SPORT has a unique way of birthing heroes. Stars, of the quick passing shooting kind and some that light the landscape for a more sustained period, can be made in the blinking of an eye.
The Christina McMahon story certainly has that success against the odds narrative that the media and sports fans love. A story that makes her both a star and a hero, although the Monaghan native doesn’t see it that way.
McMahon Ireland’s only female professional boxer achieved a World title dream that some highlighted as a dream of the ‘pipe’ variety against one of Zambia’s biggest stars in her home town, collecting the WBA Interim World bantamweight title at the not so tender age of 40. It is one of the boxing stories of the year so far.
Although most of her pro career has gone unnoticed outside of boxing circles her recent success hasn’t. Ireland’s latest World champ received a hero’s welcome on her arrival home at Dublin Airport, another reception in her home town of Carrickmacross, got column inches across the media divide and was even presented a seat on RTE’s Saturday night show last weekend.
Most have been billing the approachable, likable and humble former Kick boxing world champion as an odds defying hero, but McMahon argues otherwise.
The World champ doesn’t want to be a hero to anyone. She see’s herself as a ‘friend’ to boxing and sport and isn’t keen to sell the female line. If McMahon was to be any form of inspiration she would prefer it on the age front, prompting people to believe they age isn’t a barrier when it comes to achieving your dreams.
And in terms of the win being a surprise, against the odds victory, McMahon certainly doesn’t buy into that narrative. The undefeated bantamweight always ‘knew’ she would day buckle a World title around her waist even when just securing a shot was proving difficult over the years.
“I didn’t do this to be a hero and I don’t see myself as a hero,” McMahon told Irish-boxing.com.
“Honestly that idea hasn’t crossed my mind. I like to think I have lots of friends I can share this experience with. When I arrived home at Dublin airport to such a welcome I thought to myself ‘I have a lot of friends’ and I was delighted to share the success with them as friend not a hero.”
“I try to relate to people and see myself as a friend that can help them out.”
When asked about how inspiring the win can be for the growing fraternity of female fighters across Ireland, McMahon said,
“It possibly has done something positive in that regard, but I hope it helps people in general. People can see you are never too old to achieve goals you set for yourself and see the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle and so on.”
The out of the blue element of the victory might make it a bit more of a more entertaining media story, but McMahon argues their was no surprise within her camp that the opportunity both came and was taken.
“I knew it was always going to happen. I always visualised it and was confident I would be World champion. Some might have doubted it over the years and questioned why I put in so much work toward something they felt was unlikely to happen, espically when fights were falling through, but I honestly was always focused on it and I knew I would win a World title.”
Such has been the reception since returning home McMahon hadn’t really got the opportunity to reflect on her win or indeed the manner in which it came about.
It was only after a public showing of the clash with the previously unbeaten Catherine Phiri in the Shelly Arms on Sunday night, that the competitive nature of the fight really sunk in.
“She was the toughest fighter I have faced,” she added. “I didn’t really realise how tough a fight it was until I seen it back. It was a tough battle from the first bell. She was hungry and under a lot of pressure seen as she is a local hero and an ambassador in her country. It was win at all costs, but I just thought to myself ‘I need this too, you are younger than me and have time on your side. I need this now.” There were times it was a skillful match up but times it was a pure fight.
“The referee said after it was the best female fight he had ever seen with neither of us stepping back from start to finish and neither giving up,” she added before reflecting further on the reception.
“It has been crazy. You don’t really think about what will happen when you win before the fight and after the fight I was just happy to get Phiri out of my head! I was just thinking I want to see my parents. The feedback I have recieved since has been amazing and all the messages have been great. People I went to college with 20 years ago have been in touch even the kids from my digs have got in contact they were seven and eight then and are 20 odd now. It has been amazing and it really brought people together.”