© 2023 WBGO
Discover Jazz...Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

International Boxing Hall of Famer Christy Martin takes you inside and out of the ring in her new book with Ron Borges titled Fighting for Survival

Boxing legend Christy Martin's new book that she wrote with Ron Borges
Rowan & Littlefield/Fred Sternburg
Christy Martin and Ron Borges new book about the champion boxer's "Fighting for Survival"

Boxing legend Christy Martin is a trailblazer in the ring and continues to be an inspiration to female fighters across the globe. While Martin was at the top of the boxing world, behind the scenes, the "Coal Miner's Daughter" was in a losing battle, unable to express her true sexual identify and struggled to survive sexual and domestic abuse.

In Fighting for Survival: My Journey through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder and Resurrection (Rowan & Littlefield), Christy Martin recounts her harrowing yet inspiring story.

The "Coal Miner's Daughter" joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about the new book she has put together with the help of acclaimed Boston sports writer Ron Borges. Martin says she has great respect for Borges.

 Boxing legend Christy Martin joins SportsJam with Doug Doyle from her home in Austin, Texas
Doug Doyle/Zoom
Boxing legend Christy Martin joins SportsJam with Doug Doyle from her home in Austin, Texas

"Ron Borges is a great writer. People in the boxing world remember him, especially in the 80's and 90's writing great boxing stories for the Boston paper (Boston Globe and Boston Herald), we were able to just connect. It was easy for me to open up and just to talk to and explain my feelings. He put them on paper. I think that the book will be very helpful to people in lots of categories. First and foremost, I think it's the underdog story. It's me, small town southern West Virginia, coal miner's daughter making it to the top of the boxing world which no female had ever done before. So it's that. It's the sexual abuse at a young age. It's being gay. It's the domestic violence. The domestic violence is something that I think so many people want to think about bruises and beating you up and all that for domestic violence, but it's so much more than that. It's the mental and emotional beat down. And that's what I dealt with really on a daily basis."

That abuse came from Christy's then-husband, coach trainer Jim Martin. The boxer says that abuse came to tipping point in 2010. The attempted murder was detailed in the 2021 Netflix "Untold" series episode "Deal with the Devil". Martin said the sad part of that day was that she knew that day was coming for nearly 20 years.

 The 2021 episode of Netflix's "Untold" series "Deal with the Devil" shocked many viewers
Nextflix Media Center
The 2021 episode of Netflix's "Untold" series "Deal with the Devil" shocked many viewers

"He (Jim Martin) had told me before I married him, which kind of tells you a little bit about my mindset, he said if ever you leave me I kill you. Of course, I'm 22, 23 years old at the time and kind of laughed it off and really didn't take it that seriously, but he continued for the next 20 years just to tell me that. Then it got to the point that he would tell other people, oh yeah if she leaves me I'll kill her'. Somewhere, and I'm still trying to find out in my mind I still replay the times, I knew this wasn't a joke anymore. So that day November 23, 2010, I knew that was going to be the end. I had accepted that and was really okay with it. I was ready to die, live through or die, whatever he had to offer I was good with. The good thing for me, after being stabbed several times, cut up and during the time he was pistol-whipping me, something changed. The switch flipped and I told him you can not kill me and I believed it. He thought he killed me, but God has a plan for me."

Christy was left to die on their bedroom floor but somehow managed to get up and escape when her husband decided to take a shower. About an hour later, Christy managed to flag down a stranger on her street in Apopka, Florida, who rushed her to a nearby emergency room. Christy had been stabbed four times in the chest, her left lung was punctured, her left leg was cut to the bone, and there was a bullet lodged three inches from her heart.

While she did survive the brutal attack, Christy suffered a stroke while on the operating table that day. Martin made it clear in Fighting for Survival that she is a survivor and not a victim.

"When that hit home for me, I was substitute teaching at Vance High School in Charlotte. The principal called me and asked me would I sit down with a student that was doing her senior exit project on domestic violence. I said sure, absolutely. I sat down across the table from her, just the two of us in a room, and she said, "Can you talk to me about how being a victim of domestic violence has changed your life'? I sat back in my chair, I literally kind of slumped back in my chair and thought about that for just a minute and told her 'Honey, I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor!'

Martin admits that was a very telling moment for her. Not only is she currently CEO of Christy Martin Promotions, a boxing promotional company, she also runs a charitable foundation, Christy's Champs, that helps domestic violence survivors and their children and is a frequent speaker on domestic violence issues.

Fighting for Survival will be released on June 8, four days before Martin's official induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

 Autographed boxing glove from Christy Martin following the announcement that she was being inducted into  International Boxing Hall of Fame
Doug Doyle
Autographed boxing glove from Christy Martin following the announcement that she was being inducted into International Boxing Hall of Fame

"You know I was inducted in the 2020, but because of COVID, we haven't been able to have the ceremony. In 2020, my baby brother would have been here to share this great honor. I lost him in November of 2020, so you know that's sad for me. But I'm excited and he would be excited for me and I'm sure he'll be smiling down on me up there in June."

This SportsJam interview came on anniversary of a special day for Christy Martin. It was in April of 1996, that she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The cover read "The Lady is a Champ: Boxing's New Sensation Christy Martin".

 Christy Martin on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996
SI/Christy Martin
Christy Martin on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996

"It's almost like you go to the circus or a carnival and you can get your picture on any magazine cover you want, it kind of makes me feel like that. People have asked me before, especially at the Boxing Hall of Fame, people have the magazine, 'Don't get tired of seeing this?' I say absolutely not, are you kidding me? How can anybody get tired of seeing their own cover of Sports Illustrated."

Martin is the most successful female fighter in boxing history and widely regarded as the woman who legitimized women's participating in boxing and other combat sports.

Discovered by legendary promoter Don King, Martin went undefeated for nearly a decade, won the WBC world junior welterweight championship, and became the first female fighter to box on national television, premium cable and pay-per-view. The says that match with Deirdre Gogarty means the most to her.

"It all comes back to the Gogarty fight because that's the one that really made my career and really opened up so many eyes that these women can fight!"

The new book also chronicles how then-Christy Salters, a standout basketball player in West Virginia, saw a sign in a store window that would eventually change her life.

"Bob Lowery was a good friend of mine. He owned a little shoe repair store. He always helped promote this Toughman contest. I would tell him every year, 'You know Mr. Lowery when are you going to have women?' Why did I think that? Why that thought was even in my mind I have no idea. Finally, one year he put the sign up and they were going to have a women's division. I was right there on top it, first one to sign up I'm sure and just wanted to go out there and fight."

Today, the boxing pioneer, is happily married to a former opponent in the ring, Lisa Holewyne, and resides in Austin, Texas.

You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with Christy Martin here where she also talks about meeting Loretta Lynne at one of the legendary country music star's concert.

"When they took me into Loretta Lynne's performance in Biloxi, Mississippi and they put me front row, center seat, right in front of her, I started crying and I don't even cry. I was just so overwhelmed. Afterwards, I got to go on her bus and she talked to me about my dad, the coal mines, it was cool."

Stay Connected
Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.