You might not expect an IHOP waitress to be a championship fighter, but that is exactly the case for Tori Nelson.
42-year-old Nelson from Sterling, Virginia is a women’s 11-time world champion of boxing. Her impressive record includes seventeen wins, two losses, and three draws – and her fighting career is only made more impressive by the fact that she fights and trains in between mothering her two kids, taking care of her own mother, and working as an IHOP waitress to boot.
Nelson’s introduction to the boxing world occurred almost by happenstance. She joined LA Boxing in 2007 as a means of losing weight after her two pregnancies, and it was then that Nelson suddenly discovered she was a fighter.
“You get into it by accident, you just end up there, and then all of a sudden, this is what you’re made to do. You find out your purpose,” she told The Washington Post.
It was at LA Boxing she met one of her coaches, Craig Fladagar. Fladagar admittedly didn’t think much of Nelson at first, due to her sedentary lifestyle –but after seeing her fight, however, his eyes were opened. “[Nelson] came at her with a force and a fury and just beat [her opponent] around the ring.”
Soon after beginning her career, Fladagar lost the gym, so he and Nelson trained in his best friend’s garage, even though they had to make room in the space every day. Nelson’s kids were there with her too as they got homework help from her new boxing family.
Despite this rough start, Nelson’s career came to fruition on the heels of a newfound respect for women’s boxing’s. In the 1990s women’s boxing was still considered a sideshow with the fighters being forced to wear scanty costumes. Now, however, it is considered much more of a serious sport.
Just as women’s boxing moves forward, so does Nelson – there is no end in sight for her either. She continues to fight women who are 20 years her junior or three weight classes above her and holds her own with a solid win or a hard-fought defeat. Whenever she is asked about when she will retire, she shrugs it off with vague statements of “next fight” or “next year.”
(WATCH the Tori “Sho-Nuff” Nelson documentary below)
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