With three world titles under her belt, including one of the most prestigious in all of boxing, and a well-earned reputation as one of the sport’s toughest road warriors, Kali Reis has accomplished more than most fighters can dream of.
“If I was to be 100 percent real,” Reis said, “I have nothing else to prove to myself.”
Regardless, the Providence, R.I., native and reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) Female Middleweight World Champion remains as hungry as ever, motivated by the desire to achieve more and continue learning about everything the sport has to offer both in and out of the ring.
Having fought overseas five times, from everywhere from Bermuda to New Zealand, Reis (9-5-1, 4 KOs) will once again touch down in her home state Friday, July 15th, 2016 when she faces Atlantic City’s Althea Saunders (3-2-2) in an eight-round bout on the undercard of CES Boxing’s summertime spectacular at Twin River Casino.
Following a 21-month world tour in which she fought four times on foreign soil, Reis returns to Rhode Island for the second time this year. Her last appearance at Twin River ended in thrilling fashion with a 91-second knockout win over Victoria Cisneros.
Two months later, Reis traveled to Auckland, New Zealand to face Maricela Cornejo for the then vacant WBC title, the first time that country had ever hosted a major world title fight. Reis won by split decision for her third world championship, adding the infamous green belt to her Universal Boxing Federation (UBF) and International Boxing Association (IBA) titles.
“It means everything to me,” Reis said of winning the WBC title. “That’s the one belt everyone strives to get, and I’ve had that dream ever since I’ve learned about the whole boxing game from when I was younger. I had that ultimate goal to become the WBC champ and even to be a world champ and achieve that in the WBC, which is the belt of all belts. It means a lot to me. It means all the hard work has paid off.”
Still, nothing beats fighting at home, where Reis is a major box office draw, as evident by the intensity she brought to the ring when she fought Cisneros, a former WBC Silver Female Welterweight Champion and six-time world title challenger.
“I was energized the whole week of the fight. Every time I heard a bell I was swinging!” Reis said.
“It had a lot to do with being home. I hadn’t fought in a long time at home and the energy from being at home and hearing people chant my name and seeing so many familiar faces as I walked out to the ring and I was in the ring, it helped a lot. I try to bring that intensity no matter where I am, but being at home definitely, definitely helps.”
She’ll get another chance to hear the roar of the crowd next Friday against Saunders, a sturdy veteran born in Philadelphia and now fighting out of New Jersey. The two share a common opponent in Marshfield, Mass., vet Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes, whom they’ve combined to fight four times. Reis beat Lopes in her pro debut in 2009 and lost the rematch a year later. Saunders fought Lopes to a draw in 2014 and lost in the rematch last June.
Reis was originally scheduled to face fellow New Jersey fighter Akima Stocks, who withdrew from the bout a month ago, but not much has changed for Reis in terms of preparation.
“I focus on what I’ve got to do no matter who’s in that ring,” she said. “I don’t change the intensity of my training camp as far as, ‘Oh, it’s not the person I thought it was going to be, so let’s dial it down.’ I train just as hard no matter who I’m fighting.
“It does change things a little bit as far as her background versus the other opponent’s background, but I leave all of that studying up to my trainers. That’s their job. And it’s my job to listen to exactly what they’re telling me to do.”
Winning the WBC title is a landmark achievement for Reis, who has developed into one of the world’s top middleweights and carved her own road to the top despite not having a promoter in her corner for most of her career. She fought as an underdog on enemy turf against championship-caliber fighters Hanna Gabriels, Christina Hammer, and others, but, as she stated in February before her fight against Cisneros, she wouldn’t trade that experience for an easier path.
“If you asked me that 10 times, my answer will always be no. I wouldn’t change my career,” Reis said. “It has actually helped me in the long run to build skill and build boxing knowledge in and outside of the ring.
“It has done a lot to create and mold me into the fighter I am today. I love the experience. I’ve gone overseas to so many different countries and experienced so many different cultures and how they take boxing in. It’s been amazing.”
Having done it all with nothing left to prove to herself, what keeps Reis motivated? There’s always a desire to learn and continue to grow, in addition to her ultimate goal of unifying the middleweight world championship by winning in a title in every major sanctioning body.
No matter what, Reis always finds a way to keep the fire burning, even if it’s something as simple as a sold-out crowd at Twin River Casino chanting her name on the way to the ring.
“From here, the goal is to keep myself motivated and keep myself hungry,” she said. “You can never learn too much in boxing. There’s always something you can learn. There’s always new and fresh talent coming into your weight class in women’s boxing and men’s boxing.
“I want to get as much out of it as I can now, especially because I am as busy now as I should’ve been in the beginning of my career. I should’ve been this busy in the beginning, but I’m just going to take advantage of all of the opportunities and follow these titles.
“My hunger is still there. If my hunger starts dying, then it’s my time to get out.”