Christina McMahon is Ireland’s newest world boxing champion after winning the WBC World Interim Female Bantamweight earlier this month.
The 40 year old — the only professional woman boxer in Ireland — wasn’t expected to beat her 22-year-old opponent, Catherine Phiri, in Zambia. Phiri had never been defeated up to that point. Being considered the underdog only made Monaghan native Christina more determined.
“I always believed I’d win if I got the opportunity. I knew my training, work and experience would stand to me. Going in [against Phiri], I knew what I was up against — she was as good as I expected. I surprised her — she certainly wasn’t expecting a 40 year old to be so fit.”
Christina also has 24 Irish kick-boxing titles — she credits husband Frick, a kick-boxing champion too, with keeping her in the game. “When I got married at 27, people consistently told me to stop doing what I was doing, especially when I hit 30, and to start a family before it was too late.
“Frick took me out for a meal one night and asked what was wrong. He said I was listening to others rather than doing what I wanted to do. He said, ‘You haven’t even peaked yet [in kick-boxing]’. I went on to win the kick-boxing world tournament in 2007 when I was 32.”
The couple don’t have children. “I’m happy with that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t or wouldn’t. I consider a relationship like a jigsaw. Some people need children to fill it out. For me, the jigsaw is complete — I have a good marriage, a good relationship.”
Right now Christina is enjoying relaxing after her Zambia win. Her current focus is the new personal fitness business she recently started in Carrickmacross.
What shape are you in?
I’m probably in the best shape of my life. I train hard five days a week, sometimes twice a day. I have an underactive thyroid — it’s one of the reasons I’m into fitness. Obesity, feeling cold and depression can all accompany the condition — I’ve counteracted those by embracing fitness.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I don’t touch desserts, sweets or chocolate. I gave it all up two years ago. My health has improved so much since I cut out sugar — I have 10 times more energy and my body responds better to training. I don’t have ups and downs like I used to.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Chips. I love chips. And I like coffee. I’d sip at a big strong Americano for ages.
What would keep you awake at night?
I’m a coach and when my fighters are going into a fight, it would keep me awake more than if I was going into a fight myself. There’s a bit of a carer in me.
How do you relax?
Having a meal out or sitting at home with my husband with nothing to do, just a takeaway and watching a good film.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
The British track and field athlete, Jessica Ennis. I’d love to pick her brain about how she coped in the Olympics. She does five different sports and she won gold overall — anybody who can do a range of sports and win in all, it’s amazing to me. I’d invite her for two reasons — she’s a woman. And to win in a range of different sports takes a special kind of talent.
What’s your favourite smell?
I like baby powder. I hate harsh perfumes. I like that ‘you’ve just come out of the shower’ smell.
What would you change about your appearance?
My teeth — they need to be straightened. I don’t smile too often with my mouth open. I should have got braces when I was a child but I didn’t. It hasn’t held me back. And if I was going to spend money on health, I’d rather spend it on a medical problem than on what I look like.
When did you last cry?
I cried when I won the world championship. The last solid cry I had before that was when my grandfather, Patrick Cunningham, passed away in September 2013. I boxed in Belfast on the night of his removal and I cried solidly after that.
What trait do you least like in others?
I can’t stand a liar. I find it an insult to intelligence.
What trait do you least like in yourself?
I can be quite intolerant. For example, I can’t sit quietly and tolerate somebody boasting about themselves.
Do you pray?
I pray but I’m not very good at going to Mass. I believe we need faith in times of trouble and I believe in thanking God when we’re not in trouble.
What would cheer up your day?
When my classes go well — when I teach and the women are smiling at the end, walking out and having the craic.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved