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Christina McMahon defeats Catherine Phiri for WBC Bantam Interim Gold belt in Lusaka
by Michael O'Neill
May 3, 2015
Photo: Facebook

(MAY 3) She came, she saw, she conquered. At the grand young age of 40, Ireland's Christina McMahon from the Carrickmacross club in Co.Monaghan shattered the expectations of the home crowd Saturday night at the International Conference Centre in downtown Lusaka.

Many in the Zambian capital were unaware of McMahon's existence before she was nominated by the WBC to take this bout at short notice, Unluckily Phiri and her team have been subject to other boxers late withdrawal in recent years thus most of her fights have been within the African continent.

The Zambian officials took to WBAN, BoxRec and other sites to try and see who McMahon was and what were her records. They say that they took nothing for granted and that is probably right but her many adoring fans certainly believed that this was going to put Catherine on the road to greater things inc the full WBC title in next few months. Their hopes were dashed from the moment that the Irish woman arrived in the Zambian capital where she, husband Martin 'Frick' McMahon and their entourage went out to charm the boxing mad Zambian crowd and also the boxer and her coaches.

They attended every Press or Radio interview that the local media had arranged and if some of the questions seemed 'amateurish' then the McMahon team answered each and every enquiry with the respect it deserved.

Your reporter spoke to Christina ' Lighting' McMahon and husband/coach/mentor Martin before they set out for Dublin where they are sure to receive a 'warm' welcome from an equally 'boxing mad' country as well as being only too pleased to meet the 'long suffering' extended group of family and friends who have been following Christina's career since she first took up kick boxing and later 'amateur' boxing. Here is what they said Sunday night: to your correspondent.

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 tough training at home and in Zambia, I was determined not to let the people down. 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 & 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. Irish Ambassador Fintan O'Brien was another whose help was invaluable.

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? Sounded unlikely but in fact it is an accepted Centre of Excellent for many sports stars. Michael Fisher takes up the story:

"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 was 'trending in Ireland' just like those multi millionaires, or is it billionaires, Mayweather and Pacquaio, across the Atlantic. She and thousands like her throughout the world both Pros and 'Amateurs' do this regime week in week out at great personal expense in more ways than one and without the recognition that the male pro's receive. Tonight on behalf of all female boxers we salute McMahon and her team on this win whilst understandably as in any bout there has to be a winner and a loser. McMahon told me that she believes that Catherine Phiri provided her with her toughest test in all her years and believes that within the next two years Phiri herself will become a champion and not just in her native Zambia.

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