Criminal Justice Grad Eyes Olympic Berth in Women’s Boxing

COLUMBUS, Ga. - An exemplary student and decorated NCAA athlete, Tiara Brown says she plans to take her criminal justice studies to the graduate level and eventually “bring in the bad guys” as a U.S. Marshal.

“Eventually” is the operative word, as Brown, 21, is poised to represent the United States on Team USA’s inaugural women’s boxing squad.

Tiara Brown After crossing the stage during CSU’s 100th commencement starting 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 10 in the Columbus Civic Center, Brown will delay entry to CSU’s Master of Public Administration Justice Administration program to train full-time for 2012 in London, where women’s boxing debuts as an Olympic sport.

The goal appears within reach, as Brown has established herself as the nation’s fourth-ranked light welterweight despite training solo around a full-time commitment as a CSU student athlete completing her senior year. “Competing in the Olympics is a big dream I have — and it’s so close,” said Brown, right, who recently defeated her opponent in a USA vs. Italy Olympic-style meet in Chicago.

After the graduation ceremony, she’ll return to her hometown, Fort Myers, Fla., and train under Larry Willis for an upcoming string of Olympic-qualifying matches, starting May 25 in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. Willis coached Brown to a Florida amateur title in her 132-pound weight class prior to her enrolling at CSU with a cross country scholarship.

As in the ring, she excelled for the CSU women’s cross country program. A Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, she also captured all-conference honors twice and competed for three conference championship teams, including the first CSU squad to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country finals.

Academically, Brown also excelled as a self-disciplined criminal justice major. “She has been a leader and motivator in the classroom,” says Associate Professor Dorinda Dowis, chair of CSU’s criminal justice and sociology department. “Her spirit was infectious and will be missed by both students and faculty in the program.”

But boxing now is Brown’s top priority again. She entered the sport in 2001, after watching one of her cousins compete and have success in the women’s amateur ranks. “I remember thinking I can fight too,” said Brown.

During her senior year at CSU, Brown trained herself through a daily regimen, including early morning swimming at the D.A. Turner YMCA, plus weight lifting, shadow boxing, push-ups and speed drills. She’s sparred frequently in Atlanta with professional boxer Nicole Woods. She's also sparred with male professional boxers, brothers Quinton and Marcus Willis, during trips home to Florida.

Brown is also highly spiritual. FFG (Fight for God) is embroidered on her boxing shorts and “What Would Jesus Do?” adorns the necklace she wears daily. Beyond her boxing and CSU-student athlete activities, Brown has mentored 10-year-old Zanya Bohannon, through the local Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.

On May 10, Brown’s sisters from home, Pryntishaye and Candace, will join Sharon, their mother, Sharon's partner, Nicole, and 10 other family members from Fort Myers to travel to Columbus and celebrate her graduation.

“Earning this degree has been Tiara’s foremost priority,” Dowis said. She’s been very focused on this goal and is very excited about Monday.”