Professional boxer and MMA fighter Erin Toughill made the trip from California to help coach at an all-female boxing camp, hosted by the Sooke Boxing Club. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke Boxing Club clinic draws a heavyweight

If you’re a fan of American Gladiator, mixed martial arts or boxing, the name Erin Toughill rings a bell.

After starting to compete in kickboxing at the age of 17, Toughill launched into mixed martial arts and earned a draw with Irma Verhoeff at the World Vale Tudo Championship Sept. 27, 1999 in Aruba.

She made her professional boxing debut in July 2000 and compiled a record of seven wins, three losses, one draw and one no contest.

Toughill has made the trip from California to take part in an all-female training camp, which began Saturday and runs until Thursday at the Sooke Community Hall.

“Erin has established quite a reputation,” said Sooke Boxing Club coach Ellen Connor. “We’re really pleased to have her at the camp. She is so patient with everyone, it doesn’t matter what their skill level is.”

Toughill, who met Connor at a boxing event last year, said she was flattered when Connor asked her to help out with the camp.

“I love teaching and sharing knowledge,” said Toughill, who also coaches at a boxing gym in Orange County, California.

“I love anything that has to do with women empowerment. I’ve played sports my entire life, and I’ve seen what it can do for girls. It gives self-esteem, teaches you to push through obstacles, teaches dedication and consistency, there are so many things you can learn from sports that translate over into your life.”

Toughill, 41, said she has continued to box for more than 20 years because she wants to constantly improve herself.

“I want to be the best version of myself that I can be, every day. It’s not all about being a fighter, it’s about knowing that you can be beautiful and still be badass. You can be feminine and still kick butt, be strong, and stand up for yourself,” said Toughill.

“I love boxing because it’s always pushing me, challenging me … there’s always something to learn. It’s always been there, through my darkest of times, I always come back to boxing.”

She emphasized the impact boxing can have on someone’s self-confidence, and shows women that they can do anything they set their mind to.

“Boxing is my life, it’s such a huge part of who I am,” said Toughill.

She noted that her favourite part about coaching at the camp has been getting to know each girl individually, and seeing who they are beyond boxing.

“I have loved it. I am so happy to be here I can’t explain it,” said Toughill.

“To see eyes light up and share knowledge between us, I am learning things from the girls as well. It’s interacting that makes me so happy.”

This is the second year Connor has conducted the all-female camp at the club, which has about 80 members, with 40 of those in kids classes alone.

“The camp’s keeping me quite busy,” Conner said.

“It’s all about female empowerment and getting girls to believe in something they never thought they could do.”

The club hosted an all-female card in April, which speaks to the growing popularity of the sport with girls and women.

“It was an amazing success,” Connor noted. “And we aim to make it much bigger next year.”

Connor is also preparing to take six girls to an all-female card in California next month.

Future plans include beginning to train competitors for an all-female fight card scheduled in Sooke in May 2019.

“It’s open to anyone, no experience required. We’ve had some amazing success stories so far,” she said.

“It’s personally very rewarding and gratifying. If you want to do it, we’ll make it happen.”

She cites Sooke News Mirror reporter Dawn Gibson as an example.

“Just to see the change in Dawn, the fire, the personal growth, never mind the physical change has been just astounding,” said Connor.

“We don’t care what you’re background is what size or age you are or where you’re coming from, this sport is for everyone. Just drop by any time, talk to us and try a class.”

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Britynn Carter, front left, ducks out of the way of a punch during a sparring match against Damya Bow at an all-female boxing camp in Sooke. Professional fighter Erin Toughill, back left, came from California to help out coaching at the camp. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

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