Christy Martin is ready to promote boxing shows in Florida now
Christy Salters Martin doesn’t want to hear excuses about why a fighter isn’t ready to go. When the pioneering female fighter turned promoter announced a month ago that her next show would take place on July 11 in St. Augustine, Fla., she says a number of boxers said they had not trained in months and wouldn’t be available to fight.
“I do understand the whole virus thing and we have to shut down the gyms. But what I know as a fighter, there’s no way in hell that I wouldn’t be out there running, shadow boxing, jumping rope, finding somebody to hold the mitts for me if I couldn’t get to a gym,” said Martin, who compiled a record of 49-7-3 (31 knockouts) during a career that spanned 1989 to 2012. “So these guys that want to tell me they’ve been sitting for three months, to me they’re telling me they’re not that serious about their craft.”
She says she has trained under more adverse circumstances than not having a gym to work out at.
“I didn’t have a trainer, I had a bullet in my back and a big cut on my leg,” said Martin, referring to the 2010 incident in which she was shot once in her torso and stabbed multiple times by her ex-husband, who was also her trainer, and left for dead. She was back in the ring less than seven months later. And he was off to prison for 25 years for attempted second degree murder.
The pandemic has already impacted her life in more ways than one. Martin was supposed to be part of the initial women’s boxing induction class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, alongside Lucia Rijker and Barbara Buttrick, from June 11-14. That was instead postponed to 2021. Then, this past weekend, she was supposed to have promoted a show in Florida, but those plans were shelved shortly after the pandemic began to sweep over the country.
There wasn’t much Martin could do about the former situation. But with the Ultimate Fighting Championship signaling the restart of sports, at least in Florida, with a series of shows this month in Jacksonville, and Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring “all professional sports are welcome here,” Martin saw the opening for Christy Martin Promotions to proceed.
“My entire life people have been telling me I can’t do things. And I want to show them that I can,” said Martin. “[The UFC] had TV money and huge budgets behind them, I don’t. But if they can do it, so can we in boxing.”
The club show, which will take place at the National Guard Armory, will be Martin’s 15th since she began promoting in 2016. The venue normally seats 550 people, but will not be open to the general public. She says that only 25 percent of the building’s capacity can be allowed, and with 15 fights scheduled, it shouldn’t take long to reach the 100 person occupancy among fighters, trainers, commission members and other personnel.
As for coronavirus testing, Martin says that her event will “go through the same protocol” as the UFC’s events did, with testing to be conducted at the weigh-in, in addition to their typical pre-fight physicals.
“They’re grown men, they’re gonna have to look after themselves a little bit, but when they leave the weigh-in we will suggest to them that they go back to their hotel rooms and do not leave until it’s time to come up to fight,” said Martin. “With that being said, they’re grown men, I can’t be all their mothers.”
An email to the Florida State Boxing Commission requesting a copy of their coronavirus precaution guidelines was not responded to by the time of this story’s publication.
The card will feature fights scheduled for four through eight rounds, and will be headlined by junior featherweight Frency Fortunato Saya (8-0, 6 KOs), a 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who is now based in Fort Lauderdale. It will be his U.S. debut, and he’s coming off his biggest win to date, a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Marcos A. Muniz-Apolinar in October. His opponent has not been named.
Other fighters include cruiserweight Richard Rivera (17-0, 12 KOs) of Hartford, Conn., who turned pro in 2017 after falling short in the Olympic trials. The 29-year-old will have one of the shortest layoffs of any fighter returning to action, since he was last in the ring on March 13, outpointing Jaudiel Zepeda in Tijuana, Mexico. He says he received numerous messages from concerned friends about traveling during the pandemic, but the gravity of the situation didn’t become clear to him until he returned home to find empty streets and closed restaurants.
“Just having to be in quarantine really stinks,” said Rivera, whose nickname is Popeye The Sailor Man. Still, he feels lucky to be able to get back in the ring while other fighters await the green light from their handlers. “I feel like I’m gonna have such an edge on a lot of guys that were forced to take that break.”
Another fighter, lightweight boxer Anthony Savilla (1-0), is from Martin’s home state of West Virginia and has been a personal favorite of hers since he won an amateur tournament she promoted in North Carolina some years back. The 20-year-old, who competed in the Eastern Olympic qualifiers last year, turned pro in February on one of Martin’s cards, and will face Roderick Gilkey (0-6-1) in a four-rounder.
“Being from West Virginia, everybody looks down on you, they don’t expect you to come up or be great,” said Savilla, who, like “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” Martin, has a family history in the coal business stretching back generations. “People look at West Virginia fighters like they’re nothing but I’m trying to prove everybody wrong.”
While bigger promoters like Top Rank have major networks to keep them profitable without a paid gate, Martin is forced to lean on internet pay-per-view (on www.qcbroadcasting.com) to recoup some of the show’s cost, pricing this show at $14.95 per buy. Instead of pushing ticket sales, as fighters normally would, Martin hopes they can convince supporters to buy the pay-per-view through social media and word of mouth.
The next show after July is scheduled for September 19, which she hopes will have fans in attendance. Until then, Martin is soldiering on as best as she can.
“On this particular fight, we just want to put this together and not lose money and get the fighters back out there,” said Martin. “This is a holdover, a little band-aid to keep the boxing world working in Florida and to keep people talking about Christy Martin Promotions.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].