But it wasn’t an easy night for Martin, who gained prominence in the 1990s fighting on the undercards of champions Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Caesar Chavez, and appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in April 1996. Nor was it a banner event for the promoters who, due to anemic pre-fight ticket sales, were forced to drop seat prices from $20 to a mere $5 the day of the fight.
Boxing has been a part of the local sports pantheon since 1989, when the International Boxing Hall of Fame was founded in Canastota, the home of former champions Carmen Basilio and his nephew, Billy Backus. Working in conjunction with the Oneida Nation, fights became regular events at the nearby Turning Stone Resort and Casino, and featured such luminaries Hector “Macho” Camacho, Andrew Golota and former Martin opponent Laila Ali.
No bones about it: Christy Martin won the bout, but lost the battle with her right hand, which she broke while punching opponent Dakota Stone in the final round of her fight at the State Fair. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
But there have been no fights at Turning Stone since February 2006, when the New York State Athletic Commission, acting on a state Supreme Court decision, sought to gain sanctioning authority over the Turning Stone cards, and came into conflict with the Oneida Nation’s position on sovereignty. It’s a subject that the principals in the matter, for their own reasons, won’t address.
Hall of Fame director Ed Brophy, in an impromptu interview on Aug. 24, tiptoed politely around the issue, while state Athletic Commission chair Melvina Lathan, a former boxing judge who sat at ringside for the Martin fight, claimed, incredibly, to know nothing about it.
Choosing the grandstand at the fairgrounds for the fight venue hardly resolved the problem. With the ring on the stage, a few lucky ringside ticket holders, officials, former champions and the press got seats up close, while everyone else occupied the seats below, a compromised view at best. Not that any of that mattered to the combatants, who put on a good show over the five-fight card, which featured a female featherweight bout, super middleweight James McGirt Jr., and Olympic heavyweight medalist and Pan American Games champion Jason Estrada.
While Plattsburg’s Jackie Trivolino gained a unanimous decision over Toronto’s Priscilla Trompowsky and her first win as a professional, Estrada fought a patient fight culminating with a knockout in the final round over an aggressive Zuri Lawrence. But it was McGirt, the son of former champion Buddy McGirt Sr., who staged a clinic. Sharp, fast and focused, McGirt diligently followed the advice that his father, and trainer, shouted from ringside, and increased his record to 21-2-1 with a deliberate dismantling of Youngstown’s Anthony Pietrantonio.
The Martin fight was just what she, in a pre-fight interview, had predicted: “I think it’s going to be a war.” Her opponent, Seattle’s Dakota Stone, proved to be far better than her record, which fell to 9-8-4. Using her height (5-foot-10) and reach advantage, Stone sought to use her jab to set the 5-foot-4 Martin up for a dangerous right hand, which she threw with abandon.
Martin, however, would have none of it. Training with a male sparring partner, the self-titled “Coal Miner’s Daughter” proved to be elusive, ducking and slipping Stone’s combinations, using an effective jab of her own, and counterpunching with body shots and an overhand right which frequently found its target. Obviously following her pre-fight plan to “go back to fighting reckless, like I used to,” Martin weathered Stone’s determination, bloodying her face in the eighth and ninth rounds, something that always impresses the judges.
Martin’s 49th victory, however, was a Pyrrhic one. Soaking her broken right hand—suffered in the final round—in a bucket of ice after the fight, Martin seemed resigned to the notion that her career would end one victory short of her goal of 50. “Forty-nine was good enough for Rocky Marciano,” Brophy observed. In all probability it will have to be good enough for Christy Martin as well. In that case, she will nonetheless go out as she desired, setting an indelible standard for other women boxers, and ending her remarkable career as a champion.