Tori "Sho Nuff" Nelson, like many single mothers, is a strong-willed woman who works multiple jobs in order to support her family. Unlike most mothers, however, she is a professional boxing champion who relies on God to give her strength both inside and outside the ring.
Although the 35-year-old Nelson holds two world titles and is the highest-ranked female middleweight in the United States, she has struggled to gain sponsors and has been forced to work other jobs as a result. In between training sessions, which take up nearly four hours of her day on average, she works as a school bus driver, school cafeteria manager and an IHOP waitress.
"I do get tired, and I do get stressed out, but I just pray, and I keep going," Nelson told The Christian Post on Thursday.
A resident of Ashburn, Virg., Nelson lives with her two teenage children. Although her schedule is already seems full, Nelson still makes time to attend church and participate in Bible studies.
"It would be impossible without God," she said. "It would truly be impossible without God helping me."
Her spokesperson, Barry Bateman, says even though Nelson should be embraced as an "American hero," it has been difficult to get her widespread recognition and financial support because she is a woman.
"She's a beautiful soul. She's a beautiful person – very eloquent, very elegant – but at the same time the women's boxing is just not branded and endorsed the right way, where it should be more of a business or sport that is recognized," said Bateman.
Nelson's mother was a single parent and worked constantly when she was growing up, so she was in many ways raised by her three brothers. She learned to be tough in her childhood home, and she's not afraid to go toe-to-toe with a man even to this day.
"I spar only men...I train with guys because I know if I'm training hard with a guy, and a guy's hitting me with all he has, there's nothing a girl can do to me," Nelson said.
She began boxing at 29-years-old, which is late for a beginner, after having her two children and seeking a way to get back into shape. She had previously started testing to become a police officer or state trooper, she says, before "God intervened" by allowing her to become inexplicably ill on the day of her physical evaluation. She believes her success in boxing is further evidence that she is being obedient to God's will for her life.
"I just feel that it's what God wanted me to do, it's the gift that he gave me. It's not that I really chose it. It chose me," she said.
Once she's finished competing, Nelson hopes to open a boxing gym where she can help other women, especially those who had children at an early age.
"Most girls just feel like they can't finish school, they can't do anything other than just be a parents and that's not true. You can still keep your dreams and be whatever you want to be," she said.
Nelson has an undefeated record – six wins, no losses and one draw – in her professional boxing career. She currently holds the female middleweight title for both the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the Women's International Boxing Association (WIBA), which she won in February by defeating Vashon Living.
In her next bout, which was scheduled for June 23 but has been postponed, Nelson will compete against Sweden's Maria Lindberg. According to the Women Boxing Archive Network, Lindberg is ranked second in the world among middleweights and Nelson is ranked fourth.