Middle school bullies sparked Stevie Coleman’s interest in boxing.
Coleman grew up on a family farm in Eastern Connecticut and some boys at school called her something akin to a stupid hayseed.
“I actually punched one of them,” she said.
She told her father about it and he said she could vent her anger and defend herself by learning to box.
Now at age 19, Coleman is an up and coming amateur fighter with a 7-3 record, a good jab and the drive to go far, her coach, Paul Cichon of Manchester Ring of Champions Society (ROCS), said.
“She’s got a lot going for her. She’s fast, strong, definitely determined,” Cichon said. “And she’s just a good person. She’s a beast when the bell rings, but when she gets out of the ring, she’s just a sweet person.”
The work ethic that Coleman absorbed on the farm has served her well in training, Cichon said. In stark contrast to many boxing wannabes whose interest dissolves when they see how hard they have to train, Stevie shows no signs of quitting, Cichon said.
“She’s just determined — that beats out skill,” he said. “She is determined to learn… and she’s fearless.”
Coleman has been feeding and watering animals from the age of five and showing her sheep and beef cows at up to 14 fairs a year. Her mom, Ivy Coleman, said the family still raises their own food and makes their own soap and bug repellent. It’s not a living — Ivy is a school custodian and Stevie’s father, Stephen Coleman, is a heavy equipment operator. But with their gardens and stock of laying hens, cattle, pigs, sheep and a goat named Charlie, the family tries to be as self reliant as possible, Ivy Coleman said.
Stevie attended local schools and graduated last year from Lyman Memorial High School in Lebanon, where she wrestled, ran track and played basketball, softball and soccer. She had hefted heavy sheep shears since she was little, her father said, and none of her high school hoops opponents could get the ball away from her.
Stephen Coleman had boxed a bit in his youth and he and a partner started a boxing club in Coleman’s barn in 1998. Stevie’s four brothers all learned to box in the hayloft gym.
So when Stevie said she would like to learn, Stephen Coleman said he told her, “Ok, let’s see how much you like it.” He gave her the basics and started her on a training regimen — jump-roping, bag work, running.
At first, Ivy Coleman said, she and her husband thought their daughter’s interest in the sport was just a phase, but Stevie kept at it.
“She just reshaped herself; she wants to be a fighter,” Ivy Coleman said.
“She fell in love with it,” Stephen Coleman said.
Stevie started formal training in Hartford at age 15 and about two months ago began working with Cichon at her father’s suggestion.
“It was like an instant connection,” she said. “He’s the real deal. He wouldn’t bull—- me.”
She is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and fights in the 152-pound open class. Bouts have been on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Coleman said she will continue training and fighting with the goal of going professional at age 21. She also is due to complete the massage therapy program at the American Institute in West Hartford in September.
Asked if she is ever scared in the ring, Coleman said, “I really don’t get nervous. If you train hard, you don’t have to be worried.”
She sticks with the sport, in part because it provides “an escape from everything else.” When she’s in the ring, Coleman said, her focus is complete.
“She’s wicked tough,” Ivy Coleman said. “She’s a beautiful girl.”
Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at [email protected]