World Boxing Champion, Tori Shonuff Nelson to Be Inducted in The Womans Boxing Hall of Fame in 2022!
Updated: Feb 1, 2022
All Photo by: Santiago Gonzalez
American Pro Boxer, "Tori Shonuff Nelson is a former three-weight world champion. She held the WBC female middleweight title in 2011 and in 2012, the WIBA middleweight title. In 2013 and 2014, the WIBA welterweight and in 2016, the WIBA super middleweight title. As of September 2020, the BoxRec ranked her as the" 3rd best active female middleweight." How cool is that! There's also a surprise in this interview but don't want to give it away just yet. You'll have to read it to find out what it is.
Speaking with the legendary boxing champion, Tori Nelson was super inspiring! Tori is a blessing to the world! I laughed throughout the entire interview! Tori is so down to earth that I felt like I was talking to my sister. With all her accolades, she could have the “big head”, but she doesn’t. Not only is she super humble, but she has no problem letting the world know that God is the reason for her success. For that reason alone, she gets a standing ovation! I think it’s amazing when someone of her status possesses humility. It's amazing to see how someone can go through all that she’s been through and still manage to persevere. With that being said, I don’t want to give it all away. I’ll let her tell you.
Hello Tori, how are you?
That's wonderful, I feel blessed as well. In fact, it's an honor to speak with such an amazing blessing and inspiration as yourself. I am so proud of you!
I mean, I’m literally speaking with a future legend! I feel so blessed to speak with such a positive role model!
I feel blessed and honored to speak with you today, so thank you!
Thank you! Ok, Tori, let’s chat.
Let’s do it.
I’ve seen YouTube videos of you knocking people out! I was screaming at the TV saying, get um girl! Let’s talk about that! (laughs)
Oh yes! (laughs)
They all fall down when you come around! They were flying like shrapnel! You’re awesome! Love it!
Let's talk about home life and what inspired you to become a female boxer?
Okay, I'm from Chase City Virginia. It’s on the North Carolina line. I'm the only girl of three boys, so that's how I learned to fight. My brothers and I played rough. Because I was a baby, I had to fight all the time. My brothers helped raise me because my mom was a hard-working single parent doing her best to provide for us. So, one of the things that my brothers taught me was to punch then ask questions later.
So, I said, I’m good at that, so let’s get it! Yes! (laughs) Fast forward, I got married and moved to Northern Virginia (the DC area) to where I reside now.
What was the pivotal moment that led you to become a fighter?
At that time, I had two children and I was over my ideal weight. I really wanted to lose weight, so I spoke to my ex-husband about it, who was also a fighter in the military, and he suggested that I utilize boxing to accomplish my weight loss goal. So, I agreed.
Oh yes! I was so excited! So, in 2007, he took me to a gym in Ashburn and that's when my 12-year boxing career began. What was interesting is that the man who owned the gym later became my boxing coach. One day he asked me what I wanted out of this? I told him that I was there to lose weight. Then he said, if he saw something different in me, would I compete? I'd said, “for free, no!”
I know that’s right!
I told him, if he paid me, I would do it! I went on to say, what I won't do is take punches to my face for free! I did enough of that being raised around bullies. You're fighting all the time! So, after I agreed to his proposition, I began to train. I trained for quite a while before I went amateur. Once I hit that point, he asked me would I like to do my first fight? I said, OK, let's do it! I was around 29 years old when I began my professional career.
So, what happened at the amateur level? Did you beat all of them up? (laughs)
Yes, I did. I beat them all! I won all my amateur fights until I got to the Nationals.
What happened at the Nationals?
Before I go any further, I have to say, I didn’t win the fight but, I know I beat that girl!
Photo by: Yvette Gagnon
Although they didn't officially call my win, this is how I know that I won that fight. She had to forfeit the next day because I beat her so badly! Gina, she couldn't even fight the next fight!
I'm sure she was good is done!
Yes! I said what! You could have given that to me because I was just fine. That's boxing for you. (laughs) My coach then asked me what was it that I wanted to do because at that point I held the "Golden Glove Champion" for about three to four years straight.
I'm so proud of you! Yes!
Thank you! Yes! After that, is when my professional boxing career began. Not only that, but that's where the fun began! Yes!
This story is getting so good! Let me grab my popcorn and red vines!
It was amazing! I also began traveling. I remember the very first fight I had was against the number one girl in the United States. She was a big girl! Ooh child she was big! Let me tell you! But I beat that girl! They couldn't give me a loss, but they did give me a draw. That ticked me off! What you won't do is rob me! So now, the Tori that my brothers raised was determined to fight her again!
So, my coach had to explain to me what they meant by them calling it a draw. He said I beat her, but they couldn't give me the win because it was my first fight. See, at the time she was number one, so they felt that it didn’t look good for them,
That’s ok, I’m going to tell you what I did. I told them to set her up because I was ready to fight her again and fight again, we did. What was interesting is that the news was supposed to do a big story on her. So, she had a lot of press surrounding her on that day.
So, what happened?
They couldn't even put the story together because I beat her up! (laughs)
I feel like giving you a standing ovation right now! (laughs) I feel like giving you a standing ovation right now! Is awesome. It's almost like I'm at the fight right now! (laughs) let me go get some more popcorn!
Oh yes, yes, I did! In fact, that happened twice. The other girl was from New York. Her name is Alicia Napoleon. She brought an entire camera crew with her to record her boxing journey for a documentary. She had all that! She talked trash the entire time! She was saying she was going to win the fight and so on. She got in the ring and got beat up again Gina!
After all that drama?
Yes, after all that!
Girl let me keep eating my popcorn!
Yes girl! They threw all the footage of her away and asked to do a story about me. I thought to myself, get out of here! You did all of that for your girl, and just because she lost, you want to come my way? I was like no! That's OK, I'm good. I wasn't going to let them use me. No!
I hear you! Those are the type of people that are here today and gone tomorrow. They only want to be around those who are on the winning team. That's not loyalty. When you're loyal to someone, you're there with them through thick and thin, the ups and downs, and the good and bad times. You made the right choice. I'm proud of you!
Thank you! Yes! So, I fought for the WBC belt in Trinidad. I was so excited to fly to Trinidad! Now, I will say that it was different, but the people loved me to death. The entire time I was there they called me Joe Frazier. By the way, I love Joe Frazier! He is my favorite #1 fighter. When they called me Joe Frazier, I was feeling myself! (laughter) (laughter) So the woman I fought was from the Mayweather team. I thought to myself. Here we go with the foolishness, but I didn't let it faze me. So, they didn't like my coach because he was Caucasian. I later found out that a lot of Trinidadians don't like Caucasian people. They couldn't stand him, they wanted to kill him. So, I fought the girl and won.
During the fight, they cheated and did a lot of unscrupulous things, but after doing all that, I still won. So, I beat the girl up and brought the WBC belt home. But let me tell you Gina, they wanted to kill us. My coach waited until we got into the dressing room to tell me this news.
He told me that a woman whispered in his ear that someone was planning to kill us and that we had to leave and go to the airport on that night. He said we have to go back to the hotel, get our stuff and leave because they're going to kill us.
Oh no, what a frightening experience!
I said you’ve got to be kidding me! I couldn’t believe it! What was even crazier was that they didn't want to take us back to the hotel from the venue. It was a mess!
So, God protected us. He sent this man to take us to the airport. He was afraid, but he did it. God bless that man! God bless his heart! So, we stayed the entire night at the airport. We stayed there all night long by ourselves.
I'm sure that it was even difficult to sleep there when you both had to be on the lookout the entire evening.
Yes. But God was with us. So, I brought the WBC belt home and that's a wrap. After that, Mayweather’s team called informing us that they had dropped the girl they had and wanted me instead.
Wow! Isn’t that crazy how things turn around so Isn’t that crazy how things turn around so unexpectedly? That’s God's favor in your life.
Yes! My coach told me that it was up to me to make that choice. Either way, he would not be upset with me. I told him no. The grass is not always greener on the other side. I told him. “You believed in me when I was nothing! You believed in me, trained me, and helped me to become what I am today. I was with you from day one. You are the one who helped me to become a pro.” With them, the minute I get an injury, they'll put me on the shelf and throw me to the side. They won't care anything about me. The money looked great, but money is not everything. So, I took the option to stay with the person who was there for me from the beginning. I said no to their offer, and I don't regret it.
