Christy Martin: "Best Shape of My Career!"

16.07.05 - By Bernie McCoy: The English author Samuel Johnson once said, "Self confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings." Christy Martin is on the verge of a great undertaking and, it appears, she has the first requisite pretty well covered. "I'm in the best shape of my career," Martin told me by phone, recently, from her training headquarters in Florida. Given the fact that Christy Martin has been boxing, professionally, for almost fifteen years and has had over fifty fights, a "best shape ever" claim is no small boast.

"I had planned to go to Las Vegas (the site of the July 30 12 round bout with Lucia Rijker) earlier, but training here in Florida has gone so well, I just wanted to keep it going. I've had over 100 rounds of sparring with all shapes and sizes of fighters and I'm on the road every morning. Working in the heat and humidity is tough, but it pays off. The fact is that Jim (Jim Martin, Christy's husband and trainer) had me cut back a bit so I didn't peak too soon. If the fight was tonight, I'd be ready; a week from now, I'd be ready; so you know I'll be ready on July 30."

On April 30, Martin stepped into a Lula, MS. ring for the first time since her four round KO loss to Laila Ali. She was matched with Lana Alexander, a possessor of a 2-6 record. This resulted in the bout being derided, in some boxing circles, as little more than a glorified sparring session. When asked, Martin offers a different perspective: "It was good to get back into the ring, with smaller gloves, no headgear and get some ' live ' action in front of a crowd. She (Alexander) came to fight and didn't run around the ring and while, of course, she's not Lucia, it was a good night's work and a useful part of the overall training regimen."

Lucia Rijker is, indeed, anther story. She's currently unbeaten in 17 fights, winning 14 by knockout. Does Martin equate Rijker to any of her past opponents? "She has the type of movement that reminds me a bit of Daniella Somers and Belinda Laracuente, more than anyone else I've faced. Of course, those two fighters didn't have the ' Tyson intimidation factor ' that Lucia had going for her for years. It seemed like fighters were almost reluctant to come out of the corner. But, she's never had the type of pressure put on her that I plan to bring into the ring on July 30. And I plan to bring it for as long as it takes." Does Martin anticipate the bout going the full 12 rounds? The answer comes quickly and is as short and sweet as a perfectly timed right hand, "No!"

The contract for the bout stipulates 142 pounds with a one pound leeway. Christy Martin plans to come in "between 138 and 140. They (the promoters) did me a big favor setting the weight where they did. I needed to get into better shape than I was for Ali and the Mia St. John fiasco. I just didn't work hard enough for those bouts and it showed. That won't be the case on July 30."

I asked whether the Rijker fight was the biggest of her career. Christy thought for a moment and replied, "The next fight is always the biggest fight. It's been that way throughout my career. Rijker is a big fight, but so was Kathy Collins in Madison Square Garden and Deirdre Gogarty underneath Tyson and any number of other ' big ' fights. I've fought everybody who was out there and Lucia is the final piece."

The Rijker bout is certainly the biggest payday. Both fighters are guaranteed $250M, with the winner earning an additional $750M, for a total winner's purse of $1MM. Martin is very comfortable, not only with the purse structure, but also with the timing of the bout.
"Timing is everything. There's all this talk about how this bout should have happened five or seven years ago. If it had happened then, would this kind of money have been there? Of course not. The movie ("Million Dollar Baby") helped and Bob Arum certainly helped, but when it's all said and done, it comes down to Lucia and me and twelve rounds at Mandalay Bay."

I wondered whether this might be Martin's last fight. "No way", she snapped, "I want to get fifty (wins). This one (July 30) will make 47. There are a lot of good fights out there for me and the way I feel now, I'm ready to go a lot farther. I'm really re-energized. It has a lot to do with coming back to Las Vegas and particularly Mandalay Bay where I've had five or six bouts. It also has a lot to do with ' coming home ' to Showtime PPV which started me off with the Gogarty fight. I feel very comfortable and with the shape I'm in, I've never felt better."

So Christy Martin, in "the best shape of her career" proceeds toward the ring at Mandalay Bay and Lucia Rijker. There will be much hoopla between now and when the bell rings on July 30 (Martin will be a guest on Conan O'Brien's "Late Night" show next Thursday [July 21] night on NBC network), but all the talk and all the writing about the money and the movie and this fight finally happening will all be just that; talk and writing. Once the bell sounds for round one of a bout that may, in the future, be seen as the premier event of the sport of Women's boxing, it will come down, as the sport always does, to two fighters coming out of opposite corners. In this case, it will be two female fighters who were probably destined, somehow, somewhere to be in the same ring at the same time almost from the beginning of their long and illustrious careers. It may have been a long time coming, but it will probably be well worth the wait.

Article posted on 16.07.2005

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