Sports

Women’s national champion boxer is from Whidbey

Nothing says “National Champion” like a title belt, and Dakota Stone has one. Stone is a Clinton resident and a professional women’s boxer.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Nothing says “National Champion” like a title belt, and Dakota Stone has one. Stone is a Clinton resident and a professional women’s boxer.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Dakota Stone has dethroned the “Queen of Boxing.”

Stone defeated Christy Martin, the “Queen of Boxing,” in a rematch last month at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

It was the biggest fight of Stone’s career. The venue hosted 18,000 spectators and was aired on HBO.

“I was kind of caught up in the ‘Oh my God’ of it all,” Stone said.

The most important aspect of the fight for Stone, 42, was her opponent.

“I really wanted to knock her out,” said Stone, a Clinton resident for the past 16 years.

Stone said Martin removed her shirt that read “You Can’t Stop Me” and threw it at Stone at the weigh in. The Clinton light middleweight, however, didn’t appreciate Martin’s attitude and psychological tactics, and decided to let her fists do the talking.

“I wanted to stop her,” Stone said.

The six-round fight was called in a TKO (technical knockout) by the ringside doctors. Their reason: imminent punishment.

“Everything that I wanted to work on was working for me,” Stone said. “Everything was really zinging.”

Stone was winning the fight, and knew it. She said she felt better conditioned and better prepared than Martin. Martin broke her right hand, but the fight was not called because of that injury.

It was probably called after the combos the 5-foot-5 Martin took to her ribs and head during six rounds.

It was vindication for their previous bout, a 10-round majority decision for Martin which Stone disputes the legitimacy of, and a testimony to Stone’s rugged work in the 21 months since then. In that time, Stone took Epsom salt baths every night, passed on birthday cakes and sacrificed a social life because she was too tired or too busy.

“Training for a fight is a 24 hours per day thing,” Stone said.

“It got tiresome thinking about her all the time, especially because I don’t like her so much,” she added.

All of that time resulted in $3,500. The next fight will have a much larger monetary reward for Stone and her team.

“The next fight we’ll get the kind of money we deserve,” Stone said.

The victory neared the fulfillment of her career that includes an international championship, three Golden Gloves titles and now, a national title.

Beating Martin was also the culmination of a fighter’s most important decision: changing trainers.

Stone left her longtime trainer before the first fight and joined Mathis Hill at Azteca Boxing Club in Renton.

“If it wasn’t for Mathis, I don’t think I would have taken the fight [with Martin],” Stone said.

“He brought me back to the place where I want to be teachable. I really trust him,” she added. “Having him has kind of given me a new lease on my boxing career.”

That new lease came with some great perks. Stone’s career record is 10 wins, eight losses and five draws and she is the United States light middleweight (154 pounds) champion.

The usurper isn’t finished with her boxing career, though.

“I do not want to retire until I’m the actual world champion,” Stone said.

She’s also ranked second in the world light middleweights, behind Sweden’s Maria Lindberg.

Retirement may come soon, though. If Stone gets a fight with Lindberg, which she said is her most desired fight, she has between three and five fights left before she’ll consider retirement.

“I didn’t know I’d still be fighting at 42,” Stone said.

Her road to the ring was long and winding. She was in the Navy based in Oak Harbor, and that’s how she came to Whidbey Island.

After she was discharged, she moved to South Whidbey and began a different fight — firefighting. Then she commuted to Art Institute of Seattle for photography. That’s when she was introduced to boxing by a classmate.

She had never hit a punching bag before, even though she’d been in a few fights.

“The first time I hit the bags, I fell in love with it,” Stone said.

Out of shape and a boxing rookie, Stone had lots of work ahead. She committed to boxing and went to the gym five days a week.

“This was something that was a really big deal,” Stone said.

“I was kind of transformed into a completely different person,” she added.

A broken nose almost stopped her career early. The nose required reconstructive surgery that lasted six hours. That injury wasn’t sustained in a fight; it was from her former trainer in a practice.

“I must have just had it in me by then,” Stone said.

Stone is a lover, and a professional fighter. Stone will marry her partner Jill Sheldon on July 31 at Unity Chapel on Whidbey Island.

Sheldon and Stone have been together for three years, and Sheldon remembers Stone’s last fight with Martin.

“It was frustrating,” Sheldon said. “It was also inspiring.”

The relationship was strained at times by Stone’s dedication and profession.

“I won’t lie,” Sheldon said. “It’s not easy to watch your partner get hit in the face.”

“I never would have imagined ending up with a boxer,” Sheldon added.

Now, Sheldon admires Stone’s passion for boxing and sees value in the sport beyond her partner’s income and fulfillment.

Stone is a also a different person outside the ring.

“I’m the nicest person you ever want to meet,” Stone said. “But once I hear that ‘Ding! Ding! Ding!’ I’m going to work.”

“She’s dedicated and focused,” Sheldon said. She’s also a very loyal person. It felt like the culmination of a lot of time, work and sacrifice.”

After watching how Stone influences teens at her gym in Renton, she agreed with Stone’s evaluation of boxing as a perfect sport for young people with anger problems. Sheldon noted the appeal stems from boxing as a cool and aggressive sport that teaches focus and discipline.

“If they’re in the gym, they’re off the street,” Stone said.

She’s also been a mentor to several young boxers. She once took a young boxer to her fight in Trinidad. Stone said it was the first time he left the United States and was her team’s errand boy to run between trainers and the ring.

The long path to pugilism began in 1999. Now, as a national champion and an internationally ranked middleweight boxer, Stone wants to bring her passion to South Whidbey.

“The South End is my home,” Stone said. “The traveling, the fighting, is all to bring back home.”

The self-described finesse fighter has some financial finessing ahead of her. Stone wants to open a boxing and fitness gym on South Whidbey.

“I just haven’t been able to put it together, yet,” Stone said.

“There’s a really big need and desire to give South End kids something to do,” she added. “I want it to be affordable.”

Of course, that’s after Stone gets her shot at the world title. She will count on her “web of support” on Whidbey and fans.

“I really appreciate all my fans — I can’t call them my fans — they’re my friends,” Stone said.

 

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