UPDATE: St. John beat Martin, via UD10, and both fighters said after they are done.
Two of the world’s most recognizable female pro boxers, Christy “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Mia St. John, meet again in the prize ring on Tuesday. It could be their final pro fight.
“I am 100% retired after this fight with Mia, win, lose or draw,” Martin says.
After a decade since their first encounter, St. John and Martin will fight at Table Mountain Casino in Friant, California. The vacant WBC junior middleweight title is at stake and Roy Englebrecht Promotions is presenting the fight card.
Nearly 10 years have passed since St. John (46-11-2, 18 KOs) and Martin (49-6-3, 31 KOs) fought in Pontiac, Michigan where the native West Virginian won by unanimous decision. St. John surprised many, including famed trainer Emanuel Steward who had predicted a first round knockout. It went all 10 rounds with the Californian winning three rounds on two judges score cards.
Time has passed and both the fighters and female boxing have gone through immense changes.
Women boxers participated in the Olympics for the first time in history. It had a prideful effect on both pro boxers.
“I'm very proud of the women and feel like a small part of me stood with them as the bell rang to start the matches,” said Martin, who began boxing professionally in 1989 and was a WBC junior middleweight titleholder.
St. John was also pleased at the momentous appearance of women in the boxing ring.
“I think the women (Olympians) are amazing,” St. John said.
50 Fight Club
St. John and Martin have carried the torch for women boxing for several decades and remain two of a very small club of women boxers whose names are easily recognized worldwide.
Both are also part of a small group of female fighters with over 50 pro fights in their career. St. John has 59 pro fights and Martin 58. Among the other female fighters in history with over 50 pro fights are Germany’s Regina Halmich, Kelsey Jeffries, Layla McCarter, Stephanie Dobbs, and Belinda Laracuente.
It’s a very small list considering that female pro boxing has existed for almost 40 years. One major reason is a lack of exposure.
“We no longer see women on big undercards and our paydays have gone down, but so have the men, unless your name is Mayweather or Pacquaio,” said St. John, who formerly fought on Top Rank fight cards in the 1990s and is a former IFBA lightweight world champion.
Martin agrees with that sentiment.
“When I fought Mia ten years ago we were both coming off of big PPV shows with King and Arum,” said Martin who was formerly promoted by Don King Productions and often fought on Mike Tyson fights. “Since that time no major promoter has signed a female fighter, therefore women's boxing started on a downhill slide.”
It took almost a decade to find a promoter willing to make this rematch but it eventually occurred after year-long lobbying by St. John on TMZ and other social networks. Finally, Englebrecht step forward.
“Roy Englebrecht Promotions has promoted more female boxing bouts than any other fight promoter in history," stated Englebrecht. "To work with two boxing as well as sports icons in Christy and Mia, is an honor and privilege, and believe me fight fans in the Central Valley will be in for a special evening when these two ladies meet in the ring with a legitimate world championship on the line.”
Martin, who suffered a gunshot wound and was stabbed by her ex-husband in 2010, proved she has recovered physically when she went toe-to-toe with Dakota Stone a year ago at the Staples Center. She knocked down Stone but broke her hand with the punch and was unable to continue. Now, fully recovered, Martin looks to beat St. John.
“Mia will see a different fighter. I am throwing more combinations and not loading up as I did in the past,” Martin said.
St. John who is moving up from junior welterweight to junior middleweight for this fight is confident that her unique boxing style will prevail.
“My technique is much better, which happens with anything. The more you do something, the better you become at it,” St. John says.
Two iconic careers will probably end on Tuesday night.
“I did not expect to still be fighting. I thought I would be working with my amateur program,” said Martin, 44. “I have learned a great deal about life in the past ten years and that has helped me in boxing. I am more relaxed now. I don't always have so much anger built up for my opponent as in the past.”
St. John, 45, realizes her time in the ring is ending and finds it fitting that Martin is on the other corner.
“We've been criticized so much over the years because we are the names of women's boxing, besides Laila Ali, so we have a lot of respect and empathy for one another,” said St. John.
It’s the end of an era for female pro boxing as two icons lace up one final time.