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In boxing circles, the name Christy Martin is iconic. Martin, who was featured on a Sports Illustrated cover in 1996, put female boxing on the map. She was the first female inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016. Of all her many accomplishments, Martin’s biggest happened in 2010 when she beat death after her former husband tried to murder her. 

Christy Martin becomes female boxing legend

Christy Martin never imagined she would be a professional boxer. Growing up in West Virginia, she had always planned on being a teacher. It all started innocently enough while studying education in college when she decided to enter several amateur “Toughwoman” competitions for fun. She won. A local promoter noticed the young college girl and offered her a chance to fight professionally. She accepted.

Martin had a draw in her first professional fight. Soon after, she was introduced to trainer Jim Martin, and her career took off. After a loss on November 4, 1989 to Andrea DeShong, Martin reeled off 19 straight wins, which included earning her first title belt, the WBC Women’s Jr. Welterweight World Championship. 

Martin defended her title multiple times, but her big break came on March 16, 1996, when she fought Deirdre Gogarty in Las Vegas in a featured bout broadcast on Showtime that was seen by millions of viewers. It is considered by many to be one of the greatest female fights of all time. Martin won by unanimous decision and was recognized by the WBC as the women’s lightweight champion of the world.

After that fight, her fame exploded. She appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but really gained notoriety fighting on the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield 2 rematch, or “Bite Fight” on June 28, 1997. Martin, who earned around $100,000 per fight, exacted revenge and defeated Deshong in the bout.

Christy Martin, who was nicknamed the Coal Miner’s Daughter in reference to her father’s line of work, suffered one additional loss in 1998, but stayed atop women’s boxing until a 2003 matchup with Laila Ali. Ali knocked out the 35-year-old Martin in the fourth round, and the champion began a steady decline. She fought her last bout in 2012 and finished with a career record of 49-7-3.

Martin shot and stabbed in murder attempt

The final two fights of her career in 2011 and 2012, both losses, were a miracle they happened at all. That’s because on November 23, 2010, Jim, her longtime trainer and husband of 18 years, tried to kill her. 

Christy Martin has since acknowledged her relationship with Jim was one of convenience. The two were training together all the time, and she didn’t have time for a real relationship. That, coupled with the fact that her parents pressured her to be with a man, even though Martin knew she was a lesbian, Jim seemed like the only option. The two married in 1992. The abuse started soon after.

It all came to a head that day in November when Jim confronted Christy after she had been gone for two days. He attacked Christy. He stabbed her and shot her in the chest with her own 9mm handgun, the bullet missing her heart by inches. Jim left her for dead. Once he left, Christy managed to crawl out into her street and plead for help to a stranger passing by.    

Martin returns to boxing

Christy Martin spent 10 days in the hospital and returned to the gym the day after she was released. It wasn’t because she planned on an immediate return to boxing, but because the gym was where she felt safe.

Martin eventually did return to fight six months later but broke her hand in nine places in the sixth round of the bout. During surgery to repair the broken hand, doctors encountered complications. When she woke up hours later, Martin couldn’t see, walk, or talk. She had suffered a stroke.

Over time, Martin regained all her faculties. She never returned to the ring as a fighter, but after a short stint working as a substitute teacher, she launched Christy Martin Promotions, a boxing promotions company. She and her wife, Lisa Holewyne, who is also a former professional boxer, married in 2017. The two are business partners and promote fights in the North Carolina area. 

While Martin always conveyed a woman of strength and success in her professional and very public life, behind the scenes she was battered and defeated. For the last few years, Martin, who now goes by her maiden name of Salters, has finally been able to enjoy life and live at peace, comfortable with who she is and what she accomplished. She has become an advocate for domestic violence organizations and her events always promote groups that provide shelter to abuse victims.

In 2016, Martin was the first female inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. Jim was not present. He’s serving a 25-year prison sentence for attempted murder.