Retired world champion and International Hall of Fame boxer Christy Salters Martin’s recently released book, “Fighting For Survival: My Journey Through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder, and Resurrection,” isn’t a book about boxing.
Yes, it’s set against Martin’s impressive career as a groundbreaking pioneer and the most successful female fighter of all time. There are
more than enough stories to share about Martin’s athletic accomplishments; she doesn’t skimp on them. But Martin, working with co-author Ron Borges, chose instead to use her platform to focus on her struggle outside the ring with formidable foes like domestic violence, substance abuse, and sexual identity.
“We approached the book knowing it was not a sports book. It was not a boxing book. Boxing was the backdrop. But it was the least of all things it is, is a boxing book,” said Martin. As dramatic as Martin’s performances were, her ultimate survival is more impressive than any of her knockouts.
Martin Using Her Fame For A New Purpose
Speaking with Martin as she sat ringside for the Top Rank Boxing card in Temecula, California, fans and fellow athletes approached her for selfies and autographs or simply to thank her and offer their enormous admiration for what she represents. She was gracious with each of them. Nevertheless, Martin’s powerhouse athletic performances drew fans and fighters over to greet the retired champion.
Fans have always admired Martin’s trademark style and aggression. Martin is among the most influential figures in professional boxing and for women in sports. A native of a small town in West Virginia, Martin turned pro in 1979 at age 21. She won just two of her first four bouts but then won 34 of 35 fights between 1990 and 1994. She broke pay-per-view records in partnership with her promoter Don King.
In 2010 after years of abuse, Martin’s trainer and husband, Jim Martin, put her into the hospital after shooting, stabbing, and pistol-whipping her In 2010, leaving her for dead. Martin survived the assault. She also overcame her struggle with her sexual orientation as a closeted lesbian for four decades, along with drug addiction as she fought her demons.
But fight them, she did. Jim Martin is now in prison. Christy Salters Martin is now living as her authentic self and sharing her story in the hope she can help people who may be facing down the same foes she did for so long.
‘God Left Me Here For A Reason'
“You know, God has blessed me,” said Martin. “I’m very fortunate to still be here. Part of the thing, I always said from the moment I woke up in the hospital, God left me here for a reason, and that’s to help make a difference for somebody else. And I believe because of all these really awesome things that are happening for me – the book, the induction (into the IBHOF), the Netflix documentary, there’s so many really cool, cool things that are happening, they’re giving me a bigger, stronger platform to stand on to help these other people.”
Martin and Borges began working on the book just as the coronavirus pandemic started. When Martin was named the first woman boxer to the International Boxing Hall of Fame In the Class of 2020, the pair knew they wanted to finish the book before her induction ceremony, which was delayed by the pandemic to June 2022. Mission accomplished.
What made it the right time for the book?
“It was the perfect timing. We didn’t know it was going to be the perfect time,” recalls Martin.
“We all have a story. There are things in Ron’s life and in my life where we’re closely related, and we can understand a little bit. He went back home to West Virginia and saw the itty bitty town I came from. Met my family. I think he was the perfect person to write the book.
“We pushed really hard that it had to happen during the Hall of Fame weekend. The Hall of Fame was perfect. I was in the Class of 2020. Ron was in the Class of 2022. We were both there. We were both signing the book, selling the book, talking to people about the book, it was accidental, but it was all perfect timing.”
Helping People Believe In Themselves
Martin now uses the same drive she used to prevail in the ring as a tireless advocate for others, hoping she can prevent them from suffering the way she did.
“I have had lots of messages through social media saying, ‘Your story and your openness has helped me’ in one way or another, whether it’s about the sexuality or the domestic violence. ‘You’ve helped me to be stronger; it’s helped me to make a stand, to believe in myself.’ Those are the important things to me.
“If I share that with somebody who’s only 18, or 20, or 22, I can help them now. They won’t have to make those same mistakes or feel bad about who they are or the decisions they’re faced with,” declared Martin.
Martin says her willingness to be open has resonated with people in a way she didn’t expect.
“Probably the biggest surprise is people saying, ‘Thank you for being so candid, for sharing your life.’ And I think that different parts of my crazy life help different groups of people,” said Martin. “Kind of anybody that reads the book, I think, can relate in some way.”
Now Martin feels compelled to seize the moment to drive her mission forward. She runs a charitable foundation, Christy’s Champs, helping DV survivors and their children. She is also COO of Christy Martin Promotions, staging fight cards and looking for promising talent.
‘I Don't Care If I Help Just One Person'
The book features a forward by polarizing promoter Don King, who saw an opportunity in Martin and seized it. Why did he give her a shot?
“Why Don King gave me an opportunity, I have no idea,” laughed Martin. “I talk to him about once a week.” King and Martin co-promote boxer Johnnie Langston, a 32-year-old cruiserweight from Sarasota, Florida, with a pro record of 11-3 who recently won the WBA-NABA cruiserweight title. “In my eyes, obviously, I wouldn’t be here without him. He gave me an opportunity no other promoter was going to give, not just me or any female fighter. For that, I’m very grateful. I’ll always be.”
Against the odds, Martin made it through. She knows there’s a lot of work ahead.
“I have a lot on my plate,” admits Martin. “But we’re gonna do a lot more. I don’t feel like I’ve done enough yet. After the attack, I said, ‘I don’t care if I help one person. For the rest of my life, I will have done my job.’
“Then, as time went on, and this started being so positive, I said, ‘No no, I need to help one person every day. And then I can say I’ve done something with my life.
“And that’s why, to be honest, that’s why we did the book. That’s why I’m talking to you. Because tomorrow, when you write your story, there might be that one person who will read it and say, ‘oh, Christy said that, all right, I got it. I got this.’”
“Fighting for Survival: My Journey Through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder, and Resurrection” by Christy Martin with Ron Borges is available through Christy Martin Promotions, and the champ herself will personally sign your copy. You can also pick up an autographed glove or other swell boxing swag, and help sponsor Christy's Champs. NYFights readers, we know we can count on you.