"There is nothing like it," she said. "It's exhilarating. It's not the brutality that gets you. It's finding your strength, realizing that you did this even though the other person was trying to do it to you."
Two hearts converge
They met through e-mail last year, introduced by a mutual friend. In April, Toby told her he was coming in from Ohio for a fight. He asked if she could pick him up at the airport.
"It was very romantic," she said with a chuckle. "I never thought I would meet my boyfriend at LAX."
If he was to make a real run at a career in mixed martial arts, they decided, he needed to move to the West Coast. He moved to L.A. in June. They moved in together the next month.
"I never thought I would find someone I could love so much," he said, "and someone I could spar with too."
As for Roxy, "I needed to find a man who is tougher than me," she said. "And I did."
Their training sessions can be harsh and aggressive. One recent afternoon, Toby was overseeing sparring sessions when he admonished a fighter who was pulling his punches against Roxy.
"Don't give her any breaks!" he yelled. "Don't be a sissy!"
Some days, it's a bit much for Roxy, who was so meek in high school that her basketball coach ordered her to foul more often.
"I forget that he is a natural fighter," she said, still nurturing a large, yellowing bruise on her shoulder, the remnant of one of Toby's kicks. "I wouldn't call myself a natural fighter. But this is in his blood. I don't particularly like sparring with him. His whole persona changes. It's like fighting with someone that I don't really want to know."
He seems unfazed.
"She loves it," he said with a grin. "You know she does."
Roxy also harbors fears that he could wind up with lasting injuries.
"It's sad when I talk to fighters who have been around and have pretty clearly taken one too many hits," she said. "He's got this insane energy to him, and it's never pleasant to think that he could wind up like that. But it would be more devastating to him as a person to not do it. You can't live that way."
And so they move on, fight by fight.
For now, Roxy is an amateur kickboxer, and conflicted about her future.
She has considered making the leap to mixed martial arts, though the opportunities for women are still few in the sport. She is also considering turning pro as a kickboxer. Then again, after losing a December fight, she is also thinking about retirement. Toby has encouraged her to think about it, saying it anguished him to watch her suffer. She said she's loath to even contemplate the idea, if only because she can't bear to go out with a loss.
Someday, they would like to move to Ohio to open a training center of their own. Their plan will work, they figure, only if they can sell themselves as successful fighters. In a sport that is only now emerging in the limelight, there are still perhaps fewer than 50 fighters in the country who are making a decent living fighting full time as mixed martial artists.