Yes! Would have done the same thing. I'm extremely proud of you!
As a result of that, my entire boxing career was a struggle. We had to scratch just to get where we needed to go. I even fought for free and paid people to get on cards. That's unheard of. The funding of my career came out of my coaches and promoters’ pockets and even my own. We did whatever we had to do because I loved the sport. See, If I had signed with the Mayweather team, I wouldn't have had to struggle. But I was different in the sense that I fight, because of my love for the sport. It’s not about the money for me. But you know what Gina? God always wins in the end.
Yes, say it again!
So, I became a multi-time world champion. I hold 13 belts in four to five different weight classes. But I don't have the publicity many other world champions have because I’m a private person. I'm not the type of person that puts myself out there on social media flaunting my body around and showing off. First and foremost, I'm a child of God and I'm a mother. I have kids to raise, and I want to be the best example I can be to them.
Furthermore, I didn’t have time for that. I didn't have time to solicit followers and publicity. While others are out flaunting themselves on social media, I was at home raising my children. Once again, I fought because I loved the sport. And what's even more amazing is that God blessed me to the point that I never sustained any serious injuries. I was fine the entire time. All I did was follow God’s will in my life, and at the end of the day, I prevailed.
Yes, by following God’s will, you can never go wrong.
That’s the truth. I'm going to tell you something that no one else knows. This news is hot off the press!
Do I need to get some more popcorn and red vines?
Yes, girl go get some! (laughs) Let me tell you I got a phone call about a month ago today that told me that I was going to get inducted into the “Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame” in October of 2022. Won’t He do it! God is so good!
God is so good! Let me put this popcorn down and do my happy dance! There are no words to describe how happy I am for you! Praise God! Say it again!!
In October of 2022, I will be in Las Vegas to receive my honor of being inducted into the “Woman Boxing Hall of Fame!”
I am so happy for you! See what being faithful to God does for you? You are being rewarded because you are a woman of integrity, and you didn't sell out.
God did that for you! Amen! Yes! That's so wonderful! Praise God! I'm going to circle back around and do another story on you when that time comes.
Oh yes, and just so you know you are the first magazine that got this news.
How do you navigate in a predominantly male-dominated sport? Have you ever received any negativity or discrimination for being a woman and even a black woman in this sport?
Yes. Being a woman and a male-dominant sport is rough, very rough. Not only am I a female, but I am a black female so that presents even more challenges. Another issue is that women don't get paid half of what men get paid for a fight. Not only should we be paid equal to what men make, but we should be paid more.
I agree. It's harder on women's bodies than it is on men.
I have been turned down and yes, I'm about to throw them out there right now! Number one Under Armor, at that time, I had more than Saul Canelo Alvarez had. So, I'm in the sport, doing my thing and killing it! But I'm a black female. So as far as publicity, they needed a boxer. My team reached out to them and informed them that they had a female boxer who’s a world champion and so forth. They seemed interested until Canelo’s people came around. Do you know they didn't even respond to us? They went straight to Canelo.
But like I say Gina, God always wins in the end.
Yes, He does.
It's just unfortunate how they give men everything. We have to struggle and fight for everything, even if it's the least amount. It's sad. But on another note, I'm thankful for Clarissa Shields. She inspires me because she's holding her ground. She puts her foot down and refuses to fight for just any amount of money. She demands to be paid what the men are being paid.
And rightfully so.
Everything by God's grace. And you know what Gina? I take my head off to her. Clarissa and I were the first female fighters to headline a Showtime boxing match. Now tell me. Have you heard that anywhere?
No, hear about the men's fights.
Exactly because if it had been a male fight, it would have been promoted everywhere. Yes, we made history! No female has ever made a headline Showtime boxing match as we did. It's crazy how anything we do. We have to bust our behinds and fight for it. And even after that, we still don't get acknowledged for what we do. They make you feel like they're doing you a favor when you did all the work. It's just not fair.
I hear you. I hear that you mentor young ladies.
