By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I run into Lucia's contradictions several times myself. She seems both to thirst after certain things - a movie career, chic restaurants, endorsement deals, money, beauty, fame - and to despise them a little. ("In Holland," she tells me, "women are much more naturally beautiful. Here I learned to do my nails. I wax my bikini line, I pluck my eyebrows, and I dye my hair. That's what I've learned here.") After her fight with Lisa Ested, she plans to take a workshop on the ego at a Buddhist retreat - a dedicated Buddhist, she spends at least two hours a day meditating and chanting - because, she says, she's apt to become big-headed after a fight. Also, she likes being around people who want to grow spiritually, as opposed to people who only talk about their nails or their hair or their latest movie.
"Do you spend a lot of time with the nails-and-hair crowd?" I ask.
"No," Lucia answers. "I'm alone most of the time. But certain things affect me." Then, glancing at the people around us, she adds darkly, "Like the place we're in right now."
At 1 o'clock on a Friday afternoon, Evander Holyfield, Roberto Duran, William Joppy, Henry Akinwande and a number of other boxers are gathered for a press conference at the House of Blues to promote the upcoming $2.5 million WBA title fight between Holyfield and Akinwande at Madison Square Garden. Duran, wearing a Roberto Duran baseball cap and shades, sits at a long table up on the podium, smirking and chewing gum. The spit-polished cranium next to him belongs to a hulking Holyfield, heavyweight champion of the world. Dressed in a colorful shirt of African design, Holyfield is also chewing gum, and his smirk is only slightly less extravagant than Duran's. At the table behind them, dressed in a natty checked suit that makes him look more like a model than a boxer, Akinwande gazes at the proceedings with alert, watchful eyes. A few days from now he will test positive for hepatitis B, making this press conference retrospectively meaningless for everybody involved.
Lucia has been invited to the press conference by Johnny McClain, a slim, good-looking cruiserweight who trains at the Wild Card. What Johnny slyly omitted to mention, however, is that Christy Martin, who is fighting on the same card, will be up on the dais as well. But as soon as the reporters outside the House of Blues spot Lucia ("There's the woman who can kick Christy Martin's ass!" one flat-bottomed press type says), they know what's coming. "Hey, Lucia!" one of them shouts out. "Guess who's here?" And now Lucia knows. Whether Christy Martin knows, however, is doubtful. Only after the boxers and promoters have gone through their statements, and Showtime's Jay Larkin has called for questions from the floor, does Martin suspect something might be amiss. Because down there on the floor is a woman in a bright-yellow zippered jacket speaking into a footlong microphone. "Hi, my name is Lucia Rijker," she begins. This is the first time she and Martin have been in the same room together, and the contrast between them is telling. Lucia, wearing workout clothes and sneakers, has obviously just come from the gym; Martin, wearing a cream pants suit and some gold jewelry, has obviously just come from the hairdresser.
"I want to say something," Lucia continues, facing Holyfield. "I'd like to say to Evander that you're the greatest, and the way you carry yourself you're really a role model for boxing, and I really appreciate that!" ("Thank you!" booms Holyfield to a polite round of applause.)
". . . And I have a question for Christy Martin . . ." At this point, the audience starts laughing, knowing what's coming. "Christy," Lucia continues, speaking softly, almost hesitantly. "I am Lucia Rijker. This is the first time we met, right here, so I want to take this opportunity to ask you to stand up and be a woman, and be a tough woman as you really are, because I know you are, and I want an answer from you. I've talked to your promoter. He's willing to put up the fight, but he's told me that you don't want to, so now I'm here to talk to you, so now I'm asking you . . ." Someone in the crowd starts laughing with delight, and immediately the whole place bursts into cheers and catcalls and laughter as Holyfield and Duran, forgotten now, continue to chew gum. a
Martin, who's been looking pained and crestfallen and embarrassed until this moment, her bog-Irish skin turning increasingly red, hears the laughter and decides she's had enough. Rising up from her chair, she cuts through the crowd noise with a voice like a blue-collar chain saw.
"I'M NOT AFRAID TO STAND UP AND BE A WOMAN, BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN, AND WE DON'T HAVE TO DOUBT THAT IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM!" she begins, wagging her finger as if Lucia were a badly behaved student. "And if my promoter said I didn't want to fight, then my promoter is giving out misinformation. Mr. Larkin is here representing Showtime, and if he wants to make the fight, the fight can be made. I'm ready for it." (Applause from the crowd - Martin may be reluctant to fight Lucia in the ring, but she's not afraid to fight her at a microphone.) "I think I'm the best woman fighter in the world, and I will prove that when given the opportunity. But as you maybe don't know, this is a business, and with business there are a lot of other people involved besides the two of us. So if Don King will give up my promotional rights, or sell my promotional rights, whatever it takes for the fight to be made, I will be very happy for the fight to be made. But you have six months, because I am going to be a mother after that."