CHAMPION CHRISTINA RELAXES AT HOME
Michael Fisher Northern Standard Thursday 14th May: with photos by Pat Byrne
“You are absolutely inspirational”, the Saturday Night Show host Brendan O’Connor told Christina McMahon from Carrickmacross as she finished her live interview on RTE1 in front of a studio audience at Donnybrook that included her coach and husband Frick and her parents. Christina is now resting after her tough ten rounds fight in Zambia to win the interim WBC bantamweight world title. The belt, the only one of its kind in Ireland at the moment, was with her as she explained to her interviewer how she had taken up boxing on a professional basis when she turned 35, having won a world title for kick-boxing. Now aged 40, she had been up against a much younger opponent in Lusaka, 22 year-old Catherine Phiri, who was strongly fancied to win by the home crowd.
Even before the fight, however, Christina and had come successfully through the psychological battle that saw the promoter favour Phiri and try to make things awkward for the Irish boxer. Christina spent an hour being interviewed on local radio and by the time she had finished, she had won the hearts and minds of many of the locals. It was yet another sign of her great determination. “I never gave up on my dream”, she told Brendan O’Connor and now, after a good rest, she will be prepared to go after the full title. The current WBC bantamweight title holder is Yazmin Rivas from Mexico, who won it last June.
Taking part in the RTE Saturday Night Show made her feel like a celebrity, she said. She had to get her hair done and also required special attention from make-up to ensure that the black eye she received in the fight did not show.
Now relaxing at home in Magheross, Christina says she does not need a national media focus after being under the radar for so long. She was delighted to receive a civic reception on her return to Carrickmacross last week. It was a lovely surprise, she told me. She also thanked the organisers, the Carrickmacross Festival Committee, for ensuring it went so smoothly. She expressed her thanks for the three gifts that were presented to her on the night.
Monaghan County Council. Cathaoirleach Padraig McNally gave Christina a gift of an Irish Crystal bowl. The Cathaoirleach of Carrickmacross-Castlebleyney Municipal District Cllr Jackie Crowe presented her with a framed gift of Carrickmacross lace. The Festival Committee presented the boxer with a clock to mark the occasion.
Christina is a former pupil at St Louis Secondary School, where a welcome home banner had been displayed. She studied sport and leisure management at Inchicore College of Further Education in Dublin. She told me she was delighted that after her victory, some of her former college friends were able to renew contact with her. She also received a message from a family for whom she used to babysit.
On Sunday evening a crowd gathered at the Shirley Arms Hotel to watch a replay of the fight and to celebrate with Christina and her husband. Hopefully there will be one more big celebration still to come in the next twelve months or so.