Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Keane fuelled by doubters

Published:Friday | October 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMRachid Parchment
K'NRG Management founder Leiza-Mae Keane
Kemahl 'The Hitman' Russell

Leiza-Mae Keane is aiming to leave a legacy behind as not only Jamaica's most successful female boxing manager, but the most of either sex.

Keane is most known for her association with Kemahl 'The Hitman' Russell, having been in his corner since 2013, when he was still an amateur boxer. Since his transition to professional boxing, her guidance has seen him become the 2015 Wray & Nephew Contender Series Champion, then the Junior NABF Middleweight champion after he defeated Ian 'Young General' Green in New York last month.

She was also the manager of Donovan 'Police' Campbell when he won the Contender title in 2012, then Sakima 'Mr Smooth' Mullings when he won in 2014. She also offered Mullings sparring sessions with her boxers earlier this year, on his way to becoming the tournament's first two-time winner.




Keane is the daughter of late Church On The Rock founder Pastor David Keane and has her own agency, K'NRG Management. She said that like her father, her aim is to give underprivileged youngsters in lower income communities a chance to channel their energies in more meaningful and positive ways than crime and violence.

"My father served the nation through his ministry and changing people's lives," Keane said. "I wanted that to be a part of my legacy to say that I made changes in people's lives. My father was involved in converting a lot of people involved in crime and violence. I also want to be a part of converting the gun and the knife culture into something positive and really redirect that bad energy into something good."

Keane started out as a caterer and a part-time model but having been a fan of boxing after watching with her father, as a child, she had noticed a lack of activity in the sport locally. This was until the start of the Wray & Nephew Contender Series in 2011. This was when she began thinking of managing boxers. However, this idea was met with doubts from persons close to her.

"I didn't really expect the support right away," she said. "At first, it was more of a joke to everyone. They thought it was just something I was just doing for fun. Then they saw that I was taking it seriously and everything started to take second place in my life. That adjustment kind of shook everyone. They would say to me: 'Leiza, this cannot be what you do because boxing is not fruitful enough for you to sustain yourself financially and have a life.'

However, she said that the scepticism about this goal did not deter her. Instead, she used it as fuel to prove all her doubters wrong.

Keane said that one of the difficulties she has faced in doing business in the male-dominated world of boxing, is that many have written her off on first impression as just a "pretty face" who knows nothing about the sport.

"In boxing, most people's initial approach would be motivated by my physical appearance. But it is within seconds of speaking to Leiza Keane that all parties have changed their mind," she laughed. "That's because they realise that I am a lady, I'm 100 per cent lady, but the heart that I have is as big as the heart they have. I think that's something that's forced them to just do business. That's what I'm here for."

Keane, who is still looking for corporate backing to fund her boxers, has found herself spending out of her own pocket to provide for them. She has even turned her home into a boxing camp so that she can watch over her fighters to ensure that they stay away from outside distractions and focus on training and getting ready for fights.

She said that although it is a big sacrifice that she has to make, especially as it is the boxers who get remembered for their successes and not her, she still feels a sense of fulfilment for the work she is doing with them.

"Sometimes it may get a little worrying, but it just depends on what you're looking for sometimes. I'd rather go rich in blessings and rich in integrity than to go out rich with finances. That's just my thing. When you're a good person - and I've proven that when you sacrifice you get back, it shows on you."