by Michael O’Neill
Christina McMahon, the new WBC Gold belt holder, will soon be back home to be greeted by family and friends and hopefully the Irish main stream media.
What a nice touch too if one or more of the top officials from the Boxing Union of Ireland and her former IABA ‘amateur’ association went along on Bank Holiday Monday.
This is the first occasion on which an Irish female professional has returned home with a WBC world title belt, though of course among her former colleagues Katie Taylor has scores of times arrived in triumph at the airport usually accompanied by a bevy of IABA officials and photographers, so how nice if a few of her ‘old’ colleagues, fellow boxers and coaches as well as the public were there on Monday night when that EK 163 flight arrives at 20.50 (or thereabouts).
Here is a boxer who at the grand young age of 40 has put her body on the line for club and country – and for her numerous admirers throughout Ireland. Let us not forget that she has also many Kickboxing titles to her credit.
Before leaving for Dublin, your reporter spoke with both Christina and her husband/coach and mentor, Martin ‘Frick’ McMahon.
Here are just a few of her thoughts the day after the night before, spent answering goodwill messages of support not only from Ireland but further afield, even from Zambia despite her having extinguished the hopes of their pride and joy, one Catherine Phiri.
Christina: ” I am delighted with the win. It was a very tough fight which we all thought she was ahead going into the last two rounds. In fact it was only after the bout that we discovered that she was one round down with two judges and two rounds down with the third.
“I had to dig deep, very deep, in the 9th and 10th to secure the victory. The referee had stopped the fight to adjust Catherine’s glove tape which gave her a chance to recover.
“Having gone through weeks and weeks of touch training at home and in Zambia, I was determined not to let the people down back . I felt I had done more than enough to win but you can never be sure until your hand is raised”
A delighted Frick (who had celebrated his own birthday earlier in the week) took time off to pay tribute to their family and friends who had supported his wife from her early days in kick boxing and on the IABA circuit.
He also paid special tribute to his team both at home and in Lusaka especially Sean and Paul McCullagh and another former Irish boxer, Anthony Doran whose knowledge of official procedures and his extensive contacts in Zambia opened many doors that might otherwise have taken much longer to open.
Frick and Christina also recalled all those days of ‘altitude training’ on her own and with a specialist team in Monaghan as the ‘Northern Standard’s Michael Fisher wrote before she left for Lusaka. Altitude training in Monaghan?
When I met Christina in training last she was wearing what looked like a thin space suit, and was attached to a mask giving her an air supply. She was sparring with Frick, whilst she received air that simulated an environment of 13,000 feet above sea level, similar to what she would find in Lusaka. The humidity there will be around 65% and temperatures can reach up to 27C. So the body of the boxer has to work harder in such an environment, as there is less oxygen. The machine being used was called an Everest series hypoxic generator, of the type that could also be used by mountain climbers.
This simulated high altitude training is one of the facilities offered at the Declan Brennan Centre of Excellence in Castleshane. By undergoing this exercise, it showed her professional and dedicated approach to boxing. Christina was delighted to discover only recently that there was such a facility almost on her doorstep in County Monaghan. It came just at the right time, she said.
As she finished her training session with a series of squats and shoulder presses, Christina told me she hoped she could help women to believe that it was never too late to go out and achieve their goals in sport or whatever field. Along with Frick she helps to run Carrickmacross Boxing Club at a new centre near the running track where they also have martial arts and fitness classes. She is coached by Sean and Paul McCullough in Belfast”
So there you have it, one woman’s dedication to achieve her goal has been (partially) fulfilled.
She is now hoping to go one better and take the full WBC title in the next year. And after that? “Who knows? Certainly any thoughts of immediate retirement were not being considered today. Coaching in the future, quite probable and how lucky the young women of Monaghan are to have such fine coaches in or near their home.
Several more of course in nearby Louth and in Belfast as well as those who will inevitably move on to (hopefully) greater things at the IABA’s High Performance unit in Dublin.
Little wonder that on Saturday night and Sunday morning, Christina McMahon was ‘trending in Ireland’ just like those multi millionaires, or is it billionaires, Mayweather and Pacquaio, across the Atlantic.