Sonja Ewell was accustomed to dealing with big egos from 15 years working in the entertainment industry. She also knew a little bit about boxing, having spent two years working at HBO Sports.
But little did she realize that managing a fighter would be such a cutthroat enterprise.
"The music business is civil compared to boxing," said Ewell, 40, a single mother of three who is managing heavyweight prospect Roy McCrary. "I've had guys try to steal my fighter from me. I've had people badmouth me because I'm a woman. I've been threatened. But all it did was make me work harder and be tougher."
Ewell had a tough childhood, in foster care from age 3 until she graduated from high school. She overcame her lack of a structured family life and became a successful businesswoman. She worked with rapper and entertainer Ice Cube as an assistant tour manager. She has experience with contracts from her time at HBO.
She came to Las Vegas in 2005 to work for Boyd Gaming and now works as a paralegal for the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Combining her work experiences, Ewell can sense a con job a mile away.
"It becomes a sixth sense," she said. "You know when something's not right."
Ewell got a call at 2 a.m. one night from a friend in Memphis. The friend wanted to send McCrary to Las Vegas to continue his boxing career and asked whether Ewell would look after his affairs?
"At first, I was a little leery," she said. "I didn't know anything about boxing, But I know something about people. After I talked to Roy, I knew we could work together."
McCrary, who hopes to make his pro debut in August, said he loves having a woman manage his career.
"She cares about me as a person, not just as a fighter," he said. "I trust her completely."
McCrary is Ewell's first boxing client. But since word got out, she said other fighters have approached her about managing them.
"I'm not rushing into anything," Ewell said. "I want to make sure this works before I branch out with other fighters."
Between her job as a paralegal, raising her children and managing her fighter, Ewell has very little idle time. And that's fine by her.
"I don't sleep," she said. "I'm working around the clock because I have to succeed. Too many people are depending on me."