Hall of Fame female boxer brings invitational event and domestic violence awareness to town

Mark Hornsby knew who Christy Martin was long before her story of surviving a brutal domestic violence attack by her then-husband became public. He knew who she was long before he would team up with her to help kids and to help foster a bond between youngsters and law enforcement officers.

“I’m the biggest boxing fan there is,” said Hornsby, who oversees the Harnett County Sheriff’s Department’s PAL program. “And she was my favorite boxer. She put women’s boxing on the map. Before Christy, people would head off to get popcorn and drinks during the women’s boxing portion of the card.”

Christy Martin is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and at one time appeared on boxing undercards with the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns. She made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, in a story that depicted her rise from a small-town West Virginia girl to one of the first women respected in the fight game.

All these years later, she was in Fayetteville Tuesday for entirely different reasons. She’s still involved in boxing, these days as founder of Christy’s Champs, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to domestic violence. She and Hornsby are teaming up to bring the Christy Martin Title Invitational Boxing Tournament, along with some 300 boxers, to town. The nonprofit event is scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Freedom Courts Sportsplex at 3126 Gillespie St. The event will benefit Christy’s Champs, as well as the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office PAL program. 

But Tuesday afternoon was dedicated to the subject of domestic violence. In introducing Martin to a group of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals gathered in Courtroom 2-B at the Cumberland County Courthouse Tuesday, Chief District Court Judge Toni King recounted grim statistics.

“In 2020 alone, there were 61 homicides from domestic violence in North Carolina,” King said. “This year, through July 9, there have already been 29.”

The harrowing attack Martin survived on Nov. 28, 2010, has been depicted in an episode of the CBS news show “48 hours.” In August, Martin said, her story is scheduled to be part of a Netflix series entitled “Untold,” relating the stories behind sports headlines. It depicts her rise as a boxing trailblazer and subsequent battle to recover from an attack that left her with three stab wounds, a slashed calf muscle and a gunshot wound to the chest.

Her ex-husband Jim Martin, a former boxing trainer, was convicted of attempted murder and is serving 25 years in a Florida prison. In her private life, she now goes by her maiden name, Christy Salter.

“I have a lot of titles,” she said. “But the one I’m proudest of is domestic violence survivor.”

She was advised to seek therapy in the years that have followed the attack, but she says that none of the sessions did much to help her heal. Only one thing has helped.

“People who have never been in a boxing gym don’t understand; it’s about family in there,” she said. “These kids, they think I help them. But they are the ones who help me.”