By Steve Cummings
Photos: Mary Ann Owen
Christy Martin returns to the ring tonight at Table Mountain Casino in Friant, CA after a layoff of 14 months in search of her 50th career victory. She will see a familiar face when she climbs through the ropes, one of the few boxers whose credentials are similar to her own: Mia St. John. Martin scored an unanimous decision over St. John on December 6, 2002.
Fast forward ten years: Martin and St. John will fight tonight for the vacant WBC jr welterweight title in the main event of the “Final Victory!” Martin says that she is “99.9% sure” it will be her last fight. With a record of 49 wins, 3 draws and 6 losses with 31 knockouts, Christy has done just about everything a boxer can do, male or female, since turning pro September 9, 1989 with a five-round draw against Angela Buchanan.
She shot to fame as “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” while fighting on the undercards of huge Don King pay-per-view shows, carrying the banner for the fledgling sport of women’s boxing.
Martin was 30-1-2 with 23 knockouts when St. John stepped into the pro ranks February 1997.
St. John’s winning ways and her covergirl good looks made her an instant star. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum featured St. John as the opening act on numerous pay-per-view events.
It was inevitable that Martin and St. John were on a collision course.
When they first met it was Martin’s power pitted against St. John’s boxing skills.
Martin won the first battle.
That was then, this is now.
“So much time has passed,” says Martin. “I think it will be a different Mia in there, and I know it will be a different Christy.”
Martin expects a very competitive, more action-packed fight this time. She still has the ability and the desire to load up on her punches, but trainer Miguel Diaz has her working on taking time and concentrating more, not just looking for one big blow to change the fight.
Nevertheless, she still sees her power deciding the outcome.
“I don’t think we’ll go ten rounds. I’m gonna knock her out, but it is going to be an accumulation this time. I am not just looking for the big punch.”
The time that has passed since the first Martin-St. John fight is just part of the story.
Promoter Roy Englebrecht had originally scheduled the rematch in June, but Martin had to postpone it due to the draining experience of the trial of her ex-husband and trainer. Jim Martin was convicted in April for his actions in a violent confrontation that left Christy stabbed in the chest and leg and shot in the back.
With that behind her and some additional training, Martin is ready to get back in action.
“I’m ready to fight,” she says. “I am very grateful. Roy and Table Mountain Casino were understanding that I needed time and couldn’t possibly be ready. I thought when I signed I could do it but, no, no possible way.”
The last time Martin was in the ring was June 4th of 2011 and she was on her way to racking up that milestone 50th win when something odd occurred. Martin was fighting a rematch with Dakota Stone, whom she had beaten in 2009, and was ahead on all three scorecards with under a minute to go in the bout. Referee David Mendoza stopped the fight at the 1:06 mark of the final round due to a hand injury Martin had suffered, awarding the TKO victory to Stone.
“I was so discouraged. I was fifty seconds from my fiftieth win, way ahead on the scorecards and still fighting. I was begging them not to stop the fight.”
But the fight was stopped. Her right hand was broken in nine places. It took seven hours of surgery to repair. After recovering from that, the trial got in the way and, as difficult as that was, Christy is thankful that she got the result she wanted.
The fight is tonight. Friant lies just outside of Fresno. It has been four years since Table Mountain Casino hosted a boxing event. The locals are primed for the event and the PR machine has been in full swing for several weeks.
Martin is enjoying every minute of it.
“So far everything is great. Roy and Table Mountain Casino have busted their butts, there has been great media, we had a standing-room-only, full press conference. Everybody has done a great job.”
As for all the turmoil leading up to this event:
“I’m in a much better spot now. I am happy and I will be very happy to get this 50th win and put on a great show for all the fans at Table Mountain.”
It could be her last fight. But with her declaration of 99.9% certainty of retirement, the door isn’t completely shut on her long, illustrious career.
“As a fighter and an athlete and a competitor, I will always leave something open. A long time ago, 50 wins was my goal. To get me back in the ring after my 50th win it would take something exciting and interesting and there would have to be some serious zeros attached to it.”
The “Final Victory” takes place at Table Mountain Casino in Friant, CA and is promoted by Roy Englebrecht. The Table Mountain Casino is located at 8184 Table Mountain Road Friant, CA. Doors open at 6p and the first bout is at 6:30p. Tickets are available at the box office (800-541-3637). You must be 18 years or older to attend.