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Christy Martin loses appeal

8/15/2011 - Boxing

LOS ANGELES -- The California State Athletic Commission has upheld ring officials' decision to stop boxer Christy Martin's June 4 bout with Dakota Stone after Martin suffered a broken right hand.

The panel voted 5-0 Monday in Los Angeles despite claims by Martin's attorneys that it amounted to sex discrimination because of a misguided notion of a greater need to protect female fighters. Martin, whose next match is in New York at the end of the year, vowed to never box in California again.

"In my 22 years of experience as a professional boxer, I have never seen a fight stopped by a referee or a fight doctor because of a broken hand or because a boxer winced," said Martin, who was winning the bout at Staples Center at the time.

Martin said she didn't expect to win her appeal but had hoped the fight would be ruled no-contest. Stone got the victory when the ring doctor ordered the fight stopped and the referee waved his hands with time left in the final round.

In what was at times a testy exchange that at one point resulted in Martin's trainer walking out of the hearing, the boxer's attorneys, Gloria Allred and John West, argued that a fight between male fighters wouldn't have been stopped and cited several examples. They said they believed Martin was put in a Catch 22 with the referee demanding Martin hit with her injured fist to show it wasn't hurt and then stopping the match when she winced after landing a punch on Stone.

In the final round, Martin was largely boxing with her left hand. She said she believed she would have won had she not followed the referee's directive.

"Christy had a right to be treated as a fighter, not as a female fighter who needed more protection from risk of harm than a male fighter needs," Allred told the commission.

Martin told the panel she's fought in past matches with a broken hand, broken nose, broken ribs and popped ear drum and none of those matches were cut short. Martin said her hand was broken in nine places after her match with Stone.

The 5-foot-4 Martin, arguably the best female boxer of her era, has stood out from other women fighters because she loves to trade punches, which got the crowd's attention. The fact that her slugfests often turned bloody was what really fired them up. She was a pioneer in women's boxing in the 1990s, once landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Martin's match with Stone was seen as something of a comeback after she was allegedly stabbed and shot by her then-husband, who is awaiting trial. Martin said a victory in that match was particularly important to her.

David Mendoza, the referee who made the call, said the safety of fighters is paramount and matches can't be allowed to continue if boxers appear unable to defend themselves. Mendoza said the problem is most boxers will never admit to being injured so it's important to watch for signals, such as Martin holding back from using her right hand.

"If I fail in that we probably wouldn't be here, we'd probably be in criminal court saying Christy Martin has lost function in her hand and I'm not going to allow that," he said.

Commission chairman John Frierson took issue with the accusations of discrimination and said he was "disappointed it's come to this."