June 25 Kevin Byrne
CHRISTINA McMAHON is trailblazing on two fronts – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ireland’s only professional female boxer is gearing up for the country’s first-ever title fight.
The Carrickmacross 37-year-old, who has won three from three (2 KO) will take on 5-0 Maxine McCarthy in Dundalk this October for the Irish featherweight belt.
With only herself in the paid ranks here, you might expect McMahon to feel like she walks alone sometimes.
She’s never going to be a Million Dollar Baby – admitting it is near impossible to survive as a female fighter here – but the opportunity to take on Salford’s McCarthy, 32, is one she felt she couldn’t pass up.
McMahon explained: “Opportunities like this you don’t miss. I’m the first licenced female boxer in this country. That’s OK – but then who do you fight?
“But it’s great then that somebody like Maxine has come along. She said ‘my dad’s from Belfast and I’d love to fight for an Irish title’.
“Her heart is in it. It’s competitive already online but after next week I’m not going to stick on the computer at all!
“I started back training in Dublin last week. I’d always keep fit but I’m not up to speed yet.
But I’m fighting a long time, I know how to peak and how to get in shape. You feel more confident the more you train so I’m banking on that.”
The pair will face off at featherweight – with Ireland’s former world kickboxing champion is moving up from bantam. The visitor is going to have to boil down from super-featherweight. But it is a all part of the ring experience for McMahon, a self-confessed ‘fighter’.
She added: “She’s built like a brick. Let nobody underestimate her coming down, she’s very strong and fit and sharp.
“The full contact is the ultimate. I fought abroad in that – Polish and Russians that were built like tanks. I remember sitting in the stadium and the Irish laughing and saying these girls were like men, ‘oh God look at the state of them’.
“And I made a decision there and then – that those girls that looked like men were going home with the gold medal, while these out-of-conditioned Irish were laughing at them but going home with nothing.
“The next year I said I’d go out there like the Polish and the Russians and take home the medal. And that’s what I did.”
But if overcoming brutish opposition is no bother – and like she claimed, McCarthy is built – age is another barrier. It’s the reason she turned pro, that and the fact that she felt there was nothing left for her in kicking people.
Double Olympian Phil Sutcliffe is her trainer and McMahon has now fought three times under him. Yet a promising career in the vest along with Katie Taylor beckoned for a while until the rules intervened.
McMahon added: “I was training with Pete Taylor in Bray and fought a Swedish girl with him in the February. I turned 35 in that June and that Swedish girl won the World Championships in September, and I couldn’t travel with the team.
“On my 35th birthday you have to stop. The pain of that – like your career just has to stop. But it just showed me the level I was at. I took a year out then turned pro.
“People go on about age. It’s not about age, it’s about how your body has gone through the last few years. I don’t drink or smoke, I look after my body and plus I only started kickboxing when I was 20.
“I only started peaking in my 30s. I don’t know how long I have left. Maybe a year, maybe two, but I’m peaking at the moment.”
At Bray she was a team-mate of the female boxer most people have heard of, in Katie Taylor, the multiple world champion and expected Olympic queen. McMahon may be a trailblazer but she’s not alone.
She added: “Katie’s amazing. Not just a good girl – she’s good at what she does. She’s walking the talk and that’s making girls look and say ‘maybe I can do that’.
“I don’t mind it if people don’t like women’s boxing, because there’s sports I don’t like. I started kickboxing for fitness but I realised there is a fighter in me. I don’t care if there is two people or 1,000 at it.
“I don’t want it to be a brawl or a swinging match, I want ot show them that women can box like men. We have the skill, the footwork, the moves, and I want to concentrate on that.
“It’s a duty to do it for other girls in the future. I can’t afford to give up work either. I find the boxing is breaking me at the minute actually.
“I have to spend money on all the medical business and that so you’d like to see something coming out of it. If I was into this for the money I’d be in the wrong place. It’s not about that. Opportunities have landed in my lap and I’ve often wondered ‘why?’.
“I honestly believe this is meant to happen for me and if I give it another year or two, who knows?”
McMahon, as a personal trainer who manages a leisure centre, is glad to see boxing on the up as people seeking fitness begin boxing training all over the place.
She said: “It’s become so popular. People are seeing that it’s the ultimate fitness.
“The white collar shows can give people a bit of knowledge that its not just two fellas going into the ring and beating the head off each other – there’s a bit of skill to it as well.
“Now I have people coming up to me saying ‘I can’t believe you do so many rounds’ and all that. They’re going ‘we do a minute and a half and we’re fecked!’.”