Martin was born in Mullens, West Virginia with the name Christy Salters.
She played various sports as a child including Little League baseball and all-state basketball. She attended Concord College in Athens, West Virginia on a basketball scholarship and earned a B.S. in education.
Martin is said to be “the most successful and prominent female boxer in the United States” and the person who “legitimized” women’s participation in the sport of boxing. She began her career fighting in “Toughwoman” contests and won three consecutive titles. She then began training with boxing coach, Jim Martin, who became her husband in 1991.
Martin started her professional boxing career at the age of 21 with a six-round draw with Angela Buchanan in 1989. She had her first training under the direction of Charlie Sensabaugh of Daniels West Virginia. Martin won a rematch with Buchanan one month later with a second round knockout. Andrea DeShong then beat Martin in a five-round decision. Martin then had nineteen consecutive wins, including two against Jamie Whitcomb and Suzanne Riccio-Major as well a rubber match win against Buchanan. On October 15, 1993 Martin had her first title fight against Beverly Szymansky, for the WBC women's Jr. Welterweight world championship. Martin won by knocking out Szymansky in three rounds. In her first title defense, she fought to a draw against debutante Laura Serrano in Las Vegas.
Martin defended her title six more times, including a rematch with Szymansky, a fourth fight with Buchanan and defenses versus Melinda Robinson and Sue Chase, winning all of them, before the fight that many credit for putting women's boxing on the sports fans' radar took place: On March 16, 1996, she and Deirdre Gogarty fought what many consider a great fight, in front of Showtime cameras. Martin got the decision, and after that bout, she began to gain more celebrity, even appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated once shortly afterwards.
Martin won her next eight bouts including wins against Robinson, DeShong, Marcela Acuña and Isra Girgrah. Martin lost her title in a 10-round decision loss to Sumya Anani in 1998. Martin then won her next nine fights including wins against Belinda Laracuente, Sabrina Hall and Kathy Collins. Martin won her next two fights by ten round decisions against Lisa Holeywine and Mia St. John.
In 2003 Martin fought Laila Ali and lost by a knockout in the fourth round.
Martin's next fight in 2005 was a second-round knockout against Lana Alexander in Lulu, Mississippi.
In 2005 a fight with Lucia Rijker, entitled "Million Dollar Lady", was canceled because Rijker ruptured her Achilles during training.
On September 16, 2005, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Martin lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Holly Holm. Martin was beaten by the 23-year-old southpaw, with all three judges scoring for Holm.
Martin holds a record of 49 wins, 7 losses and 3 draws with 31 wins by knockout. She is a frequent visitor of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame annual induction ceremonies, and an avid autograph signer. She has fought on the undercard of boxers Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Félix Trinidad and Julio César Chávez.
Martin was promoted by Don King. She was nicknamed The Coal Miner's Daughter in reference to her father's occupation.
Martin announced on January 19, 2011 that she would be fighting again in hopes of her 50th career win on the undercard of the Ricardo Mayorga vs Miguel Cotto Fight at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 12, 2011 against Dakota Stone in a rematch of their 2009 Fight. The fight was postponed due to a rib injury to Christy Martin. The rescheduled rematch took place June 4, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on the Julio Ceasr Chavez Jr. vs Sebastian Zbik undercard. Dakota Stone prevailed by TKO with :51 left as Martin broke her right hand in 9 places on a punch in the 4th round and could not continue.
In 2016, she became the first female boxer inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
On November 23, 2010, Christy Martin was stabbed several times and shot at least once in her torso and left leg by her husband, 66-year-old James V. Martin. The attack reportedly occurred after an argument in their Apopka home. She survived the attack. On November 30, James Martin was arrested and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center after he stabbed himself. He was booked in Orange County Jail and charged with attempted first degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
In April, 2012, James Martin was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder. He was sentenced two months later to 25 years in prison.
Christy now resides with her girlfriend, Sherry Lusk and is continuing to train.