Sergeant-at-arms moonlights with her flashing fists

Posted: Monday, March 01, 2004

When Jamiann Stevens showed up to work in the Alaska Senate chambers with a black eye about a year ago, no one thought it that unusual.

First of all, Fairbanks Sen. Ralph Seekins had recently received 50 stitches after being hit in the head with a puck during a college hockey game, and second, Stevens is a title-holding boxer.

During the week, Stevens, 32, is the Senate sergeant-at-arms. But in her free time she trades her professional clothing for protective headgear - which doesn't always prevent facial injury.

The boxing seed was planted when Stevens, who grew up in Juneau, was 16.

She was hanging out at the Zach Gordon Youth Center and a couple of girls began pushing her around. At that time Juneau had a fight club, and two of its members saw the girls attacking Stevens.

"They said, 'Hey, come over here. We want to teach you how to defend yourself,'" she said.

They taught her how to stand and throw a few punches. She worked with them for a month or so and then dropped boxing for about 12 years. Her next chance to get back in the game came while working as a ring girl during a fight at Marlintini's in the late 1990s.

"At some point I looked at the people in the ring and thought, 'I can do that!'" she said.

Five years later, Stevens holds a female lightweight title belt from the Ketchikan Fight Club - known among its members as KFC. Her husband, Russ, is the four-time Southeast heavyweight champion. Son Tyler, 10, has also competed in amateur boxing, though his mother says he's more into team sports.

But for Jamiann, boxing holds an allure no other sport has.

"It's just the competition, and you get a little respect out of it. It's one-on-one. It's going out and proving to yourself what your limits are," she said.

As sergeant-at-arms, Stevens is responsible for keeping decorum on the floor, for making sure things run smoothly and for enforcing chamber rules. After a particularly stressful day, she might unwind the same way she does after a boxing match: some stretching, some deep breathing and a glass of white Zinfandel.

Some state senators, including Seekins, have taken an interest in her avocation and attended some of her fights.

Seekins said Stevens' competitive spirit shows through outside the ring as well.

"She's very dedicated and a hard worker. It's kind of neat to see someone that develops that passion, works toward it and has a great deal of fun with it."

At the same time, the senator acknowledges that he hadn't given much thought to women boxers before meeting Stevens.

"I'm a husband and a father and a grandfather. I can't imagine my two girls doing it as a sport, but I can certainly see how it's something that she really enjoys to do," he said.

Stevens herself acknowledges that there's a difference between the way men box and the way women box.

"You'll see guys get close in at each other. They hold on to each other. Women push the people off and punch. Women are just a little more vicious," Stevens said.

Juneau doesn't have an official fight club, though there are about 30 boxers in town that have formed a loose association. Stevens said their organization is limited because they don't have their own facility. But the group did put on a fight night at Centennial Hall this weekend.

• Masha Herbst can be reached at masha.herbst@juneauempire.com.



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