[CW: The following article includes descriptions of domestic violence]
Christy “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” Martin was victorious in 49 of her 59 fights, with 31 of those wins coming by knockout. The groundbreaking light middleweight fought from 1989 to 2012, collecting multiple belts along the way. Sadly, this ferocious and formidable women’s boxing icon was also the victim of domestic abuse. Martin is stepping forward to tell her story in the hopes of saving others from a similar fate.
Christy was only 22 years old when she met her future husband, Jim Martin, who was then 47. He became her coach, and, a year later, her husband. However, according to Christy, the relationship was not so much romantic as it was a business relationship made permanent. At the time, she saw the marriage as a way to solve an issue with her parents—namely, their disapproval of her having dated a girl, Sherry Lusk, in high school.
While Jim Martin initially saw women’s boxing as a farce, he saw a financial opportunity in Christy, and jumped at the chance to become her coach. Not long after their wedding, the psychological abuse began.
When Jim learned of Christy’s past with Sherry Lusk, he held the information over her head. “He would always say, ‘I’m gonna tell the world you’re a lesbian.’ And for whatever reason, you know, I just wasn’t strong enough in me to say, ‘Go ahead.’ I know that people think that I should be strong and tough and all those things. But … I didn’t have that same type of mental strength to overtake him,” Christy told 48 Hours.
Over time, the abuse escalated into physical violence. 19 years into the marriage, Christy summoned her courage up and told Jim she was leaving him for her high school sweetheart, Lusk.
A few days later, on November 23, 2010, Jim Martin entered their bedroom armed with a knife and a gun. After multiple stab wounds and a gunshot to the chest, Christy laid on the floor pretending to be dead, and Jim went to shower. While he washed away her blood, Christy left the house and sought help from a neighbor. In her interview with CBS, Christy said, “I would love to see the look on his face when he got out of the shower, came back to the room and I was gone.”
A bullet was lodged three inches from her heart, her lung punctured, her leg cut to the bone, and she had four stab wounds in her chest, but when the attempted murder went to trial Jim Martin pleaded self-defense.
Unsurprisingly, his attorneys used Christy’s status as a world champion boxer to paint a picture of him as a victim. The attempt was unsuccessful. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The prosecutor on the case, Deborah Barra, told 48 Hours, “I think it’s a remarkable story because you have a world-famous champion boxer and she could still be in a domestic violence relationship. Because that isn’t about physical strength. It’s about mental abuse.”
Christy Martin’s fighting spirit, easily evident in the boxing ring, served her well in her final fight. “Finally, I have been able to come to terms with, I got the 50th win, when I got up off the floor November 23, 2010, and got out of my house. That was my 50th win.”
48 Hours airs Saturday, November 14 at 10/9c on CBS.