By Michael O’Neill
Ireland’s first – and so far ONLY – female Professional boxer, Christina McMahon from Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan is ‘raring to go’ as she prepares to take on Zambia’s WBC Silver champion Catherine Phiri for the interim WBC Gold Bantam title on May 2nd at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, some 15kms from the country’s International Airport.
Sanctioning body, WBC announced McMahon as their preferred challenger when Phiri’s proposed fight against Mexico’s Jessica Gonzalez fell through with the latter citing ‘personal reasons’ for her late withdrawal.
The long trip to Lusaka holds no fears for the Monaghan woman who is ‘delighted’ to get this tilt at the title. Like Phiri, (9-0-0), McMahon has an unbeaten record 6-0-0 (including 3 TKO’s) and she too has had problems finding opponents in her native Ireland or indeed in Europe.
Remember that Deirdre Gogarty never fought as an Amateur or a Professional in Ireland and it was not until October 2001 that the first sanctioned female bout took place at the National Stadium, between Katie Taylor and Alanna Audley-Murphy.
“I was 32 when I took up boxing, about eight years ago, and I never lost an amateur fight. I even fought two internationals under Pete Taylor”
“I was training with Pete Taylor in Bray and fought a Swedish girl, Jenny Hardings with him in the February. I turned 35 in that June and that Swedish girl won the European Championships in September , and I couldn’t travel with the team!
“On one’s 35th birthday you had 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.”
“I’m looking forward to this bout and hope to bring back the title to Ireland. Would be great if Ireland had both a Professional and an AIBA World Elite champion at same time since Katie won her 5th in a row title in Jeju in December”.
In her early years at school it seemed as if athletics would be Christina’s sport of choice.
“I was in the running club in school, but I was quite sporty in general as a kid, there wasn’t really an exercise I didn’t like.
Husband and coach, Frick is also handling the “administration” and of course there is a lot of paperwork involved with a trip to Lusaka including Visas and Health requirements.
He is hoping that Ireland’s Ambassador, Finbar O’Brien and his Deputy may be present to support their efforts not to mention members of the thriving Irish community “The Wild Geese”. A ‘sell out’ crowd is guaranteed in this ‘boxing mad’ country where only Soccer attracts greater crowds.
Christopher Malunga, well known promoter and coach in Zambia is also Operations Director of Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions (OQBP), the country’s longest established boxing promoter, who has also been much involved with the sport at all levels in Zambia, both amateur and professional, male and female.
He has warned Phiri not to underestimate her opponent saying :‘every boxer is always dangerous until the final bell and Catherine should be wary of that’.
“Besides, this is a big WBC title she will be fighting for and looking at the reputation of the WBC, they never give you a weak opponent so this will be a tough fight. It kind of reminds me of (former champion) Natalie Forget of Canada,” Malunga told ‘The Times of Zambia’.
Phiri’s own thoughts on the bout and on her opponent? : “I have gone all over the net looking at her, her record and a few videos and I respect her because she has won all her fights and to me it not about the opponent.
On 2nd May in Lusaka, will ‘Irish eyes be smiling’? What can be assured is that Christina will give her all in an effort to take this World title and no one can ask for more.