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Pounding out a living | Clinton clubber, boxing champ opens gym that’s solid as a rock

Anyone who had the New Year’s resolution: “Learn boxing from a women’s title holder living on Whidbey Island” now has that opportunity.

Dakota Stone, a 14-year professional women’s middleweight pugilist and Clinton resident, has opened her own gym, Solid Stone Boxing Gym. After moving to Clinton, she prepared for a World Boxing Council title fight against Christy Martin back in 2009, but lost by decision. They fought again in 2011 at the Staples Center — home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers — and Stone won after Martin’s hand was injured. Around that time, she expressed a desire to open her own gym, the kind she had always wanted to go to but never found.

Now, that dream is realized and in a manner grander than Stone ever imagined.

She has five different classes that meet in the afternoons, Monday through Thursday. Two of the sessions are for children, split between seven to 11 years old and 12 to 14. Just because they are tailored for kids does not mean the drills and exercises are child’s play. They hit a speed bag for two minutes, take a 30-second break, then move to another station: double end bag, heavy bag, hand speed drills with a couple of weighted balls, sit ups, or a reflex bag that mimics the countermoves of an opponent.

“My mom’s always bugging me about exercise, which I don’t really like because it’s competitive,” said Miranda Cassee, a 13-year-old Clinton girl with a fierce left hook.

And the sport, nicknamed the sweet science, is totally catching on with children, their parents and other Whidbey Island residents, solely by word of mouth, Stone said.

Cassee’s mom was full of accolades for Stone’s boxing gym and its impact on her daughter.

“This is a pretty spectacular setup,” said Cait Cassee, Miranda’s mother, who knows a thing or two about creating spaces for young people as Whidbey Children’s Theater’s executive director. “Dakota’s incredible. She knows how to make it accessible to kids.”

A filing cabinet drawer has more than a hundred names, people who have popped in at least once, though Stone said many return. She has yet to advertise, and opened the gym last year with the intention of training a handful of people.

“It’s the only way for me to stay in shape, too,” Stone laughed.

As the group of middle school boxing students, and especially when the next class of seven to 11 years olds work out, move from station to station, some bemoan about tired arms, sore legs, needing a water break. Stone’s answer comes quickly but softly, in comparison to someone whose name is an apt description of her fists and what it must feel like to receive the force of her punch. Usually, when her students look for a bit of respite during the two-minute drills, she just reminds them to keep swinging, keep crunching, another minute, another 30 seconds.

“Hit those bags, hit ’em hard. Hit the speed bag,” she said.

Yet for all the physicality of her gym, Stone is adamant that she offers a safe space for people, and especially women and children, to quite literally try their hands at boxing.

“For the majority of women, it’s too hard, socially at least, and they leave,” said Stone of many women’s experiences at boxing gyms, historically a domain of men. The first World Championship for women’s boxing was in 2001 and it was not an Olympic sport until the 2012 Olympics in London.

When Stone was actively seeking fights, she traveled to a gym in Renton to train at least three times a week. Her Ken’s Korner boxing gym has just about everything she needs: space, bags, lights. It is missing one noticeable piece of boxing equipment: a boxing ring. Buying a ring — between $3,000 and $8,000 — is in the works, however, and Stone said she may seek crowdsource funding through a Kickstarter campaign in the next few months.

Stone is still an active fighter, though her last match was an unverified loss in Costa Rica to Hanna Gabriel in January 2012. The Clinton clubber hopes she will get a rematch within the next six months. After that, her focus will solely be on the gym, a longtime dream come true.

 

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