In an exclusive interview, Christina McMahon speaks to Gavan Casey of Balls.ie about her mistreatment at the hands of the WBC, the shady proceedings which cast a cloud over her world title fight in Mexico back in March, and the home rematch that was promised to her but has subsequently been taken away in preposterous circumstances.
If you were being kind, you might describe the past three weeks as a 'turbulent' period for Irish boxing. Now a fortnight removed from the debacle that was Mick Conlan's Olympic exit at the hands of Russia's Vladimir Nikitin, a betting controversy perpetuates the omnishambles which began with Michael O'Reilly's positive drugs test on the eve of Ireland's Rio campaign.
Lost somewhere in the midst of this was a boxing charade of equal absurdity. Four months removed from her controversial world title defeat to Zulina 'La Loba' Munoz in Mexico, Ireland's leading female professional boxer, Christina McMahon, was engaged in a nonsensical stand-off with the World Boxing Council.
It began before the weigh-in down in Juarez, Mexico on March 11th, when Christina's manager, trainer and husband Martin 'Frick' McMahon received a request that the pair's WBC world title fight take place at a 117lb catchweight - two pounds heavier than the super-flyweight limit. Indeed, prior to the fight, there had been no 30-day or 7-day WBC check-weights, something which the organisation usually insists on before all world title fights.
While McMahon's team are keen to stress that they're not accusing Munoz of anything untoward, the brow of any boxing fan will furrow in the knowledge that the Mexican went on to comfortably make weight - an achievement which, considering her catchweight request and the drug test cock-up which followed, might raise alarm bells.
'Frick' McMahon was also forced to demand WBC supervisors be present in each corner for his wife's bout with Munoz after he was told by chief WBC supervisor on the night, Dr. Lorenzo Soberanes Maya, “we don’t use supervisors in the corners” - a statement which is frankly untrue; the WBC use corner supervisors for virtually every fight, not least a world title showdown. It's worth bearing in mind, too, that the WBC are an organisation which champion themselves on promoting fighter safety.
But something about that night in Juarez stunk.
Distinctly of Deep Heat, in fact, as McMahon's cutman Jim Upton would discover whilst inspecting the gloves of the Monaghan woman's opponent. One reddened, watery eye later, Upton was forced to clean Munoz's mitts with a baby wipe plucked from McMahon's kitbag after being told by the aforementioned Dr. Maya that the Mexican world champion didn't possess a spare pair.
A highly contentious unanimous decision defeat later, McMahon - after a month's protestation - was granted a rematch. Not because of the result, however, but due to the dubious nature of the post-fight doping examinations.
The rematch was tentatively scheduled to take place at the National Stadium in Dublin, where Monaghan's McMahon would have been fancied to see off Munoz and take the WBC belt back up the M1.
But last week, after five months awaiting confirmation of her date with destiny, the WBC suspended McMahon for publicly airing her grievances on Northern Sound.
Email? Letter? Phonecall? No, no. McMahon received the news from WBC female president Malte Müller-Michaelis via Facebook Chat at 1am Irish time. It struck as an outrageous and indeed brazen manoeuvre considering the unending sequence of broken promises and emotional torment that preceded it, adding to the sense of farce surrounding a situation that a bewildered McMahon can now only laugh at:
This was a conversation that took place on, believe it or not, Facebook chat. And there's been an awful, awful lot of talking done on Facebook chat. That's how Malte communicates, and how he's communicated all along. Now, he does email Frick [Christina's husband and manager] as well, but I couldn't believe I was talking to this guy on Facebook. It's just seemed so unprofessional from day one, to be totally honest.
I messaged him last week asking could he confirm that my rematch would take place, because it had been six months since I last fought and the show was scheduled for five weeks' time. I felt very bad for the promoter that he couldn't confirm the show because he was waiting on my fight. He came back to me five days later and said, 'Sorry, Christina, I was on a short break, and [WBC president] Mauricio Sulimain has been away in North America, but I'll have good word tonight and it's looking very promising that the rematch will go ahead.'
'Frick' McMahon has revealed to Balls that the cause for suspension cited by the WBC in this Facebook message was that Christina 'breached the WBC's Code Of Ethics'.
Christina herself now believes that rematch was never truly forthcoming. The 42-year-old former kickboxing world champion explained how, despite initially being hesitant, the WBC forced her to tell her story which she was fully aware would jeopardise her chances of a rematch with Zulina Munoz:
We wanted to let our promoter know that he can go ahead with the show, but nothing came the next day, nothing came the following day. So I re-text him and said, 'Malte, have you got on to my promoter or not?' And next thing the promoter got the same message that I got a few days before: 'I've been away...' and all that.
So I told Malte that if I didn't hear back from him in the next couple of hours that I was going to go public with my side of the story. I let him know that I wanted to get the fight confirmed in as positive a way as possible, but it had been six months and I hadn't heard back from him for over a week. He didn't reply to any of that. The first time he replied within a couple of hours was when the whole thing went public.
That reply was an immediate suspension for Lightning, something which the fighter herself describes as 'a stupid stunt'. After months of vague talks with boxing's most recognisable governing body, McMahon realises what she and other WBC World title challengers are up against in their respective quests for the once-coveted green belt. She intends to carry the fight to the organisation if the situation isn't amended quickly.
On Wednesday last, hours after McMahon was informed of her suspension, the WBC brazenly announced her former foe Munoz as their 'Champion Of The Week' - a veiled two-fingered gesture to McMahon, according to the Monaghan woman herself.
