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Fighter writes compelling book after surviving spousal abuse

Updated June 23, 2022 - 6:04 pm

In 1970, Simon & Garfunkel recorded a mournful song for their final studio album called “The Boxer.” Other than in an allegorical sense, it really wasn’t that much about boxing. It was mostly about the torment Paul Simon was feeling when he wrote it.

Christy Martin, often referred to as “The Jackie Robinson of Women’s Boxing” for having legitimized the sport during the 1990s, has written a book (with award-winning sports writer Ron Borges) that really isn’t that much about boxing, either.

“Fighting for Survival — My Journey Through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder and Resurrection” was released this week.

Chapter One recaps the harrowing night of Nov. 23, 2010, when Jim Martin, Christy’s trainer, manager and husband, stabbed her multiple times, essentially sheared off one of her calves, pistol-whipped one of her ears into a bloody smear and shot her in the chest for which he received a 25-year prison sentence.

That’s mostly what the book is about.

It’s also about Christy Martin being sexually abused by a 15-year-old cousin when she was 6, being domestically abused for two decades and having to hide she was “a lesbian locked in a sham marriage designed to protect me from a sporting world that I’d come to believe would never accept me as I was. Why should it? My own mother hadn’t.”

Oh, and as she lay bleeding out on the bedroom carpet — the same woman who fought Deirdre Gogarty at the MGM Grand Garden in 1996 in a bout that raised the profile of women’s boxing — Martin said she was nearly broke and a cocaine addict.

There’s a lot to digest on Page 3.

Higher calling

Though she now spends most of her time in Florida and Austin, Texas, the area code on Martin’s cellphone is still 702.

Eighteen of her 59 pro fights were in Las Vegas. Including the one against Gogarty when Johnny Tocco, whose grimy Ringside Gym on West Charleston Boulevard served as a training haunt for Mike Tyson and other great champions, couldn’t stop her broken nose from spurting blood.

Her last fight in Las Vegas was remarkable for an altogether different reason. On Nov. 17, 2021, Martin was awarded a 10-round unanimous decision over Lisa Holewyne. The two are now married.

When we chatted this week, Martin agreed that her upbringing in West Virginia’s coal-mining country and her slightly less arduous life in boxing was only a backdrop for the book and a conduit for spreading a more profound message.

“The first thing I thought when I woke up in the hospital is that God let me live for a reason,” she said. “And that reason is to talk about domestic violence, to share my story.

”I’m still not fixed, but if I can help fix somebody else — to help them from going down the road I went down — then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

Martin, 54, now spends most of her time as a boxing promoter and running a charitable organization called Christy’s Champs in support of domestic violence survivors and their children.

Less than two weeks ago, she became the first woman inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Before making a brief speech, she asked those in attendance to synchronize their watches.

The fighter still remains

Martin told the crowd how flattered she was when she was asked to be grand marshal of the 1996 induction ceremony after earning that bloody decision against Deirdre Gogarty and knocking down stereotypes by gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Willie Pep, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer and Archie Moore embraced her, she said, and Marvin Hagler and Aaron Pryor mentioned there were a lot of boxing brothers in the shrine. But that some day they were going to need a sister.

And now that day had arrived.

Martin thanked the Hall of Fame for the great honor. She spoke for about two minutes.

“In that two minutes, 40 people in this country were abused in a domestic violence situation,” she said. “Forty people, just as I talked to you.”

Christy Martin’s smile tightened as she stepped away from the podium.

To paraphrase Paul and Art, in the clearing stood a boxer who carried the reminders of every glove that laid her down and cut her ‘til she cried out that she was leaving, she was leaving.

But the fighter still remains.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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