At a recent amateur promotion, a female fighter approached boxing legend Christy Martin and declared that Martin was scared to fight her.
"Do you know how ridiculous that statement is?" Martin told her. "I just looked down the barrel of a 9-millimeter (pistol), and the shot went off and hit me in the chest. No, I'm not scared. Get in line."
Christy Martin, 42, is many things, but mostly she's a survivor. She's back in the fight game — she steps in the ring for the first time in nearly two years on June 4 on the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sebastian Zbik undercard — six months after being stabbed repeatedly, shot and left for dead by her husband in their Florida home.
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Martin said she escaped when her much older husband, Jim, thinking she was dead, got in the shower to wash the blood off. She said she flagged down and nearly "carjacked" a motorist and begged him to take her to the hospital. Doctors needed three hours just to stabilize her enough to transport her to the trauma unit.
"The (doctors) gave me a lot of blood," Martin said in a phone interview Wednesday. "It was scary. I kept asking all the doctors and nurses, 'Am I gonna die? Please don't let me die.' "
Martin's oddysey began after she told her husband — 25 years older and living separately in the same house — that she was leaving him for a woman, Sherry Lusk, with whom she was having a relationship.
"He had been telling me for 20 years he would kill me if I ever left him," Martin says. "There were threats of not just killing me but blackmailing me. I told him before I married him that I had had a relationship with Sherry. I was trying to be honest and do the right thing, and he … held that over my head. He said, 'The boxing world would crucify you'. ... He had convinced me the boxing world hated me, my family hated me and he was all I had. So I had to stay there."
The night of the attack, her husband came in her room, said he had something to show her and made a motion to reach behind his back. "I leaned over and saw a knife sticking out of his shorts. I said, 'What are you going to do, kill me?' as he had been promising for 20 years. Then it was just like boom!
"All of a sudden he stabbed me three times in my side. I didn't realize I'd been stabbed. I thought he just hit me. Then he stabbed me once in my breast. That made me bleed a lot. I think he was going for my heart."
When Martin tried to kick him away with her left leg after being stabbed, "he cut my calf almost completely from my leg. … We ended up on the ground. I tried to fight him and felt a gun in his pocket, and I realized it was my pink 9-millimeter (Glock).
"He bashed my head into the floor and into the dresser and we're going back and forth. I was trying to get away from him, but I was never able to get the gun out of his pocket."
For one hour she said, Jim attacked and tortured her, leaving her to die on the floor as she begged for help. She knew her lung was punctured; she could hear the gurgling sound.
"I think he was just waiting to see if I was going to die. Finally he came back in, stood at my feet, pointed the gun at me and shot me. Missed my heart by 4 inches. The crazy thing is the bullet went through the same hole as the stab wound in my breast."
He goes on trial Oct. 3 in Florida, charged with attempted murder.
Asked if she was afraid for her life once he gets out of jail, Martin said, "Absolutely. Not only because he said he would kill me, but he told me he knew people that could make me disappear."
She didn't attend the May 7 Pacquiao-Mosley fight in Las Vegas "because I thought maybe he sent someone there to look for me."
Martin was once the best female fighter in the world under promoter Don King. She made lots of money — nearly $500,000 for her fight with Laila Ali— and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996. Her seminal moment came when she fought on the Mike Tyson-Frank Bruno undercard.
Her career suffered after a 2005 fight with Lucia Rijker, known as "Million Dollar Lady," in which the winner was to collect $1 million, was canceled when Rijker ruptured her Achilles tendon.
Now, having recovered from her injuries from the attack, she courageously faces the comeback of her life. She called Miguel Diaz, her former cutman and trainer.
"I reached out to Miguel," she says, "because I knew if I didn't have it, he would take me off to the side, put his arm around me and say, 'Christy, we've been together way too long for me to let you get back in the ring and embarrass yourself, get hurt or embarrass the people involved with you."
After watching her in the gym, Diaz agreed to become her head trainer and she signed with Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotions.
"It's really where I want to be," says Martin, who only spars with male fighters. "I feel like (Arum) is still the best promoter out there, and he does it with such class that I want to be involved with him."
Martin was inspired, she says, by Bernard Hopkins' victory last weekend that made him boxing's oldest champion at 46.
"He looked better than I've ever seen him in his entire career," she says. "I'm a big B-Hop fan and I've watched him pretty much his entire career, and even fought on the same card with him during the Don King days. To me he's amazing.
"It actually gives me hope that I can come back better. Having Miguel as my trainer, I feel like I'm training like a pro and I'm really learning. I feel like I hit a plateau (earlier in her career) and I never really got any better. Now I feel like I'm a much better fighter, more well-rounded and smarter."
Martin (49-5-3, 31 KOs) will look for career win No. 50 when she faces Dakota Stone (9-8-5) in a six-round light middleweight matchup next weekend at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Stone was the last boxer Martin fought before her nearly two-year hiatus. Martin won by majority decision in a fight many thought she lost.
"She's a tough girl," Martin says. "She doesn't have the shining record, but her losses came in other people's hometowns. I could've asked Top Rank to give me a cupcake, but I wanted to come right in and have a tough challenge."
Martin believes progress in women's boxing has slowed as she has aged and her career stalled. Other well-known female fighters, she believes, were in it more for personal gain than love of the sport.
"I think women's boxing moved throughout the '90s as my career moved," Martin says. "Then Mia (St. John) came along, and then Laila had an opportunity to keep the excitement going.
"(Laila) had every opportunity handed to her to really go out there and be a superstar in women's boxing. But I think her, Lucia, Mia, they all used boxing to further their personal careers, whether it be acting, endorsing products, whatever. I do it because I love the sport, and I think the fans see that."
Confidence was something Martin oozed during her heyday in the '90s. Whether it's still there remains to be seen. She believes it is.
"I think I have the confidence, I don't have the cockiness," Martin says. "I'm more confident going into this fight than I've been for some time, because I know I've put my work in, haven't taken any shortcuts, and just having Miguel in my ear to teach me to transition better from offense to defense, and know that I can land the big shots but I don't always have to take big shots."
Through it all, Martin, a West Virginia native nicknamed "Coal Miner's Daughter," and currently living in Las Vegas, feels blessed simply to be alive.
"Every breath I take is a gift," she says.