How many of you can name five players from the W.N.B.A.? And how many of you can name five pro softball players? Or can you name five Redskin cheerleaders? Probably not... I know I can't. But I can name a world champion female boxer- Ashburn's very own, Tori Nelson!!!
It's a fact- women still have a long way to go in athletics, but there are some people out there that just won't quit and refuse to be ignored, and my girl, Tori, is one of them.
One year ago, I heard from my uncle about a school bus driver that was a boxer. I kept hearing more and more about her, so I asked the staff at I Am Modern if I could do a piece on Tori- without thinking twice, checking out her credentials, etc., they believed in me and told me to run with it. And I've been running ever since. Ya see, it's not hard when you're dealing with Tori. You can read Tori's first article here http://www.iammodern.com/tori-nelson.html .
I met Tori for an interview, and she and her trainer looked at me straight in the eye and said, "Tori will be a world champion." If anyone else in Tori's situation had said that to me, I would have thought they were nuts, but I could see it in her eyes, this woman was never going to stop. I watched her train in an empty Broadlands garage that served as her training facility for months and could feel the angst running through her veins. I could feel how bad she wanted it- and her fire is contagious.
Tori had to work hard to get fights- Not many want to see women boxing. I drove to Pikesville, Maryland to see her in action- and in front of me sat a 70-ish year old couple that had made the same drive. Tori is their favorite server at IHOP- and they too wanted to show their support. After a hard fought match, Tori won.
After winning in Maryland, Tori tried to do everything she could to get on another fight card. Sometimes it all comes down to selling tickets. Tori called me and asked when her article was going to be out in I Am Modern, and it was just about to be on the stands. Her trainer told people she was receiving press- and as soon as the magazine had returned from the printing facility, I Am Modern armed me with a box of 100 issues to serve as Tori's new media kit. Tori beamed when she saw the article... and it felt like things were finally happening.
Months went by, and I continued to lobby for Tori. Being a stay-at-home mom with no boxing knowledge whatsoever, I became a fan. I would send random e-mails to Gary "Digital" Williams- the biggest name covering boxing- and he would actually read them and respond. Luckily, Tori's story speaks for itself and I didn't have to do much but annoy him and he became a fan and gave Tori the name she needed in boxing media. I contacted the Loudoun Times Mirror and they ran a front page story on Tori. Tori and I would have late night chats and we'd soon be saying "Love ya" when we got off the phone. And before you knew it, Tori was more than someone I loved following and writing about, she was my homegirl and my true friend.
This month, Tori boarded an airplane to travel to Trinidad for a title shot. After a whirlwind trip, she touched down at Miami airport, and I was the first person she called when she was on U.S. soil. She said, "Shelley, When you interviewed me, I told you you could have the first interview when I was a world champ. When ya wanna meet?" She did it. She captured the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight title with an upset over Lorissa Rivas on July 29 in Trinidad and Tobago.
Today, I received an e-mail that she will be fighting on the Jimmy Lange Boxing fight card at the Patriot Center on September 10th. In the e-mail, the promotors describe Nelson like this:
Nelson, a three-time Washington, D.C. Golden Gloves champion, is a single mother with two children who juggles numerous jobs while pursuing a career inside the ring. She drives a school bus and works in the cafeteria for the Loudoun County School system and also waitresses at an area IHOP restaurant.
That's exactly how I wrote about Tori in my I Am Modern article. It's all true and shows how she is overcoming obstacles and is an amazing woman. But what this whole journey has taught me is that this community is full of supporters. Tori will never forget how I Am gave her her first "big break." We've asked people to support her, and they have come through with everything from press to photographers (Val Cavalheri) doing free photo shoots. Now, Tori is looking for official sponsors. If you or if you know of anyone interested- please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org Get creative ladies. Do you want to sponsor workout wear for her? She'll wear it at events. Can you sponsor a monthly donation to help fund her training? We can put your business logo on her team's shirt to sport when they enter the ring at the Patriot Center. We promise, there are opportunities for any level.
Ask and you shall receive. It's what I've learned through this experience, and I know that some of the I Am readers will come through. Last Fall, I met with Tori and began asking simple questions for an article. Yes, I met a bus driver, an IHOP waitress, a mother of two, and a female boxer. But more than anything , I met a woman that dreams big and will never stop reaching. I met a world champion. And I met a woman that motivates me to be a better person, a lifelong friend, and someone that has truly given this stay-at-home mama something to believe in.