ATLANTIC CITY - Christina Kwan was already knocked out once this week.
Kwan, a professional poker player and fighter from Las Vegas, was eliminated about halfway through the bounty poker tournament she hosted and competed in at Tropicana Casino and Resort on Wednesday night.
The 31-year-old is hoping for a much better result in the boxing ring tonight, when she faces Kendra Lucas, of Wilson, N.C., at the Tropicana Showroom in a four-round minimum-weight bout.
"I haven't fought in six years, so I'm excited to get back into the ring again," Kwan said. "I have a lot of things going on in my life. I play poker, I own a drag-racing boat and I own my own (public relations) and marketing firm (Kwan International). But I was originally a boxer and I'm glad to be back."
Kwan (0-1) was a national and world amateur champion who made her pro debut in 2006 in Las Vegas and lost on a first-round TKO to Valarie Rix.
Kwan and Vinny Perozzi, Kwan's trainer and husband of 13 years, explained that Kwan was supposed to fight someone else at a lower weight, but the opponent backed out. Rix owned a 3-0 record at the time. She weighed less than two pounds more than Kwan the day before the fight but was noticeably bigger by the time the first bell rang.
Disappointed and disillusioned by the politics and back-door deals that frequently occur in boxing, she stepped away from the sport to focus on other interests. The 2002 University Nevada-Las Vegas graduate found a way to combine all of her passions by opening her own business at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Her office features a boxing ring, poker tables and even includes her boat, which she intends to start racing soon.
She began playing poker a few years ago after learning one of her friends had won $129,000 in a tournament with a $200 buy-in. The friend suggested that Kwan would make a good poker player.
The friend was right. This past July 4, Kwan finished 20th at a World Series of Poker Deepstack tournament at the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
"I started small and worked my way up with poker, just like I did with boxing," Kwan said. "Playing poker is all about learning how to play against people and reading people. It's a lot like life and boxing. But I'm a better fighter because I have more experience. I've only been playing poker for a few years."
Kwan and Perozzi picked up more experience on their way to Atlantic City.
Instead of flying, they made the cross-country drive along with their 100-pound Alaskan Malamut. They stopped at boxing gyms in Denver, Kansas City and Indianapolis to train.
"Christina sparred six rounds in Indianapolis, but otherwise she just worked out in the other gyms," Perozzi said. "She learned a lot on the way here."
Kwan and Perozzi were part of a bounty team that competed in Wednesday's poker tournament. Team Kwan also consisted of Moises Flores and Lisa Pickell, a Bricktown native who became the first woman to win a WSOP Circuit Ring when she earned the honor at a 2005 tournament at Showboat Atlantic City.
Pickell wound up splitting first and second place Wednesday night and walked with $850. She'll be at ringside tonight to watch Kwan take on Lucas (0-1), who hasn't fought since 2007.
"Look at these (manicured) nails," Pickell said with a laugh. "There's no way I'd ever put on a pair of boxing gloves. I think I'll just stick to poker."
Punchlines: Vineland promoter Diane Fischer Cristiano's card has six fights scheduled. In the 10-round main event, Portsmouth, Va., lightweight Dorin Spivey (41-6, 30 KOs) will defend his NABA title against Rod Salka (16-1, 3 KOs), of Bunola, Pa. Salka is trained by former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer. Atlantic City super-middleweight Antowyan Aikens (5-0, 1 KO) will meet Steve Tyner (3-6-2, 2 KOs), of Akron, Ohio, in a four-round bout. ... Doors to Tropicana's Showroom will open at 7 p.m. with the first fight scheduled for 8. Tickets are priced from $40 to $100 and are available through pressofatlanticcity.com/tickets.
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