Yes, and I tell them, don’t ever settle, and know your worth. I mentor girls of all nationalities, but when it comes to African American girls, I tell them, “Don’t let people tell you what you cannot do.” especially because of your color. Just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it can't be done. I encourage them to stay prayed up and keep it moving.
People don't know the favor that God has on you. You have to keep going. Just taking the time to care about these young women and speak life to their lives, has brought forth life altering changes in themselves and in their lives. Gina, you know what really breaks my heart?
Photo by: Santiago Gonzalez
What's that Tori?
What breaks my heart is that there are so many African American women who have made it, don't reach back to mentor these young women. It's almost like they’ve said, OK, I've made it, so you have to make it on your own. They have this to each man himself attitude, and it's not right. Women that are like that change and look down on others as though they're better than you are now. That makes me feel sad because that is what is needed in our society in order to create champion women.
Like even with yourself being a filmmaker. It's disrespectful for someone to say, “What man filmed this? Or did you film this?” That's disrespectful to you. Why can’t a woman film a movie too?
Exactly. Oh yes, I have experienced that. But it has strengthened and empowered me to press forward even harder. So, staying on that same subject matter, I wanted to talk about the importance of being a role model. What is your responsibility?
It is very important. Back in the day, they used to use a particular terminology saying, “do as I say, but not as I do.” That's wrong because these kids are not listening to what you say, they're watching what you do.
For example, if I tell them to stand strong and hold their ground, give God glory, do this, or do that and they see me on Instagram doing the opposite, half-dressed talking crazy, sticking up my middle finger and cursing, I mess up my witness and they won't listen to me any longer.
Isn’t that the truth!
Yes, and the first thing they're going to say is why is it that she’s telling me this when she’s doing that? When I say something, I stand behind my words. You're never going to see me have dressed. I refuse to wear anything that shows my body in a sensual way in public places. I show no skin. Especially on social media. They try to tell you that showing your skin sells. I say no, it doesn't.
I try to instill in these young ladies that they’re smarter than what your body is showing. You have a whole lot more to offer in this world than your body. Don't ever let anyone tell you that your body is the most important thing. Your mind is strong. If you're smart and you stay prayed up, you will be unstoppable! Go out and pursue your dreams but don't fall into the worldly way of living. Because you will fall along with them. No disrespect because these girls do what they do and they're making crazy money. But you have to have your own mind because at the end of the day, you're going to have to answer that. You're going to have to look back at your life and see the decisions that you made and live with them.
Especially when it comes to these so-called IG models. I'm sure a lot of them are extremely intelligent. Use that intelligence to get your degree. Become a doctor or something great. Don't use your body as a tool for your success. You don't have to be naked on social media for people to see your value. You have way more value than that.
You're so knowledgeable. Have you ever thought about becoming a motivational speaker?
Yes, in fact, I became a motivational speaker.
That's awesome. I'm sure you will motivate and encourage a lot of people! I'm so proud of you. I am so encouraged by this interview. You are an amazing girl!
Thank you Gina. You know what? I give God all the thanks and praise! I ask God to put on my heart what he wants me to tell the people. My speech is different every time because I don't write it down. I just let the Holy Spirit lead me. Whatever God wants me to say, that's what I say.
When I mentor these girls, I tell them I'm not going to tell you the same thing that I told someone else. Everyone is different and they need me to take the time to listen to them and be able to share with them. something that is relevant to their situation. What works for one doesn't work for all. What gets me excited is to see these girls come back after going to college sharing with me the wonderful stories that have happened just because I took the time to speak life into them.
One of girls even told me that she was on the verge of taking her own life, but she didn't because I helped her to believe in herself. She went on to say, ``Look, “I'm married and in college now.” She told me that I saved her life. Do you know how that feels to know God used me to save someone’s life? Just because I took the time to show them that I cared about them. Some of the girls who are now grown are in college and some have even become phycologists or doctors. That brings tears into my eyes just speaking about it.
I can imagine what a great feeling that is to know that you influence someone in such a positive way. We live in such a microwave society where people only care about themselves and to know there are people out there that care about others is so encouraging to my heart.
Thank you and you know what? These girls won't get that watching some of the things that they watch on TV or exposed to on social media.
