TORI NELSON: SHO ‘NUFF A WORLD CHAMPION by Steve Houk

by Neer&Far Photography

She rises at dawn each day in her Ashburn Virginia home, and she prays. “When I first wake up, I already know I have to use every second of my day wisely. Prayer is first.”

So she prays for the happiness and safety of her two teenage kids, Q and Simone, the lights of her life.

Then she likely prays a little for the children she watches over in her first job of the day as a school bus driver. Then there’s one for the kids she feeds in her second job as a school cafeteria worker. And then another for the ones she teaches at her third job as a boxing instructor. Lastly, she probably throws a prayer in there for when she next enters the ring.

Then she gets her kids off to school and starts off another day in the life of Tori Nelson. A day in the life…of a world champion.

Tori “Sho ‘Nuff” Nelson holds three of women’s boxing’s biggest titles and is defending one of them, her Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) welterweight crown, on November 7th in Cockeysville MD as part of former Baltimore Raven Jonathan Ogden’s 8th Annual “An Evening Ringside” to benefit his foundation and the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. She recently won the vacant WIBA welterweight title in a main event bout in Rhode Island, becoming a world champion for the third time in her career; she had already captured the WIBA middleweight title in 2012, and won the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight crown in 2011. Last month, she also was named TheRingside.Biz’s Boxer Of The Month for September beating out male counterparts like Floyd Mayweather. She is currently undefeated at 7-0 with 3 draws.

Tori THREE Belts by Y&D Photography

You would be hard pressed to find a more affable, humble and religiously devout world champion than Nelson anywhere on the planet. Not only does she work the three jobs with a beaming smile on her face all to support her and her kids, but she also has to fit in a training regimen worthy of a champion. And she passionately credits one entity with getting her through each and every very busy and exhausting day.

“God. That’s the only answer I can give you. He makes it possible for me. He already knows who He’s made me. I’m just doing what I can do to please Him, so as long as I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and I’m taking care of my kids and I’m using the talent that He gave me, I’m hoping He’s pleased, then I’m very happy.”

When you meet Tori Nelson, who is a very youthful looking 37, you don’t automatically think “this woman is a boxer and could take me apart.” In fact, the first time I met “Sho’nuff”, she smiled that “Tori” smile, opened her arms wide and hugged me tight, like she’d known me for years. It’s that disarming yet thoroughly genuine niceness of being that strikes you first, way before you think one of her gloved fists might. And that’s the way she conducts herself in her everyday life.

“At (one of my jobs), people (would) say, ‘Why you smilin’ when people bein’ rude to you?’ I tell them, you never know what people went through before they walked through that door. They don’t mean to be takin’ it out on you, they just haven’t changed yet. Before they came in, they may have had a terrible day. so my job is, I see you have a bad day, I need to make you feel welcome, you OK, you’re loved, it don’t matter how bad you treat me. You’re OK with me. That’s how I live.”

Tori Nelson didn’t set out to be a champion boxer, she was a mother first. But she serendipitously met her manager-to-be Craig Fladager when she hit a local Virginia gym to lose baby weight, and while working the bag and her fists, he noticed the makings of something very special in her skill, attitude and determination.

 

Courtesy Jeff Riegel

“After having two kids, your body don’t look the same,” Nelson said. “I had gained a little weight, and I wanted to do something. So I went to the gym and started working out and Craig was watching me and he said, ‘What would you do if you competed?’ And I said ‘Well, I’m gonna be the world champion if I compete,’ because I always set my standards really high. He looked at me real crazy, and then the night that we won in Trinidad, he said, ‘You remember that day you came to the gym and you said you’d be world champion, you remember the look that I gave you?’ I said, ‘Yeah’ and he said ‘I have to apologize.’ He was just so excited, and he said ‘You certainly did it, and now you’re the world champion.’ I said, ‘I told you I would be!’Nelson has to work the three jobs largely to pay for the time she doesn’t work while training for her bouts, all with no substantative sponsorship or endorsement deals in place, something she and her management are working hard and would be elated to land. But it’s her role model of a mother who gives her the will and the desire to emulate by just working hard and keeping at it.

“In life, my hero is my mother,” Nelson says. “Because like me, she was a single mom, ‘cept with (four) kids, it was three boys and me. She did what she had to do to raise us. I look back now and I think, ‘I’m going in my mother’s footsteps.’ She’s a strong lady, she’s so strong, she was the best mom that anybody could ask for.”

by Neer&Far Photography 2

Her other role models are both legendary boxers with very different reputations who motivate her in different ways. “As far as a boxing hero, it’s Joe Frazier. I train like Joe Frazier, because we have the same styles. Even when I was raw, when I had just started, Craig said to me, ‘You know who you look like? Joe Frazier.’ I love the way he fights, it’s fun to him, he takes it to heart. And I love Mike Tyson, he goes full speed ahead. He and I met privately, and then for a long time I would look at the picture of him and I before I fought, and it just gave me the drive to know that if you get hurt, you get hurt, but they can’t kill you. You just go in and do what you do.”

And what do her two kids think about their mom being one of boxing’s top world champions? They differ in their support styles but both give their mom everything she needs to succeed.

“They are two different personalities — my daughter, she all for it, she loves it, my mom was actually sitting beside her (at the last fight) and she was goin’, ‘Throw the left’ and sayin’ ‘Why are you worried Granny, mommy’s gonna beat her anyway,’ she has so much faith in me. My son on the other hand is a mother’s boy, he is so sensitive, and he’ll cry or he’ll keep his head down, and once it’s over he’ll be like, ‘I knew you were gonna do it, Mom, I just didn’t want to see it.’ But they were both gym babies. They are my biggest fans. They love it.”

So Tori Nelson’s ascent into boxing’s pantheon goes on, replete with that winning smile, her deep devotion to God, and her innate kindness, at least when she’s out of the ring. And what does she want people to know most about who she really is behind the facade of a world boxing champion?

“I’m a mom just like the other moms, I do what I have to do to take care of my kids, and I’m a hard worker just like everyone else. And I’m a child of God.”  Sho’nuff.

For tickets to “An Evening Ringside” featuring Tori Nelson’s title defense, click here.

To visit Tori’s website, click here.

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3 Responses to “TORI NELSON: SHO ‘NUFF A WORLD CHAMPION by Steve Houk”

  1. Tamica Goode Says:

    Go Tori!! So proud of you girl!!

  2. Reblogged this on GLJ Media Group and commented:
    Great article by Steve Houk, whom I’ve known for almost 25 years. He’s written this on Tori Nelson, who I made a documentary about in 2012. Tori’s life is a wonderful story depicting her struggle in what many consider a “man’s sport.”

  3. Cynthia Caldwell Says:

    She is awesome! Inside and out…such dedication. Have known her for years! Keep up the great work you do daily. And prayers for your safety as you continue on the journey of boxing!

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