By Michael O’Neill
Ireland’s only World female Pro boxing champion Christina ‘Lightning’ McMahon has had by any standards a remarkable year, in and out of the ring. She has had three WBC World title bouts and turned down opportunities from other Pro organisations to fight for International titles in lands far from her native Ireland.
Am ‘amazing’ year YES for the Carrickmacross boxer though not without its controversies. In Zambia she defeated Catherine Phiri who congratulated her on her fine win only to find that a few days later, local promoter and Phiri’s Manager,, Christopher Malunga was demanding a rematch claiming irregularities as to how the bout had been scored by the judges.
That ‘rematch’ request was declined by the WBC but it did not stop the Zambian from claiming via various local media outlets that a rematch had been ordered, a stance subsequently repeated by him despite having had a clear statement from WBC that that was not so.
For the avoidance of any doubt, we invited the WBC to comment and had a very detailed response from WBC’s Female Championship Chairman, Malte Müller-Michaelis which included:
“African media followed this (false) information despite the fact that I repeatedly sent out press releases and clarifications. Christina went to Lusaka, showed a great performance and won the fight and our interim World Championship. There is no doubt that Christina won ”. So what happened next after Malunga’s protest?
“We take every protest seriously so we checked the tape, rescored the fight and came to the decision that the judgement was fair”. McMahon had in fact been one of the few potential challengers who was prepared to go to
Zambia and fight the local champion as for whatever reason others had withdrawn, some at the last moment. Visa problems perhaps, perhaps illness, injury or fear of the unknown?
So onto Christina’s second WBC title fight this time against the 46 yrs old ‘all-time great’ Alicia Ashley in Brooklyn. Surely there would not be any problems in the United States?
McMahon said immediately after that bout – and has repeated several times since that Ashley is one of the all-time greats in boxing and she has no complaint about the result, but she remains far from happy about her treatment.
Christina – and Manager/Husband, Martin ‘Frick’ McMahon feel that no boxer should have face a similar experience.
Christina again: “After a promise of mandatory fight with W.B.C. Bantamweight Champion Yazmin Rivas never prevailed I got offered at short notice the W.B.C. Super Bantamweight title fight with Alicia Ashley. Ashley a former 4 time World Champion was highly rated as one of the most skilled and respected female boxers in the world.
“My trip to New York turned out to be a traumatic experience at the hands of the New York State Athletic Commission whose actions included insistence on me having a PET scan on the day before the fight. (A PET Scan involved having “Radio Active Glucose” applied to my blood stream for 30 minutes before being put through a scanner) as well as physical, neurological tests and , blood tests and told ‘no test no fight’ and I wasn’t still sure they would allow me to fight until the weigh in the day before the fight.
“All I wanted was a fair fight but my treatment at the insistence of the N.Y.S.A.C. took my preparation away and I find it hard to believe this should have been allowed to happen to any athlete before competing for a World Title under the assertion that it was done in my best interest of my health and wellbeing”.
So what were those problems in greater detail and what has been the response from the WBC ? Martin McMahon’s protest included:
“Without prejudice I feel the treatment of Christina Mc Mahon by the New York State Athletic Commission prior to her
W.B.C. Super Bantamweight World Title Fight in Brooklyn on 29th of October 2015 should be investigated.
How she was treated by the representatives/employees of the N.Y.S.A.C. is something I hope will never be allowed happen to another
athlete in the future.
All the medicals having been completed (in Carrickmacross as per request) on the morning of 22nd of October which only left requirement of doing pre fight
medical with Dr Jordan of N.Y.S.A.C. when we got to New York.
We reluctantly accepted taking late direct flights to New York on Sunday 25th of October as all medical requirements
had been met as requested by N.Y.S.A.C.
On Monday 26th of October Luigi was to collect us at 10.00am for a 12.00pm appointment with Dr Jordan of N.Y.S.A.C. Luigi’s
colleague Pasqual Rouse didn’t arrive to collect us until after 11.00am which resulted in us being late for the appointment.
Christina had to wait for almost an hour just to meet the doctor for what we thought was a routine medical but turned out
to be a physical AND neurological exam. (We were never informed that this was to be a neurological exam and Dr Jordan
didn’t explain the importance of a “high” score before commencing the test) .
Christina was in shock at being asked such strange questions not knowing this was an exam which would determine whether she would be allowed to box or not!
Dr Jordan then informed her that she had failed the test. When we explained that Christina was only off a long haul flight
the previous day he said he would consider what he might do .
Before we left the medical Dr Jordan told us he had NOT received a copy of my MRI scan which we insisted was
included in the medical file sent to Matthew Delaglio on 14th of October but after some time Dr Jordan admitted that it
WAS included with the other medical records he had received.
As we were leaving the medical centre we got a message from promoter Luigi Olcese that Dr Jordan needed a PTT blood test which wasn’t
included in blood test we had sent from previous week in Ireland and directed us to a clinic nearby to get this done.