Those platforms don't offer these young girls the guidance they need that will sustain them throughout their lifetime. They will only take them down a dark path of destruction. Our young people need us to be positive role models in our society. I pray that there will be more women that will step up to the challenge of being role models in the lives of our young people.
Exactly, I think it's very important to be a role model to our younger generation. I try to encourage our young people by being an example in the way that I present the media. The platform that I create on all my media outlets is one that is family-friendly and palatable for a vast audience. From young to old. Periodically I'll receive emails from younger people asking me to promote their projects. If their projects are full of profanity or any type of material that I would deem that would be offensive to a family-based audience, I turn them down. However, I do offer them an alternative option. And that option is, when they are ready to give me material that is respectable to a family-based audience, I’m ready and willing to help any way I can. What I would never do is assist anyone to the destruction of their own life or character. How you present yourself, what you say and what you do can and will ultimately your future. The Bible says for the older to teach their younger and all of us are older than someone we all can contribute to the success of the people in the world that we live in.
Let's get back to fighting. How many hours does it take for preparation? and what sorts of steps do you need to take to get your body to a professional level and become a pro fighter?
Let me tell you, you put your body through the Max. I began boxing at age 29. That's considered late in the world of boxing. Most professional boxers have started from a very young age. So, me starting that late is quite unusual. In fact, when I first began, the man told my coach, “She’s washed up.” But 13 belts later, they're like, oh! (laughs) (laughs) They were already saying that about me in the beginning, and I hadn't even fought one fight yet. I was like, wow!
What does a professional boxer's daily diet look like?
Every professional athlete is different, but this is what I do. First and foremost, you have a strict diet that you have to stick to. The good thing was that my coach did tell me that I was able to have at least one free day to eat what I wanted. In the beginning, my free day was on Sundays. I quickly had to change that because when Monday came, the junk food I ate on Sunday, I had to throw it up because I had to train. So, my free day became Saturdays.
So basically, my weekly regimen was to get up in the morning, do my motherly duties then do my hundred Push-ups, sit-ups, and squats.
Now that's something that I would have a hard time doing, especially being consistent with.
Trust me, just doing a little bit can make a big difference.
Just start off with two, then work yourself up to five by the end of the year.
Sounds like a plan! So, what else do you do on a daily basis?
Then after getting the kids together and finishing my first daytime job, I would hit the gym by 8:00 o'clock. I will work out with my coach for an hour and then get to my other job by 10:00 PM.
So, to summarize everything. I worked out in the morning for 1 hour, I worked in the day, then as soon as I got off work, I picked up my children and go back to the gym. So basically, I would be in the gym from about 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
While in the gym I was sparring, doing strength and conditioning, footwork, running, and a whole lot of exercises. Out of all that, the main thing is your diet. Believe me, your body will tell on you. If you don't eat correctly, your body won't perform right. Not only was I the only girl at the gym, but I was the only female on my boxing team. It didn't bother me because I was raised by boys. It really takes a lot of discipline, but they used to tell me mind over matter. And that statement is so true. Sometimes my body would tell me I couldn't do one more pushup, but my mind was telling me that there's ten more in there.
I know, right? Because my body would say to me, “the lies you're telling.” So yes, it is extremely rough. But what you put in it is what you get out of it.
And that's why you're being honored next year. In October of 2022 for the Women’s Boxers Hall of Fame. You put in the work and now God is allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Let's talk about your human side and just being a mother. You come home after a fight. You have some cuts and bruises. Your children see you, what happens then? What happens after the fight?
Women and men are quite different after the fight. The men party. Me, being a woman and a mother, I go home to my children to be a mother to them. My kids will be like, congratulations on your win mom. Now can you help me do my homework, please?
I can just hear them in the ring now, so you won the championship! So, what are you going to do after tonight to celebrate? And you say, “I'm going home to help my kids with my homework!!! Yay!” you know Tyrone, left his kids Yay!” you know Tyrone, left his kids he's free to party. But you have to go home and be a responsible parent.
Yes! I’m telling you! I’m telling you! The guys are at the club having a victory party. Do you know where my victory party was? At my house! As soon as I hit the door, the fight is over and I'm back to being a mom. My children would say congratulations and ask me to help them with this project all in one breath.
Do the cuts and bruises bother them?
