Tom Sorensen

Traumatic history can’t keep Christy Salters Martin away from boxing

Boxer Christy Salters Martin, shown in a 2011 photo, is in Charlotte and working as a boxing promoter despite a backstory that would scare most away.
Boxer Christy Salters Martin, shown in a 2011 photo, is in Charlotte and working as a boxing promoter despite a backstory that would scare most away. AP

If you follow boxing, you know who Christy Salters Martin is. You might know who she is if you don’t.

Salters Martin, 49, was the women’s lightweight champion of the world. On April 15, 1996, she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Friends saw it and family saw it. She fought for Don King and began to make more than $150,000 a fight. At one point, her record was 45-2-2.

“I didn’t kick in the door,” she says over a salad at a Charlotte Chili’s Grill & Bar. “I trained hard, worked hard, fought hard and those doors opened.”

Salters Martin is from Itmann, W.Va., which is near, well, nothing. Itmann is about 200 miles northwest of Charlotte. Salters Martin’s dad really was a coal miner, so she could claim the Coalminer’s Daughter moniker.

She lives in Charlotte now, the home of her then-girlfriend. Salters-Martin worked as a full-time substitute teacher at Vance high school for three years. She also promotes boxing, works with 4M Fitness and has worked with victims of domestic violence.

Her company, Pink Promotions, will put on its third card Saturday at CenterStage on N. Davidson St. Tickets are gone, but you can still rent a VIP table.

I met Salters Martin last month and didn’t recognize her. Her hair no longer is dark and her face no longer is covered with blood. She went after opponents. The boxers she respected most were the boxers who could knock you out – Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Aaron Pryor and Thomas Hearns. She took some shots, too.

She was in Apopka, Fla. (an Orlando suburb), at a house she shared with her then-husband, Jim Martin, when Martin put a bullet through her. She says he missed her heart by 3 inches.

A bisexual, she told Martin she was leaving him for the woman in Charlotte. He was the first real boxing trainer she’d had, and he is 24 years older.

This was Nov. 23, 2010.

“A Tuesday,” she says.

Salters Martin says he had always told her that if she left he’d kill her. They were married 17 years, so how often did she hear it?

“Hundreds,” she says.

She was miserable. She says Martin was controlling and that for five years she had been using cocaine. She’d look in the mirror and detest the drawn and pale face that looked back at her.

Salters Martin says she had called the night before she saw Martin to tell him was leaving.

So, I ask, if he says he’s going to kill you if you leave, why go home?

She says it was the only way to break free, that if she didn’t he would follow her and perhaps hurt somebody else as well.

Salters Martin says she sat on a bed in their home. Martin stood in front of her with something behind his back. It was a knife, and she says he stabbed her three times in the side and once in the chest.

One of the knife wounds was to her lung, and says she could hear the blood gurgle when she attempted to stand.

In his pocket Martin carried her pink, 9-millimeter gun. (She likes pink.) She was on the floor next to the bed, and says he pistol-whipped her. She says she told him he didn’t have the guts to shoot her. He did.

The bullet, she says, went through a hole already caused by the knife. Her blood was all over him, and in a lot of other places in the bedroom. She says he assumed she was dead, and went to the shower to wash off the blood.

When she heard the water, she made herself stand up, grabbed the gun and her car keys and went outside to her yellow Corvette convertible. When she reached the car, she realized she had picked up the wrong keys.

Salters Martin says she couldn’t go back to the house to get the car, not then, and all but carjacked a man driving by. She handed him the gun so he’d realize she wasn’t a threat. He drove her to the hospital, and a helicopter carried her to a trauma center. She was out in seven days.

Martin was convicted of attempted second-degree murder with a firearm, and sentenced to 25 years. He’s serving it at the Graceville (Fla.) Correction Facility.

If it weren’t for boxing, she would never have met Martin. Why not leave the sport, too?

“It’s what I know and its what I know I enjoy,” Salters Martin says. “And I think boxing is one of those things that once you’re bitten by the bug you’re addicted for life.”

She’s 5-4, smaller then you’d think, gracious and kind of soft-spoken. On the T-shirt she wears are the letters L-O-V-E.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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