I checked the detail of the blood test results I’d sent (four days earlier) and it DID include PTT score which I informed Luigi
and we went back towards our hotel. 30 minutes later we get are forwarded a communication from Dr Jordan that “PTT”
in Europe is different to “PTT” in USA so we have to get the test (The definition for the PTT test was not listed on sheet
from N.Y.S.A.C. so how could a European Doctor know there was a difference?).
We reluctantly agreed to take the test and drove around for about another hour to get a clinic that was available to take blood. After that we drove another hour
back to our hotel. This meant that Christina had to go without food for 10 hours!
We then received this message below from N.Y.S.A.C. via Luigi Olcese at 20.10 on Monday 26th October regarding Christina:
“She was evaluated today by Dr. Jordan in which he is requiring additional testing before clearing her to fight. Dr. Jordan is requiring she have a PET scan and another neuro exam completed at the weigh-in. The PET is scheduled for Wednesday at 12:00pm (Address below) and upon completing she will go DIRECTLY to the weigh-in (Commission Office) to have a NEURO exam. Just to be clear she will need to pass BOTH the PET scan and neuro exam for Dr. Jordan to clear her to fight. In ADDITION she needs a PTT which Luigi scheduled for 3:30pm today. We understand the difficulty of the situation and want Christina to know the decision is entirely up to her whether she would like to go forward with the additional testing or would rather not take the fight?”
Luigi then contacted me(Martin) later on Monday night to say Christina would have PET scan, Finger Printing, Neurological Exam and weighing ALL done on Wednesday and HE would collect us from hotel at 10.30am.
As you can see from wording of email from N.Y.S.A.C. commission Christina had two choices, either ‘pull out of the fight’ OR take the extra testing. So ‘the gun was to her head’ as they say, if she pulled out it would look like she had failed the medical and her parents had spent a lot of money coming over for the fight and she didn’t want to disappoint them. Also we have invested a lot of time and money in preparation and this would also mean Christina would LOSE her ‘purse’.
Wednesday morning Luigi collected us from the hotel at around 10.45 and drove for about 90 minutes to the medical centre. When we arrived at the Medical centre Christina was informed that she would have “RADIOACTIVE GLUCOSE” injected into her blood stream for 30 minutes to take the scan. Dr Jordan and/or N.Y.S.A.C. NEVER made me aware of the risks associated with having a PET scan and also never made me aware of the necessary procedure before taking the PET scan in relation to food and liquid recommendations.
For Christina this was devastating as for over two years she had been on a strict diet where she have avoided any food with artificial sugar as she found it had a very negative effective on her body due to an underactive thyroid condition. At the medical centre we also discovered that you are supposed to fast for at least 6 hours before the scan for it to be effective which we were NOT made aware of by Dr Jordan.
Christina cried for 1 hour during this time due to the stress of the situation but she still kept with the program. On leaving the medical Christina was given a letter to use AT THE AIRPORT should the radioactivity they had put in her blood be detected by security scanners. Christina was also advised to keep away from pregnant women OR young children for next few days!
Not a very professional way to expect a boxer to prepare for the biggest fight of her career, so how have the WBC and NYSAC reacted to the McMahon’s complaints ?
WBC’s Malte Müller-Michaelis told us : “When discussing the case with our medical advisory board it became obvious that there is – from our perspective – very little sense in having a fighter perform a PET scan in the last days before a fight especially because (in my understanding – I am not a doctor) the relevance of PET scans can only be seen in comparing two scans taken after a certain amount of time.
At the same time our medical advisory board also confirmed that while we understand that the testing put Christina under mental distress, there are no negative physical effects from a PET scan (again: this is my understanding from what I was informed and I am not a doctor).”
In a detailed response he added: “The WBC has reacted to the issues raised by Christina’s case (as well as others which we have experienced in different countries) by unifying our medical procedures for Female Championship bouts. We have appointed Mr. William Boodhoo of the WBC’s medical advisory board to make sure that our medical standards are met by contacting the promoters and fighters (or their managers) well ahead of a fight (at least five weeks prior to the fight date) requesting all medicals needed to compete in a WBC Championship bout. “
So that will eliminate the possibility of such problems arising in New York in future?
“Most experiences we made in New York and with NYSAC have been positive and we try to work closely with them to prevent experiences like the one made by Christina prior to her fight against Alicia Ashley .
We still cannot tell a State commission in the USA what they need to do or what they must not do. Since the commissions in the US (and in some other countries, too) and people working for these commissions are controlled by the state government and have to follow not only rules and regulations but laws and may be subject to official (criminal) investigation in case they break or bend those rules”
Some understandable points in that statement but it implies that effectively the WBC has no DIRECT control over what happens to boxers in New York even in WBC fights.. Bearing in mind that so many world title bouts and other major bouts do happen in the region under NYSAC control, does it encourage any boxer from another country to fight there? It clearly is unlikely to encourage many of those of today’s ‘amateurs’ to turn Pro after Rio bearing in mind not only such problems but also ones in another WBC stronghold Mexico.
So that’s where the McMahons are to date and understandably far from happy and still in discussion with the WBC and have been liaising closely with the Boxing Union of Ireland (BUI) and other statutory authorities.