Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Christy Martin Becoming Pioneer in Boxing for Women

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Christy Martin Becoming Pioneer in Boxing for Women

Article excerpt

She is talented, attractive and making a living wage in a field in which almost everyone else is scrambling to break even.

Little wonder that Christy Martin, the reluctant heroine of women's boxing, continues to be the gold standard against which an increasing number of female fighters measure themselves.

Theirs is a small revolution, but it is a revolution nonetheless. Battles are being waged and won in venues ranging from the musty Blue Horizon in Philadelphia to the magnificent MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where Martin (35-2-2, 25 KOs), a lightweight, will take on Melinda Robinson (4-4, 2 KOs) Saturday night on the undercard of a pay-per-view card headlined by Mike Tyson's challenge of WBA heavyweight champion Bruce Seldon. "I had no idea there were women boxers until I saw Christy Martin on TV," said Maria Stasio, 28, a West Philadelphia resident who will make her amateur boxing debut later this month. "I really envy her. She's like an idol to women like me, who want to be in boxing. She showed that there is a place in the sport for us. You just have to want it bad enough." Martin, 27, is not the first woman to make a splash in a sport that traditionally has been the most hidebound of male preserves, nor is she beyond dispute the best. But no other female fighter has what she has: the power and privilege that come with a high-profile promoter (Don King), exposure on Showtime and PPV cards featuring Tyson, guest shots on "Today" and David Letterman's show, the cover of Sports Illustrated and the po ssibility of lucrative endorsement contracts. "Christy's ability is what counts," King said when asked about the unique position Martin holds among high-visibility American athletes. "But I do have to say I'm shocked a lady as beautiful as she would even want to get into this business." Make no mistake, King signed the "Coal Miner's Daughter" to a four-year promotional contract as much for her good looks as for her left hooks. Gymnasiums throughout the country are reporting a sharp increase in the number of women training as boxers - and most of the new devotees, to one extent or another, see themselves as the "next Christy Martin." "Boxing training is an unbelievable aerobic activity, although I don't necessarily believe boxing is for everyone," Joy Waller, 22, a Delaware County aerobics instructor whose ring experience has been limited to one Tough Woman bout, said after a recent workout with noted trainer Marty Feldman. "There's a big difference between punching the heavy bag and actually competing. But, yeah, I've thought about what it would be like to fight Christy Martin. I'd like to think I could hold my own against her. If she can do it, I don't see why I can't." Such visions explain the gravitation toward boxing of strong-minded women, who believe nothing men possess is or should be beyond their grasp. But guys are buying into the premise, too. On Aug. 20, USA Network's weekly boxing series, "USA Tuesday Night Fights," the audience for which is heavily male, conducted a poll in which viewers were given a toll-free number and asked if they wanted to see more women's boxing on the cable network. The poll was run on an evening in which Martin provided guest commentary for a six-round women's bout at The Theater in Madison Square Garden involving super-welterweights Kathy Collins and Andrea DeShong. An amazing 81 percent of the 64,883 respondents (52,464) indicated an interest in seeing more women's boxing following Collins's action-packed, unanimous decision over DeShong, who had defeated Martin in two of three matchups. "We are impressed by the interest in women's boxing that these poll numbers clearly reflect," said Gordon Beck, USA's vice president for sports and production. Added USA blow-by-blow announcer Al Albert: "The women's bout stole the show and, quite frankly, the men's bouts were very lackluster. As a matter of fact, the next time we're on the air, we're going to poll our viewers again, asking them if they want to see more men's boxing on USA. …

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