The only injury that I had is when one girl I fought head-butted me in my eye.
Yes, my eye was swollen shut. I literally had to fight about three or four rounds using only one eye.
You fought Cyclops style. (laughs)
I know that made you upset.
I was mad! I have a son and a daughter, but my son is a mama's boy. As soon as I got out of the ring and got home, he said, “mom, let me look at your eye!” He wants to help take care of me, but my daughter was different. She would say, “you’re alright, mom, you're strong.” And I'm their hero but, when I got hurt that one time, my son said “mom, that is it!” My daughter said “Boy please! Mom is tough! She'll go back and get her! She'll be alright.”
Yes, boys are so protective of their mothers. Your son said, "you're done with this boxing career! It is over!" (laughs)
When I first decided I wanted to start boxing and I hadn't even had my first fight yet. At the time my daughter was around 5 or 6 and my son was around 9 or 10. my children are sitting outside the ring watching me fight and the girl hits me. My son started crying. Now my daughter, who was the smallest thing in there was screaming, “get um mom!”
I am laughing my head off over here! That is hilarious! That is hilarious! You Tori, boys love their moms!
Yes, they do! My son just didn’t like it. Now, when he got older, he was more supportive of me doing it. But both of my kids love me so much and I love them, and they are my biggest cheerleaders.
What's next for you? Do you think you'll ever fight again?
I'm not going to say that I won't ever fight again, but as of right now I don't see it happening. I feel like the Lord is leading me to use the experience that I have to help others. I had this conversation with my amazing publicist Desiree, who is absolutely the best publicist in the world! I have to give a shout-out to her because I absolutely love her!
Well, I had a discussion with her about becoming a motivational speaker for the purpose of using my story as a testament of God's goodness in my life and in return hopefully be a blessing to someone else. So, currently, that is the direction that I am seeking with serious consideration.
Wow, you are a tremendous blessing, and you are an inspiration! Have no doubt that you have a success and everything that you do. After all, you are a winner. You are a champion. And what's most important, you are a child of the living God! So, how do you balance your faith in God in the dark elements of entertainment in the industry?
That's an easy question for me to answer because there's nothing for me to balance. God comes first in my life. Period! Money and people come and go, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Another thing, I don't do anything before I pray about it first. Whenever someone asks me to do something, I ask myself, " would Jesus do this?" If Jesus wouldn’t do it, then, neither will I. I remember one time I was asked to do a commercial and they wanted me to wear an outfit that I didn't feel was appropriate, so I declined the offer.
Additionally, before I do any other thing, I make sure that it's appropriate for my kids to see. I don't want my children to see me doing something that would be embarrassing to them and embarrassing to myself. I didn't want to have to come home and explain that to them. But I'm glad that I made those choices, because now that they're older, they're even prouder of me. I was an example to them. They never saw me chasing fame or money. They saw me chasing the Lord. So that's what brought me to this point. So, regarding balancing things. Once again, there's nothing to balance. God comes first in my life.
What words of wisdom would you give an upcoming boxer?
I would say, don’t settle and know, your worth. Nobody knows what favor God gives you. Back in the day when I first started boxing, I used to say, “suck it up and keep moving.” People used to approach me and ask me what my model was, and I would tell them, “Suck it up and keep moving.” I would tell them that things are going to happen. But trouble doesn't last always. Keep it moving. But now I say, know your worth, because if you know your worth, you can break boundaries. I pray and ask God to make me an example of what I say. I try to live my life in that way. Thankfully I have many young men and women who have known since they were small saying thank you because they become something now. But I tell them, don't give me the credit, give all the glory to the Lord. I'm just a messenger. I'm just here to allow God to use me how he wants to use me. So yeah, I think the final word I would like to leave with someone is know your worth.
You know Tori, it’s been a complete honor and blessing to chat with you. You've had such an incredibly blessed life. I've enjoyed reliving your journey with you. Thank you for the laughs and for the inspiration. Once again, I'm so proud of your accomplishments and I'm proud of what God is going to do in your life in the future. I pray. God bless you and your family. Keep you safe in this time in our world’s history. I'll be following in your career. God bless you "world champion and warrior for Christ!"
Thank you and God bless you.