Rachel Ball: “It’s A Massive Platform For Me To Make A Point About Myself”
By Oliver McManus
Rachel Ball has promised to “pick up where (she) left off” on August 14th with a win over Shannon Courtenay.
The pair will meet in the third installment of Eddie Hearn’s FightCamp with Ball (5-1) fresh off a Commonwealth title eliminator in December. Up against Courtenay (5-0) she faces a fresh face of female boxing in Britain with a ferocious fanbase.
Ball began by explaining her initial thoughts when the match was made:
“It’s the sort of fight I’ve been looking at for a while in terms of getting more exposure and against a bigger name. I think, in an odd way, the pandemic has probably played a part in getting the fight made because there’s less options available for everyone at the moment. Certainly it was a fight I wanted to get involved with and I’m happy we’re doing it sooner rather than later.”
Indeed having stated her intentions for bigger fights in 2020 this match-up with Courtenay has been one touted for much of the year. It’s a logical fight, too, with both women looking to scratch the salt and showcase their abilities against bonafide opponents. And whilst lockdown has brought its fair share of frustrations, for Rachel Ball it was an opportunity to reset and refresh.
“I’ve been getting ready since the end of April, really, getting ready for a July date that we were originally told. I’m just glad I’ve sort of kept in that routine and got on top of everything, stayed at the right sort of weight, so that I was always going to be fit to fight regardless of what date they gave us. I’ve been really glad to have some time to myself (during lockdown) and that’s allowed me to really reflect on things and feel a lot fresher mentally as we approach the 14th.”
Growing up in the 90s, the Aldridge fighter initially took her inspiration from Bruce Lee, having fond memories of her father watching Lee’s Hollywood films. Having picked three world titles in kickboxing there was a period of “well, what next?” for Ball as she initially considered a switch to K-1 before choosing to focus on boxing. The biggest adaptation between the two sports has been the footwork but, along with coach Gavin Burrows, the 29 year old has built a solid start to her pro career.
“Life is an absolute whirlwind (and) that’s without boxing entering the equation. It’s been brilliant to look back on what’s happened since my debut because it really doesn’t feel three years since I signed with BCB. Like you say, it’s the first time I’ve really been able to look back on my career so far and I couldn’t have asked for much more. The debut (in December 2017) was a great occasion, I had good support then, but it’s just got better and bigger with each fight since.”
With BCB Promotions leading a renaissance of boxing in the Midlands, they have also proudly produced plenty of female talent over the years. Alongside Ball, BCB have managed the careers of Kristine Shergold, Amy Timlin, Dani Hodges, Kirstie Bavington, Lauren Johnson and plenty over the years. That commitment to women’s boxing assured the super bantamweight her career was in safe hands.
“It’s brilliant to be a part of that stable where Errol (Johnson) and the whole team don’t view women’s boxing as an extra. We are part of the team and they treat us with the same exposure and commitment as they do any of the male fighters. With Errol, as well, he’s been doing it for a long time and was involved with Lyndsey Scragg years ago before the demand for women’s boxing was there. You can tell he’s genuinely enthusiastic about managing and promoting female fighters.”
Having moved to 5-1 fighting anywhere from 123lbs to 133lbs, it was Ball’s fourth pro fight against Eftychia Kathopouli (then 1-0, now 4-1) that saw the pair claim the Midlands Area Fight of the Year for 2018. Reflecting on the night, Ball told me it was all a bit of a blur.
“When I was in the ring I don’t think I took in just how good a fight it was. It was only afterwards when people were coming up to me and commenting that I realised it must have been pretty good. It was a fight where I had to dig deep and really find some strength I didn’t know I had, to be honest. I can remember just getting into the shower afterwards and seeing blood absolutely cascading down me and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much blood in my life.”
Following on from those hard fought six rounds, in which Ball took a 57-55 points win, came Katharina Thanderz in Arendal, Norway. At the time Thanderz was a former European super-featherweight champion, WBC International lightweight champion and has subsequently gone on to the interim WBC super-featherweight world title. In just her fifth pro fight, Rachel Ball went into the away corner and whilst she lost by a majority decision there were plenty of positives to be taken.
“I think that was one where I answered any remaining questions. I knew after the fight with Efy that I could get up off the canvas and keep fighting but fighting Thanderz has been the biggest test of my career. It gave me the confidence, even though I lost, that I did belong fighting at that level against these experienced boxers. I think it was initially made for (Kristine) Shergold but she was injured so we jumped at the opportunity. It was hard, obviously, to take the defeat but I don’t look back on it with regret; it was a lightweight fight, Thanderz had weighed in heavy anyway, and I’m only really a super bantamweight so I’ve got to take confidence from it.”
The impending challenge is the fight to catapult Ball’s career at super-bantamweight. It’s a fight the 29 year old is determined to take by the scruff of the neck and we ended our interview by discussing just why she is so confident of victory.
“It’s a massive platform for me to make a point about myself so we’ve targeted the fighter with the biggest platform at the weight. Longer rounds suit me down to a T and I know Shannon hasn’t gone further than five rounds so it’ll be interesting to see if she can keep the performance levels up. I’ve got that experience of pacing myself, coming on strong and being able to adapt when I’m in the ring so I think you’ll see the best of Rachel Ball and live on Sky, too.”