Christy Martin: "I'm Not Finished Just Yet"

12.05.04 - By Bernie McCoy: Ralph Waldo Emerson, to my knowledge, was not a big boxing fan. Likewise, I'm fairly sure he never heard of Christy Martin. However, one of Mr. Emerson's better lines fits Martin's career arc quite well: "Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail." Before Christy Martin embarked on her boxing career, there was no clear path for women in the ring. Since Christy Martin embarked on her boxing career, almost every woman fighter has followed the trail that Martin left. Christy Martin was to Women's boxing what Noah's flood was to precipitation; Martin engulfed the sport, she was the "face" of the sport, the fighter that everyone, no matter their interest or knowledge level, identified with the sport of Women's boxing.

However, as Martin notes, getting to that point wasn't easy, it wasn't easy at all. "A lot of people think I began boxing with the Gogarty fight (Martin won a six round decision over a tough Deirdre Gogarty in March ' 96). Nothing could be further from the truth. That bout was deep into my career and before that fight, which was on a Mike Tyson card on PPV, there were a whole lot of bouts where I received next to nothing for fighting; where I was, literally, dressing in closets and stuck in dressing rooms with three inches of water on the floor, and, in the days before the bout, I was out selling tickets. Las Vegas and Tyson and PPV and the Sports Illustrated cover didn't come without a whole lot of Punta Gorda FL and towns you never heard of in West Virginia and Tennessee."

I asked Martin how she would, if given the chance, write her legacy in the sport. After a moment, she said, "I really think I tried to fit in. I brought a lot of excitement to the sport and to every fight I was in. I gave it my all, every time out; I went out and took punches and threw punches and, most of the time, I threw more than I took." However, Christy is not quite ready for legacy writing, not just yet. She's back in the gym and "working real hard for the last few weeks. It was off and on in the gym since August, but now I'm back in earnest". Is it tough? "Its ' way' tough, but, while I may be coming to the finish [of my career], I'm not finished yet."

She's not finished, yet, simply because there something Christy "can't get out of my mind. I'm haunted by the fact that I stayed on my knee against Ali last August. I should have gotten up and kept fighting, but I looked over at Jim (husband and trainer Jim Martin) and he was hollering ' stay down' and that's what I did. I should have gotten up. Would the fight have turned around, I don't know, maybe not? I thought Laila might have been getting tired, but I just don't know. What I do know is that I shouldn't have stayed on my knee, that haunts me."

Bad fights haunt good fighters and the Ali bout was, for Martin, a bad fight. "Laila hurt me early, with, maybe, the first right hand she threw. I thought she was going to come out and box me from long range, but, instead, she jumped right on me. I was hurt in the first round, but I stuck around until the fourth. I definitely want a return with Ali. Once I'm in the shape I need to be in, I want to take a couple of fights and then step in with Laila again. By that time, according to her (Ali), she will have taken care of the fighters in her weight class and will probably be looking for one more big fight. I think Laila will beat Ann Wolfe, who's a hard puncher, but has a tendency to run out of gas after a few rounds. (Ali is scheduled to fight Nikki Eplion on June 12 and has said she'll then "go up and fight the winner of the Wolfe/Ward fight" [Wolfe literally flattened Ward in one round on May 8]). Ali's schedule seems to coincide fairly well with Martin's own timetable.

As far as Martin's "couple of fights", there's no shortage of quality competition in her weight class, the most competitive in the sport. Still around is her long time nemesis, Lucia Rijker, who is scheduled to fight Sunshine Fettkether on May 20 in Holland. Once considered "the fight" in the sport of Women's boxing, Martin/Rijker has lost some of its past luster. However, if that match was made today, it could, conceivably, become the first bout ever telecast on HBO; an assertion made, in the past, by Rijker's current trainer and HBO commentator, Manny Stewart. Also,Sumya Anani is back in the ring after a year's absence and would provide a very formidable benchmark for Martin to gauge her fighting "shape" (Anani won a close majority decision over Martin in December ' 98). Additionally, should Fettkether beat Rijker in Holland (assuming, given Rijker's past history, the fight happens), Martin/Fettkether would make a very compelling matchup.

Christy Martin's name and reputation continues to bring magic to the sport of Women's boxing. She was the first of the women boxers in the sport's heyday of the nineties and, for several years, she was the best, by a very large margin. She's coming up on fifteen years in the ring and she did, for a long time, single-handedly, provide national visibility for a sport that had none, before she arrived on the scene. Like most of the best in other sports and even the entertainment field, Martin went through her career doing it "her way". As a result, she didn't make many friends within the boxing community, but, in a real sense, making "nice" has never been part of the deal in the sport of boxing. Answering the bell is what it's all about and Christy Martin has done that as well as anyone else in the sport.

Many boxing "experts" will ridicule the idea of Martin climbing back into the ring with a bigger, stronger woman who decisively beat her nine months ago. Quite frankly, it may not be the best plan that Christy Martin has ever come up with. However, one thing is irrefutable; considering what Christy Martin has meant to the sport, considering the trail she has left for all the women currently "answering the bell", Christy Martin deserves the opportunity to try Laila Ali again.

Article posted on 12.05.2004

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