CHRISTINA MCMAHON HOMECOMING

Big Crowd in Carrickmacross welcomes home Christina McMahon  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Big Crowd in Carrickmacross welcomes home Christina McMahon Photo: © Michael Fisher

GREAT WELCOME IN CARRICKMACROSS FOR CHRISTINA MCMAHON 

Northern Standard p.1 and p.2

Michael Fisher

Carrick: this one’s for you! Boxer Christina McMahon proudly displayed her WBC title belt to the crowd of several hundred who welcomed her home to the Main Street in Carrickmacross on Tuesday evening. It might be only the interim female world bantamweight title, but to everyone in Monaghan, she is the county’s new international boxing champion, rivalling the achievements of the Clones Cyclone. The full title remains one fight away, but that could be some time down the road. “I have to be world champion before I turn fifty”, Christina joked as she was interviewed live on stage by Sean McCaffrey of Northern Sound. She hopes her success against Catherine Phiri in faraway Zambia on Saturday night will help to inspire other women to achieve their goals. Young or old, go out and do what you can, was her message. “I’m just a boxer, but I want to inspire people never to give up. I didn’t, and I want to thank the Phoenix Centre (in Carrickmacross, where she used to be manager) for living the story with me”.

Christina told the gathering she had moved on from the Phoenix Centre to set up her own sports venture with her husband Frick because she wanted to work for herself. Now with the two centres in operation, there was every opportunity there for others to make it to the top.

The lack of interest from the national media including RTE in covering her return to Dublin airport on Monday did not worry her. “One of the most important things is the friends I have. All my friends including some from national school days were there (in the arrivals area), along with members of Carrickmacross Boxing Club, so I didn’t need any television cameras to be there”, she said. In a comment that shows her personality, Christina told the interviewer on stage: “No-one likes a cockish champion”.

The civic reception was organised by Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District Council and the Carrickmacross Festival Committee. Christina was joined on stage by her husband and coach, Frick (Martin), and later on, by her parents, a brother and sister.

Her win over ten rounds at the International Conference Centre in Lusaka took the home crowd by surprise. Christina is 40 and her opponent 22. Christina told Michael O’Neill of WBAN: ” I am delighted with the win. It was a very tough fight which we all thought she (Phiri) was ahead (in) 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 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 person whose help was invaluable.

Frick told the crowd in Carrickmacross he was confident about Christina before the fight. But when the bout was away from home, then you were going in four rounds down from the start, he reckoned. It was a while before they were able to establish from the scorers how Christina was doing. It was still very close after the 8th round. Then before the 9th, Frick said he put his hand in his pocket to get some Vaseline to attend to Christina’s face. He reached in and found a memorial card for his wife’s grandfather, Patrick Cunningham, who had been a big boxing fan. He showed it to his wife, telling her that “Packie is here as well” and that had given her a boost as she won the 9th round well. In the end, a majority decision by the judges gave victory to Christina, but Frick said it did not matter what way they had achieved that outcome.

The home crowd thought it was going to be easy for their own ‘Katie Taylor’, but we knew differently, he said.

Although the fight was not shown live in Ireland, some 10 million viewers watched it in Zambia and around 30 million in the whole of Africa. He hoped they had done a great job in winning the hearts of the people of Zambia both before and after the fight.

Asked about the next challenge, Frick said Christina would keep training but reminded people that she had waited some thirteen or fourteen months before this contest happened.

A series of presentations took place, the first on behalf of Monaghan County Council. Cathaoirleach Padraig McNally gave Christina a gift of an Irish Crystal bowl. He said he had known her since she was a baby. He praised her enthusiasm for sport and her fierceness in achieving what she wanted to. It was a great day for her family, for Carrickmacross and for the whole of Ireland, he said. Cllr McNally said he had spent Saturday night with Christina’s father, Jim Marks, who had been very nervous and very anxious as he was unable to watch the very tough fight live. He noticed that Christina’s title belt was green in colour, so the outcome must have been written in the stars! She was definitely determined and he hoped this was the start of even greater things for her. He passed on apologies from his colleague Cllr PJ O’Hanlon for being unable to attend the homecoming.

The other four members of the Municipal District Council were present, including the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Jackie Crowe. He gave Christina a gift of Carrickmacross lace.

Her success, he said, was absolutely unbelievable and it was a privilege to welcome her home. It was not that often they got world champions in the area. He quoted from the late Muhammad Ali: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” Well done Christina!

Carrickmacross Festival Committee presented the boxer with a clock to mark the occasion.

After the speeches and presentations, Christina’s parents Jim and Madge Marks were introduced to the crowd along with her brother Gerard and sister Caroline. Jim Marks explained how Christina had taken up kick-boxing when she was only eight years old. She went on to become world champion in 2007, before becoming a professional boxer three years later.

Madge said she had kept herself busy on Saturday by visiting her own mother. Gerard said his sister’s success had come as no surprise. He was very proud of her. Caroline Marks said she knew the dedication that had gone into Christina’s training and she was also immensely proud. It was later revealed that Christina would be a guest this weekend on the RTE1 television programme, The Saturday Night Show, presented by Brendan O’Connor.

*******

Tonight (Saturday) Christina appeared on the Saturday Night Show. “You’re absolutely inspirational”, Brendan O’Connor told her, after chatting to her for about five minutes about the fight and her career as a professional boxer.

 

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