Don’t Box Me In
Expanding Oklahoma’s Boxing Stance
Seven years ago, an aspiring boxer asked a coach what she could do to become a better boxer. “Move out of Oklahoma,” was the answer. Fortunately, Stephanie Tolson sought to change that narrative rather than change her address. “The boxing community in Oklahoma is small,” Stephanie explains. “I had to travel a lot and keep getting in peoples’ faces because there were very few females in boxing. Unless I wanted to keep boxing the same three females, I had to create new opportunities.” Now, with 21 boxing matches under her belt, the petite powerhouse is making great strides in expanding boxing prospects for other Oklahomans.
Influenced by her father, a 7th degree black belt, Stephanie started martial arts at the age of 12 and competed at the youth Sooner State Games. At 19, she began working at the YMCA, teaching exercise classes and sailing lessons and racing sailboats. “My whole life has been a series of being put in charge of things,” she laughs. “I had so many amazing mentors at the YMCA who taught me how to be motivating, exciting and safe in my teaching.”
Beyond the Ring
After graduating from UCO with a degree in Exercise Science and Kinesiology, and working at a boxing club in Edmond until it closed, Stephanie’s love of boxing was cemented. In Dec. 2014, she and fellow boxer Joe Garcia opened Roughhouse Boxing and Fitness in Edmond and both pursued competitive amateur boxing. “It’s intimidating as a female in a male-dominated sport because you wonder if anyone is taking you seriously. You’re just a novelty so you really have to prove yourself—walk the walk and talk the talk.” The lively, ever-growing Roughhouse gym not only cranks out exhilarating daily boxing workouts for people of all ages and fitness levels, but has also become a hub for producing dynamic amateur boxers and officials.
Voted Vice President, Secretary and Athlete Representative of the Golden Gloves KS/OK franchise this year, and Registration Chair in OK for USA Boxing, Stephanie is setting new standards in boxing leadership. “For the last year, I’ve been recruiting and training people to be officials,” she says. “These volunteers handle ringside tasks including timekeeping, judging and refereeing. It’s given many more people the chance to be involved in the sport.”
Ready to Fight
Achieving yet another milestone, Roughhouse was the beta gym for the ‘Ready to Fight’ Parkinson’s specific boxing program founded by Aaron Sloan in Tulsa. The OK Parkinson’s Alliance-endorsed program can help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. “I’ve been teaching these classes for several years,” Stephanie recalls, “and it’s still one of my proudest accomplishments that I feel privileged to do every time.” Stephanie has also worked alongside Chaplain John Cook of the Edmond Police Dept. who runs the Parkinson’s Disease support group at the Edmond Police Station once a month.
Punching it Forward
As Stephanie’s mission has expanded into community outreach, new doors have opened. Together with School Resource Officer, Demetrius Kirk, at Central Middle School in Edmond, she co-coaches ‘Tiger Time,’ a boxing class for 8th-grade girls. “I want to take my enthusiasm and expertise into the community to empower others and tell everyone about boxing,” she says. “There’s something in it for everyone and it can take you anywhere in life.” The next place it will take Stephanie in 2023 is Philadelphia for the National Golden Gloves Tournament. In the meantime, as VP of Golden Gloves KS/OK, she will embark on another new realm–hosting boxing events to raise funds for the franchise, in hopes of sending 10-20 boxers to the national event.
To learn more, visit roughhouseboxingandfitness.com. For info on sponsorship opportunities, call or text (405) 426-9699.