxing world.
For the record: That was also the last time in her boxing career that she’d be up against a woman.
Read the rest of the article, which appeared in the fall 2012 issue of College of Charleston Magazine, and learn how Lucia McKelvey ’00 has fought her way into the male-dominated world of sports business, and – now one of the top names in the boxing industry – is redefining the image of boxing and its position as a mainstream tier-one sport.