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Local boxing: Martin in town to honor Basilio’s memory

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Christy Martin has always been a fan of the history of boxing, and this Saturday, she’ll be part of an event that honors a legendary fighter.

The former champion in welterweight and middleweight classes is scheduled to appear at the fifth annual Carmen Basilio Quest for Champions at the Watertown Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall. Martin said she’s honored to be associated with the event honoring Basilio, who died on Nov. 7, 2012.

“There’s nothing like being attached to event with his name on it,” said Martin, who compiled a career record of 49 -7-3, including 31 knockouts. “He was a legendary legend.”

Watertown Area Boxing Club President John Pepe said that he met the former champion while visiting the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota. That visit coincided with Hall of Fame boxer Ray Mancini promoting his book and movie “The Good Son.”

“I ran into Pat Orr (a photographer with the Boxing Hall of Fame) at the event and she asked if I had met Christy Martin,” Pepe said. “She asked if I had a celebrity to appear and I didn’t, so she set it up.”

Pepe said that Martin’s appearance at the event “fell into place” and that she helped draw attention to the women’s boxing.

“She basically legitimized the sport and made it popular,” Pepe said. “She’s the main person that put into pop culture.”

Martin appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, when she calls her favorite memory of her boxing career. She was on the undercard of pay-per-view events headlined by Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Felix Trinidad. Martin said she was honored to be considered a pioneer in the rise of women’s boxing.

“I kicked down a few doors and now others walking through it,” Martin said.

One of the fights that Pepe said he’s excited about is a women’s featherweight bout between Massena native Michelle Cook, who is one of the top-ranked contenders in that weight class, and Erica Adjei of Ottawa.

Pepe said Cook and other female fighters coming to the event are excited to see Martin.

“They really want to see her,” Pepe said. “They’re really excited to perform in front of her.”

Martin said that she is undecided about her next career step, but wants it to be something in boxing. She is currently running a gym in Apopka, Fla., called Christy’s Gym. But she is looking at other careers in the sport, including managing fighters and possibly “throwing her hat in the ring as a promoter.”

This year’s event will be different from other events. Pepe said the event will be bittersweet.

“It’s going to feel different without (Carmen) there, but we’re going to keep the tradition going.” Pepe said.

Pepe said there will also be a 10-bell salute before the event to honor Basilio’s memory.

Tickets for the event are $10 general admission and $15 for ringside and are available by calling Pepe at 783-4980 or by visiting Nelson’s Dry Cleaners or Kinney Drugs on Coffeen Street. Tickets will also be available at the door.

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