Looking for a Fight (page 1) 

Lucia Rijker and the changing face of women's boxing

Wednesday, Sep 16 1998

Page 5 of 7

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.

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"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."

"All right!" someone in the crowd yells, and Martin gets a good round of applause. Motherhood is always popular.

"I accept the offer," Lucia says, her voice as quiet as ever despite Martin's barrage. "We will have the fight within six months. That's a deal."

"Ladies and gentlemen," Larkin concludes, "Lucia Rijker!"

As a piece of verbal jousting, the bout is a draw. But as it turns out, the "conversation" isn't quite at an end. A few minutes later, when the fighters and their handlers have left the stage, Lucia goes up to Martin and taps her on the shoulder. "I just want to say hello and shake your hand," she tells her. "DON'T TOUCH ME!" Martin snaps. So of course Lucia taps her on the shoulder again. "TOUCH ME ONE MORE TIME AND WE'RE GOING TO FIGHT RIGHT NOW!" Martin says. Lucia touches her again. But before anything further can happen, a member of Martin's entourage steps between them. Within seconds, there's a crowd around Martin and she's whisked out of the building.

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