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Chasity Martin had some things to work out. Some hard things, some things that would have been tough on an adult. She was 14, though, so she tried to work them out by punching people.
It was neighborhood girls at first—sometimes two at the same time. Once, a girl brought her grown-up sister to the fight. Martin beat them both.
Then she heard about a boxing circuit where even a 14-year-old girl could make good money. So, she started training.
She was at a boxing gym in Pompano Beach one day when she noticed a guy across the room. She had seen him around. She knew his reputation: former trainer to Mike Tyson and a whole lot of other boxers. He was tough, unsmiling and had no interest in her.
Martin approached him anyway. She needed her hands taped, and for the first time, an old-school trainer named Stacy McKinley wrapped tape around the hands of a girl.
“Where you fighting?” McKinley, 66, asked as he worked the tape.
“King of Diamonds,” Martin explained.
“The strip club? How old are you?”
McKinley kept working the tape.
“You know Laila Ali?” Martin asked.
“Yeah, I know her.”
“How about Christy Martin?”
Martin explained that she had posters of the two former world champs on her bedroom walls. She had studied their fights. Barely taking a breath, she explained that she thinks her style is more like Christy Martin’s, quick and nimble and able to surprise an opponent with a sudden attack.
McKinley still didn’t like having girls in the gym. But McKinley has a daughter of his own, now 30 years old—a Cornell grad working on her doctorate in human development. And he didn’t want to see a 14-year-old boxing in a strip club. So maybe that’s why he worked with her that day.
“Right after he wrapped my hands, he had me on the floor routine,” Martin recalls. “I never trained without him after that.”
Six years later, Chasity Martin, 20, goes by another name. They call her the Queen of Pompano. And sometime soon, maybe next year, McKinley says she will be champion of the world.
Martin never knew her father more than as a guy she saw around town who her mother would point out as her dad. Fourth of July weekend was coming up, and Martin was 13 years old when she approached him to ask for some fireworks. He left a voicemail on a relative’s phone: “You tell Chasity to go find her father. Her mother was a one-night stand.”
At the time, Martin lived at her grandfather’s house with her mom, sister and brother. Her mom, Karen Smith, drives a school bus. She’s the kind of driver the kids like, but she also doesn’t take any grief. She was like that with her kids too. She watched her youngest daughter suffer from that call. “She went through a lot with that,” Smith recalls. “Yeah, that was tough on her, I know.”
Martin is the youngest of 13 grandkids, which didn’t make her the baby. She says it made her the one nobody counted on. “I was always last,” Martin says. “I was always least expected to do anything.”
She didn’t accept that. Instead, she knew there was something big she was about to do. But that moment with her father seemed to be holding her back, reminding her that she wasn’t expected to do anything.
She calls it the moment she was disclaimed.
At first, when she started training with McKinley, it was always right on the surface. Every time she hit the bag, she remembered it. She was always right on the verge of losing it. Disclaimed.
It happened one day when she was sparring with a boy, a friend she’s known for forever. His name is Antonio Williams, but they call him “Bang.” Like you might have guessed, it’s because he hits with an explosion.
Martin had been training with McKinley for two years at that point, so she knew how to take a punch—and give one. So McKinley told Williams to go at her.
Williams thought it was weird at first, getting in there and hitting a girl. But he learned she could take it. And he knew, if Martin was going to get good, she had to be ready to take a beating. “The other girls are going to knock her head off if they can, so I didn’t go easy,” remembers Williams, who has since gone pro.
But something snapped that day in Martin. It was hot, and somebody had cranked up the music. She felt like the whole world was after her. She was the youngest, a girl, unwanted. She was disclaimed. Tears came, and she turned away. She told McKinley she wanted out of the ring.
It wasn’t something McKinley had seen before. First he had to get used to girls in the gym. And now tears.
McKinley thought back to when he used to train Tyson. There was a time when Tyson took a good punch from his sparring partner. He had wanted to get out and let his head clear. But McKinley turned him around.
McKinley told Martin the same thing he had said to Tyson: “If you get out of the ring, it says you are a quitter. That you will quit. A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.”
So she turned around, and she put her hands up.
For all his 40 years or so in boxing, McKinley had a very simple approach: It was business. Even the boxers who stayed at his house as he trained them knew there would be nothing more.
“They’d wake up and say ‘good morning,’ and I would say, ‘What’s good about it? Don’t talk to me. I’m not your friend. I’m not your father. I’m your trainer,’” McKinley says.
Things were different with Martin. She would get angry when things went wrong. She would ask questions about why something ought to be done a certain way. Sometimes she would cry. Sometimes she would scream.
McKinley called a friend of his, Al Mitchell, the Olympic boxing coach. “You got to talk to them more,” Mitchell told him about female boxers. “But once you do, they’re hard workers, harder workers than boys.”
So McKinley tried something different. He tried to make a connection with Martin. They were both raised by their mothers, with absentee fathers. “We’re from broken homes, broken promises and broken dreams,” McKinley says.
“Chasity would get pissed off, and she would get mad and she would cry sometimes, and it took me a while to break it down. In life, you know, something I figured out—a girl needs a daddy.”
McKinley put everything he had into Martin after that. He paid for her home schooling so she could train seven days a week, three-plus hours a day. He guesses now he has a good $110,000 into her training.
No doubt it has equaled wins. Back when she was fighting as an amateur, Martin was the champ of the 2015 Sunshine State Games and ranked No. 2 in the country. In her pro debut against Ivana Coleman in July 2015, you can see that style she learned from watching tapes of Christy Martin: She’s all speed and darting around at first, and then in the second round, Martin lands a right so hard her opponent goes sailing, arms flying above her head in windmills. A knockout.
Like in all of her fights, Martin wore pink trunks and a top, sparkly and glistening under the lights. On her robe: “Queen of Pompano.”
It was about the time that she took on the nickname Queen of Pompano that she got a call from her father. He wanted to repair things. She wanted a paternity test. It showed he was her biological father. But she didn’t want anything from him. She told him, “I needed you when I wasn’t the Queen of Pompano.”
She also didn’t want to make things strained, so they talk sometimes. “I’m not here to hurt him, because I have been blessed,” she says. “He’s going to have to work this out himself.”
Besides, she has found someone who does the job of being a father. In the first years of coaching Martin, McKinley learned to be softer. He is still tough when it comes to training, but he also learned that he has to open up. “I made him experience a different side of him that he didn’t even know he had,” Martin says. “All of a sudden he would get emotional sometimes.”
Martin has also made a change, McKinley says. When she first came to the gym, she was all anger. Every hit she took and every punch she gave started to change that. But more than anything, she just had to talk it out. Now, she’s got this all-the-time smile. McKinley, a guy who never cared to laugh with his boxers before, just lets it happen.
After all, she is the Queen of Pompano.
World Boxing Council Conference
Chasity Martin is planned to fight during the World Boxing Council’s 54th annual convention. About 1,000 boxing fans, promoters, trainers and boxers are expected at the convention, which will be held Dec. 11 to 17 at the Diplomat Resort & Spa on Hollywood Beach. Upwards of 50 former champs are presumed to attend, and members of the public can meet many of them by paying the $200 entry fee; wbcboxing.com.