Celebrating Hall of Famer CHRISTY MARTIN!
The Champ's Living Her Best Life
Photos & story by Michele Chong
On June 12, boxing legend Christy Salters Martin (49-7-3, 31 KOs) will turn 50 years old.
To say this champion has had a remarkable life would be a major understatement.
The twists and turns during her five decades of life on this planet have been so unbelievable and dramatic that there is a feature film about her life currently in the works. And who will play the slugger known as the "Coal Miner's Daughter"? Popular actress/comedian Amy Schumer will take on the role of the champion who brought world-wide attention to women's boxing.
Trust me, if the script even remotely sticks to Martin's real-life story, this is one movie you don't want to miss.
In a male-dominated sport, the puncher made a name for herself while being promoted by the one and only Don King. After debuting in 1989, she fought Laila Ali, Holly Holm, Laura Serrano, and many more en route to winning 49 bouts with 31 knockouts. The WBC champ retired from the ring after her 2012 versus Mia St. John.
I first met Christy back in the heyday of the (now-defunct) World Boxing Hall of Fame (WBHF) in California several years ago. She was instantly likable, fun and someone I always looked forward to catching up with whenever our paths crossed. Back then, she was married to a man named Jim Martin who was also her trainer. I met him during the WBHF ceremonies too. They seemed like any other married couple. Little did anyone know at the time of the years of pain and torture Jim was inflicting on his then-wife.
In November 2010, Christy suffered–and survived–an unthinkable attack on her life while in her Florida home that she shared with husband (and assailant) Jim Martin. When she found the courage to tell him she was leaving him for a woman (Sherry Lusk), that is when the vicious assault took place.
In well-documented accounts, her then-husband pistol-whipped Christy, hit her head into furniture, and stabbed her not once but three times in the chest and also in her leg. And if that wasn't enough, he then aimed the gun at her and shot her in the chest. But the champ did not die. Somehow, she survived this brutality and attempt on her life. And shocking the world (but probably not those who know her the best), she even fought again; she rallied in the ring even after suffering a stroke (after a loss to Dakota Stone). And in her court battles, Christy's ex-husband Jim Martin was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years of prison time.
You couldn't make up all this drama if you tried. Hollywood moguls making her movie will have a bottomless pit of storylines to choose from. Besides rising to the top as a female champ in boxing, recuperating from her stabbing/shooting injuries, a stroke and more, there's self-admissions from Christy that she also clawed back from drug abuse and depression. And did I mention the blonde bomber would later go on to marry a former rival she once fought in the ring? More on that later!
Like I said, Christy Martin is one remarkable lady.
But no need for sympathy, pity or any negativity toward this amazing woman.
You may think she's a victim, but I see a SURVIVOR. Never playing the role of a victim, Christy now stands tall, speaking out against the injustices. And she is a role model and inspiration to so many. For those struggling with substance abuse, mental illness and depression, gender identity, physical and emotional abuse and more, this world champ says that one can find light at the end of the tunnel. It isn't easy, but one can tough it out.
It sounds cliche to say, but the former world titlist is living proof that you can find happiness even when you feel you're alone and think the world would be better off without you.
I caught up with Christy this week and I asked the champ for some words of wisdom for people who might need it the most. "For those going thru tough times, abuse, depression, etc, what is some advice, words of encouragement, etc. that you would personally give them?"
"I can say you are never alone, your abuser will make you feel that the world is against you but that is not the truth," Christy tells me. "There are many friends, family and counselors that want to help, but you have to let them know you need them. Too many times we hold the hurt to ourselves thinking tomorrow will be better. It doesn’t get better until we find the strength to move away from the negativity."
It takes immense inner strength to overcome what this warrior has battled back from. She fought her demons and came out victorious living her best life yet.
Oh and then there is her super busy schedule. The athlete from Mullens, West Virginia is doing a bang-up job promoting both pro and amateur boxing for males and females. On April 26 she promoted a live "Bull City Beatdown" boxing show in Durham just two days before her induction into the National Boxing Hall of Fame on April 28 in California. Her trainer Miguel Diaz was also inducted into the Class of 2018. On May 17 she lent support in Phoenix for the Catherine Miranda for Congress campaign and on May 30 she will be featured at a Meet & Greet with some local pro fighters at the Blind Pig in Charlotte.
And then there's her "Queen City Boxing Series" June 30 pro fight night in Charlotte (in association with Payne Boxing). And not forgetting the young amateurs, there will be a USA Boxing-sanctioned show called Christy Martin's "All American City Boxing Championship Belt Tournament" on tap August 3 and 4 in Fayetteville, North Carolina that will feature teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, West Virginia and others.
Yep. The gladiator is a thriving boxing promoter with her Christy Martin Promotions and Pink Promotions Boxing in North Carolina!
When I saw her in person at the National Boxing Hall of Fame awards last month, she was happy and healthy. She proudly introduced me to her new wife, Lisa (also a former professional boxer who Christy actually fought in 2001!) and I met her longtime friends Dan, Terri and Diane Lait. We chatted for a while and I could see Martin beaming while looking at Lisa, a tall striking brunette. I had a blast talking to the group and I told Christy she was literally glowing with happiness. She and Lisa have an easy rapport and share a great sense of humor together.
When she was on stage accepting her latest Hall of Fame honor, Martin had the audience's full attention. Her former former ring nemesis and fellow champ Mia St. John (the last fighter Martin faced) first spoke at the mic and then Christy's wife Lisa took to the podium. When it came time for the gladiator to speak, the audience hung on her every word. Before and after the ceremony hosted by NBHOF's Bill and Linda Young, the newest inductee greeted her fans, friends and boxing family including former pugs Alfonso Zamora, George Chuvalo and James "Quick" Tillis, longtime friend Richie Sandoval, fellow female champ Sindy Amador, and many more. The attendees clamored to meet her and wanted selfies with this remarkable lady.
Martin has turned the pages in her life story. The dark history will always be there but now there are an abundance of new pages and new chapters to be added. This warrior has had quite a life. And her miraculous story of survival will, fittingly, be seen on the big screen in the future. She has lived through a real-life horror story to now enjoying a fairy-tale ending with the love of her life, Lisa Holewyne (they married in November 2017).
"Your life story and strength continue to inspire. Girl, what you’ve been thru..." I told her. "And to see you actively promoting shows and finding happiness with Lisa proves how strong you are."
"Thank you," she replied. And the humble boxer–always personable, always professional–also wanted to remind anyone who doesn't yet know: "Please note that I happily am married to Lisa Holewyne."
I had to chuckle. If you could see the two of them in person, one doesn't need a reminder. While they may have traded punches inside the ropes, they have found a new life together outside of boxing. Love can ease the pain, love can conquer obstacles. Christy knows her life has been through a huge metamorphosis. And I only know bits and pieces about her life! I can only imagine all the other memories she has locked away and I hope the upcoming Amy Schumer biopic will shine the light on everything she has overcome.
Perhaps the pugilist has come full circle. The little girl who learned to box. The world champion who was abused behind closed doors. And now this strong woman who inspires all the underdogs to gain strength and courage. She is an inspiration to many. She stands for so much.
And she says she is finally happy. And if anyone deserves peace and happiness, she does.
On June 12, Christy Salters Martin will celebrate a special milestone birthday.
HAPPY 50th B-day, Champ. KEEP FIGHTING TO INSPIRE THE WORLD.