CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During the 1990s, Christy Salters Martin seemed like she was on top of the world, fighting her way to being one of the most successful boxers of the decade.
Donning a pink robe into the boxing ring, she won 36 matches out of her total 49 wins during the decade.
On April 4, Martin was in a different sort of outfit: a tan business suit.
The ring: the Marriott Town Center in Charleston.
The Mullens, W.Va.-native was in the Capital City to serve as a keynote speaker for Concord University’s Foundation Charleston Dinner. She graduated from the university in 1991, earning a bachelor’s degree in education.
Martin said she puts what she learned at Concord into her work as a substitute teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It keeps me active in the community,” she said.
Martin began her boxing career in 1989 after being introduced to the sport through a Toughwoman competition in Athens.
Her career and recognizability soared in the 1990s alongside another boxer, Mike Tyson. She signed with boxing promoter Don King in 1991, and began taking part in matches nationwide, including a March 1996 bout prior to Tyson’s fight with Frank Bruno.
“Everybody tuned in to watch Mike Tyson, but they had to tune in to see me first,” she said.
Her win over Deirdre Gogarty caught a lot of attention and gave her newfound fame.
“The lady is a champ: Boxing’s new sensation,” the April 15, 1996 cover of Sports Illustrated read.
As Martin’s career continued, she began to slip; she lost in 1998 to Sumya Anani due to a unanimous ruling. In 2003, Laila Ali delivered Martin her first knockout. Holly Holm beat Martin in 2005 due to a unanimous decision.
Additionally, a 2005 fight against Lucia Rijker was canceled because Rijker tore an Achilles’ tendon. The “Million Dollar Lady” fight was unable to capitalize on the popularity of the “Million Dollar Baby” film, which was released the previous year to critical acclaim.
Outside of the ring, Martin’s personal life was suffering. Her then-husband and manager, Jim, threatened to kill her if she left. After she reconnected with a friend from high school, Sherry Lusk, Christy told Jim their marriage was over.
In November 2010, Jim Martin stabbed Christy Salters Martin three times in the chest, cut her leg and shot her with her 9 mm pistol, leaving her for dead. The color of the gun: pink.
Domestic violence was part of Christy Salters Martin’s address in Charleston.
“I knew I had to get up,” she said. “I lived for a reason, and the only thing I can figure out is that I lived to help others survive.”
Jim Martin was convicted of attempted second-degree murder in 2012 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence.
In May 2011 — six months after she was stabbed and shot — Christy Salters Martin entered the ring again. The match, however, was called after six rounds because a doctor believed had she broken her right hand.
During surgery to repair nine fractures, Martin suffered a stroke, limiting the right side of her body.
Yet Martin fought to get better and into fighting condition. In August 2012, she went back into the ring.
Martin is still active in fighting, including on the promotion side; Pink Promotions will be hosting Saturday Night Fights in Charlotte on April 29. Last year, she became the first woman inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
Martin said while her life has had its ups and downs, she thanks her background, experience and West Virginia roots for her character.
“Here I am, trying to get back on the road to success,” she said.