Boxing's Mia St. John is nicknamed "The Knockout" for obvious reasons. But there is more than just beauty here. There's a strong-willed women who pretty much achieves all she sets out to do.
There's the Tae Kwan Do champ, the college graduate and the WBC world title belt in boxing. Along the way she also became the first Mexican and boxer to appear on the cover of Playboy. She wanted to write a book, so she wrote a book.
As big as an accomplishment, though, is her twenty years of sobriety, as she proudly discloses.
Currently Mia is scheduled to fight in Zacatecas, Mexico on November 20th, Mexican Revolution Day. She will never be the greatest women's boxer and that was never her goal. She's satisfied with her career and see's herself in the ring another year or two. And guys, yes, maybe even another Playboy spread is in the works!
Q: Mia you started out in Tae Kwon Do is that right?
A: Yeah, my dad actually put me in the sport. This was way back in the 70's and 80's. Bruce Lee was really popular and he was really into that. Since my dad didn't have any boys yet, he decided to put his girls in it.
Q: When did you make the switch to boxing and why?
A: That was when I was like twenty-eight or twenty-nine. There really wasn't a lot of options to turn pro in Tae Kwan Do. The only thing was maybe the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I just told myself I needed to go pro.
Q: What did you expect to get out of boxing?
A: I thought it was realistic that I could become a world champion. Coming from a Mexican family I was taught that we could make anything happen, that anything was possible. So when I finally told people that I was gonna sign with Don King, everybody laughed at me. They told me that I was not even a boxer and I told them I will be! My mom always taught me that I can do anything I wanted to do, and it happened. After awhile I told my team that I wanted to fight on Oscar De La Hoya's cards so we need to go with Bob Arum. And that was even funnier to people because you just don't get to open for Oscar De La Hoya. I told them I could and one day I will be fighting Christy Martin also. They just patted me on the back and said, 'OK Mia, whatever. And of course we made it all happen. I left Don King a year later and went with Bob Arum, telling him I wanted to open for Oscar. He started me on Univision and then pay-per-view. I ended up leaving him so I could fight Christy Martin. Bob Arum didn't want me to fight Christy because he said I would get killed. But I always knew I had to find out how good I was or wasn't. I just had to know in my heart if I was any good.
Q: You took some flack early in your career for fighting opponents that critics say were used to just pad your record. What do you say?
A: I fought opponents that were on my level. I don't think I fought bums because in boxing, I don't think there are many bums in boxing. It takes a lot of courage to get into the ring and risk your life. If you watch a lot of my early fights you'll see that I was on equal level. The problem was when your with a promoter, if it's a close fight, your gonna get the win. If it's not a close fight you still may get the win, so that was a problem. If you fought me and didn't knock me out you didn't have a lot of chance of winning. That's the business, that's boxing. A lot of times it's not just who's the best fighter, it's who's signed with the promoter. That's one of the reasons I left the promoters, because I wanted to be independent and I wanted to fight tougher girls, the top girls. And I wanted it to be fair. Even if I had to fight them on their promotion, I just wanted to do it because I just had to know how good I was.
Q: Even though you lost the Christy Martin fight, did you feel vindicated?
A: Yea I did. A lot of people actually felt that I out-boxed Christy. I really did show that I was pretty good. The only thing I can say is that I didn't throw enough punches in the early rounds. I was very tentative and I was just feeling her out, I start slow a lot of times. A lot of people found out that this girl can fight. I also learned that I am not the best. I learned that I am real good, but not the best. I didn't need to be the best, I was happy just fighting the fights I wanted and doing the best I could.
Q: What were the positives and negatives of your Playboy spread in 1999?
A: All positives, absolutely no negatives at all. I have a very good relationship with Playboy today, they have done a lot for my career. I was the first Mexican, the first boxer on the cover. So it was absolutely all positive for me.
Q: Is there another Playboy spread in the future?
A: Well, yea, we've been talking to Mexican Playboy about that, so it's a possibility.
Q: Your last fight was in Mexico in June. You won a WBC title ... your proudest moment in your career?
A: The last fight was my proudest moment because it was the first time fighting in Mexico, that's where my family lives. I've always said I would not retire until I fought in Mexico. And I always wanted to fight for the WBC belt, that's everybody's dream. So to have those two things happen was unique.
Q: So how long do you expect to keep fighting?
A: Well, I've been pro for twelve years and I don't see it going for that much longer. Maybe another year or two and that should be it. I always said I'll go as long as Bernard Hopkins does (laughing).
Q: What about mixed martial arts in the future?
A: I don't think I'll do that again. My heart just isn't in the sport and I can't do something my heart just isn't in.
Q: What's the state of women's boxing in your opinion?
A: It's in the same state as the entire economy. The economy has affected all areas and that includes sports. Without the ticket sales, promoters cannot afford to pay fighters what we were getting. So many of us are fighting more out of the country. I'm doing the same thing. It's just that the economy is bad and once it picks up hopefully you'll see more fights.
Q: You have a book coming out soon, don't you, and possibly a tell-all book about boxing?
A: My health and fitness book "The Knockout Body Plan" comes out in April of 2009, by Wiley Publishing. This book talks about health and fitness plans and the obstacles I had to go through. The memoirs book is coming out after that, probably 2009 or 2010. It will be more about my life. It's not really a tell-all book about boxing. I think people truly know what boxing is like. I think they know it's a business and it's been known for corruption. I don't think that is any news. But the memoirs book is really just to tell more about my life growing up, not my boxing career. It talks about being a Mexican American in the United States and having to overcome all of the obstacles that I've had to overcome and dealing with that. It's kind of an inspirational book for kids growing up today being Mexican American.
Q: Drugs and alcohol played a part in your early life didn't they, is that part of the book?
A: I have twenty years sobriety! I talk about how people growing up get caught up in the drug, alcohol and crime scene and how I overcame that. I talk about how to go from that and lead a more productive life.
Q: What exactly is the foundation you started?
A: It's called El Saber Es Poder Foundation, which means "Knowledge Is Power". What we do is help schools, primarily Mexican-American kids, with educational type things, equipment and supplies. For example on Christmas we take families and provide them with items. So many of their families are here working on the farms and in the fields, and they do not have money to provide a Christmas for them. We provide food, clothes and other items. We also have Micron in Idaho and Dell in Mexico providing computers for the children. Without the proper technology they have no way to advance themselves. The kids in barrios' don't even have an indoor toilet. I thought that by providing computers and a satellite and connecting them by internet to the rest of the world, wow, what a great thing! I asked a lot of people for help and Micron and Dell decided to sponsor this. It's a huge deal and were going to be doing. That around my fight on November twentieth on Mexican Revolution Day in Mexico. I give all of myself to this foundation. It's a full time job. For me it seems. You really have to love doing it and I do.
Q: What other projects are you involved in right now?
A: I'll be doing some work in Mexico for GoChi juice, it gives you energy for your workouts. Rarely do I ever endorse anything. People who know me know that, but I really do believe in this product. All the money I earn goes directly to my foundation. I really believe in this product www.knockout.freelife.com.
Q: So what's in the future for you, Mia?
A: I want to continue writing, continue hosting and commentating the fights. And also to stay very active in my charity work. I'm sure I'll stay in entertainment, in the business, but my charity work is really what I want to do.
Q: Mia any final words or anything else you want to mention?