A blistering look behind the scenes of some of sport’s biggest headline-grabbing stories, the new Netflix documentary series Untold came out swinging with its taut first episode, Malice at the Palace. Examining from every angle the explosive 2004 brawl between NBA players and fans at a Pistons-Pacers game, Malice benefits from never-before-seen footage of the melee, and from an array of candid interviews with subjects eager to set the record straight. As the former pro baller (and brawler) then known as Ron Artest, now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest, insists in the episode, “I want the story out there. Go frame by frame.”
Untold keeps up that straight-shooting attitude with its second fascinating episode, Deal with the Devil, recounting world champion boxer Christy Salters Martin’s near-murder in 2010 at the hands of her then-husband and trainer Jim Martin.
Behind the sensational “Shot and stabbed and left for dead” headlines, the episode, directed by Laura Brownson, finds the emotional story of a closeted West Virginia girl with a fighting spirit and granite chin who rose to the top of the boxing world — trained and supported by a much older man who abused her viciously for years, before he tried to kill her.
“I think Laura Brownson did a great job putting everything together, and really giving leeway where there needed to be,” says Salters Martin, gratified to finally share her whole truth with the world. “[She focused] in on certain aspects that needed to be focused on: the domestic violence, the sexuality being hidden and then not supported by the families. I think there are many things in this documentary, and my crazy life, that really can touch people out there and hopefully open up some eyes.”
In addition to the wealth of news and home video footage, and some thrilling boxing replays, the show features sit-downs with Salters Martin, who has since come out as lesbian, as well as luminaries like Mike Tyson and Laila Ali. Deal with the Devil also interviews her parents, her sparring partner, former opponents — including one who’s now her wife — and a still-incarcerated and infuriating Jim Martin. “Everybody got to tell how they saw things happening,” says Salters Martin. “And I feel that most everybody, except Jim, was very truthful with how they saw things and what happened.”
The episode pulls no punches showing not only the harrowing effects of violence in the Martins’ relationship, but also how Jim and Christy used to bait her opponents in the ring and in the press with homophobic insults and insinuations. Salters Martin regrets those actions now, but having changed her attitude, she’s glad to have the issue addressed in the film.
“It was important, really, to show people that I realize that that was wrong,” she says. “But I also hope that they realize the pressure was put on me to go out there time and time and time again, to make these disparaging remarks about other people. I would tell [Jim], as I said in the movie, that you’re going to open up the door for somebody in my past to come through and say, ‘Hey, well, she might be saying this now, but she was my girlfriend back in college or high school or whatever.’ But I guess I was blessed, and at least no one came through when I wasn’t ready for them to come through.”
What comes through loud and clear in Untold: Deal with the Devil is Salters Martin’s indomitable strength and courage in the face of tremendous pressure and adversity. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities,” says the ex-champ and now-CEO of Christy Martin Promotions. “And those opportunities, when they came my way, I feel like I was physically, mentally, emotionally ready to take advantage of.”
Salters Martin, whose organization Christy’s Champs supports victims of domestic abuse, relished the opportunity Untold offered to set her record straight. Next up on the series, Caitlyn Jenner takes a turn in the Untold arena, to shed light on aspects of her life, athletic achievements, and transition that have remained untold, until now.
Untold: Deal with the Devil is available for streaming on Netflix. Untold: Caitlyn Jenner is available Tuesday, August 24. Visit www.netflix.com.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!