— World Boxing Council (@WBCBoxing) August 25, 2016
The former Interim champion now craves a fight with WBC darling Munoz not simply to right the perceived wrongs of Mexico in March, but to represent the female fighters from smaller nations around the world who don't get a fair shake from an organisation which has notoriously affiliated itself with Mexican fighters in recent decades [see, for example, the running gag that would become of Sergio Martinez vs Julio César Chavez]:
I would hope that the suspension would be overturned, to be honest. I'm fighting for all the boxers who come from small countries; maybe we don't run WBC fights often enough over here for these people to make money. But are we going to be left in the lurch just because we're good? I put myself out there when there was no backup - I went to America [to face Alicia Ashley on the WBC's orders] broke. I just feel I have the right to a rematch. I don't mind taking a loss, but I feel I have the right to get the chance.
Even a portion of Mexican fans booed and flung cans towards the ring when their home fighter was announced the winner, but it must be stated that, despite McMahon doing more than enough to take the title back to Ireland, it was a relatively tight contest. That is, at least, to everyone except the WBC. The scorecards played no role in McMahon initially being granted a rematch:
No. No, no, no. They never accepted that the fight was close. 'She's our champion, she won'. And I'm just a bad loser. That was their attitude. They only granted the rematch due to the doping procedures.
It's beyond belief. The childishness of the cups and the drug tests. I know I have to pee a certain amount - I've been drug tested five times. If you pee just a little bit, they throw it out. You have to fill two cups. These people even thought that I had to watch her [Munoz] fill her cups. They genuinely believed that. That's the scary part about all of this: They didn't even know how to hold a drug test. They were making it up as they went along because they didn't understand how it works.
The truth is that the WBC originally indicated that there would be no post-fight drug test, this despite the contractual obligation and rules agreement which had been signed by both parties on fight day. "We don't do doping tests here," Team McMahon was told by the WBC's Dr. Soberanes Maya.
He later backtracked under pressure from Frick McMahon, and the WBC 'got their own containers', conducting their own drug tests. Incredibly, the venue could only provide two 500ml bottles of water to both dehydrated fighters. Having been dubiously informed that Munoz had already provided her sample, McMahon attempted to do the same only to discover the containers had holes in the bottom, which raises its own question as to how Munoz conducted hers with little difficulty.
As reported by Irish-boxing.com, Dr. Maya and another doctor both claimed that they were official containers – despite McMahon witnessing a doctor remove the cotton buds from the container just minutes previous, and the fact that there was a sticker on the tub which read [translated] ‘Multiaplicadores 59k double cotton applicators. Material healing unsterilized. Store in a dry place.’
Frick McMahon continued to insist that Munoz be tested correctly. When Team McMahon arrived back in Ireland, they were sent results of a proper test taken by Munoz - the results of which were negative. However, this test was taken in a clinic - Laboratorio Médico del Chopo - which is not a World Anti-Doping Agency-approved facility.
WBC accepted culpability in the ramshackle shit-show that was the post-fight anti-doping procedures - holes and all - hence their original agreement to a rematch. Her exposure of the situation when that rematch was clearly not forthcoming resulted in her being suspended.
But McMahon is quick to point out that she doesn't hold her opponent on the night, Munoz, in contempt for any wrongdoing. Indeed, she echoes the belief of her manager and husband; Munoz the fighter, and womens WBC chief Malte Müller-Michaelis above her, are but puppets on WBC president Mauricio Sulaimán's string:
I don't have any problem with her. She's only an opponent. If I was fighting her tomorrow I wouldn't even give it a thought as to who she is.
But honestly, I think if we had a rematch, I wouldn't even trust them to have the judges right. I'd definitely be up against it. She's their champion. To me it's just about doing the fight again in front of my home crowd, and standing up for justice. I'm owed a rematch. They chased me to rematch Phiri in Africa or told me to go fight Alicia Ashley two weights above. I chose America because I thought it'd be a great opportunity to see New York and headline a card there. They had absolutely no grounds for me to rematch Phiri, so why are they not giving me a rematch when, by their own admission, there absolutely is grounds for it?
McMahon describes the rhetoric now coming from the WBC as "a load of oul' waffle," but explains how such a situation is hardly an alien concept in the world of professional womens boxing. Indeed, documents obtained by Balls.ie surrounding her aformentioned fight versus Ashley in New York would suggest the untoward goings on in Mexico are but the tip of the iceberg, but McMahon is keen to fight one battle at a time in her quest for a rematch with Munoz.
She also maintains that no female boxer, including one former Olympic champion and Irish sporting icon, should consider turning to the pro ranks within the current climate, which wreaks of disreputable antics:
The stuff that goes on behind the scenes - it is wrong. Like, even Katie Taylor, being honest, when there was talk of her going pro... Whenever she mentioned it I said, she doesn't realise they'll rob her blind. They don't give a SHIT out there who Katie Taylor is, or who anyone is, unless you're making a huge, huge, huge amount of money for them.
She remains extremely grateful for the support she has received so far, but in order to bring the heat to an organisation seemingly intent on being rid of her, she'll need more than the backing of just the Irish boxing faithful.
But as the Irish people showed when Michael Conlan had his dreams pilfered in Rio, the WBC may have picked a fighter of the wrong nationality to go to war with.
Following the publication of this interview, WBC president Mauricio Sulimain issued his first public response to these allegations.
There is nothing to answer, all was promptly addressed and clarified it is all simple unfounded attacks https://t.co/dNBgMLehnU
— Mauricio Sulaiman (@wbcmoro) August 31, 2016