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