Rachel Ball: ‘If I Can Beat Her On A Bad Day Then Bring It On’
One fight can change a fighters life forever. The years of the grind and low purses made worthwhile by that one defining fight.
The ‘away’ fighter rarely gets a decision in a close fight, the favoured fighter often gets the nod, the promotional ties the unassigned extra judge.
Rachel Ball entered her fight with Shannon Courtenay looking for that breakthrough win. When the match with the unbeaten Watford hope was made, the initial uneducated comments of ignorance quickly made way to the realisation that this was a real fight for Courtenay.
Starting out the big outsider, Ball was given little hope, but as the fight drew near, things got more interesting.
A close and disputed loss to Katharina Thanderz in Norway needed closer inspection, when those investigations were completed, you knew then Ball had serious credentials. That loss gave the Midlands fighter confidence, and Ball wanted Courtenay and was always confident of winning the fight.
Ball dropped her opponent in the opening round on her way to a 77-75 win over her previously unbeaten opponent. Life in the next few months will now change for the full-time care worker:
“I’ve just accepted that my life is now a bit of a whirlwind, I have just got to see and take each as it comes. I’m hoping this week we will have a bit more of a plan to what we will be doing. Eddie Hearn has already said he wants to work with me again, so let’s just see what this week brings.”
The big win over Courtenay has given the career of Ball a massive injection of future opportunities.
“I think it all depends on the government guidelines what will happen next with all the restrictions. When I went in to see Shannon after the fight she says she wants a rematch, whether that happens next or in two or three fights down the line, we will just have to see.”
The pandemic driven restrictions within Eddie Hearn’s Fight Camp meant large periods of isolation for Ball. But with a normal life of fitting training around her busy career as a care worker, the slower pace of fight week was something Ball embraced:
“It was a bit weird because you couldn’t go out or anything. But it was quite nice, because my life is quite hectic with work. So it was nice to to have some time, be in my room and just chill out. It’s a bit crazy when you get there because of the unpacking, you have to get your test, but then it just all goes quiet until you get the test results. It didn’t bother me just being in my room, I quite enjoyed it just having a bit of downtime, it worked really well for me.”
As the light dimmed and the rain started to fall, Courtenay and Ball engaged in their personal battle for supremacy. Courtenay started the fight well, and a big right hand seemed to unsettle her opponent. But when Courtenay marched forward looking for more, Ball had her own equaliser:
“She was trying to plough me down with punches, but I just covered up and I hit out and to be honest I got lucky and she went down, and that was obviously good for me. It shows I have the power to put people down, and to do that in the 1st round it really made a statement.”
The fight ended up going the distance in another great advert for women’s boxing. Ball ended up getting the decision, but despite the breakthrough win, she isn’t entirely pleased with her performance:
“It’s a bit of a weird one, I can’t remember who won what rounds. But for me when I discussed it with my coach, he doesn’t think it went to plan in the fight, he is not really ecstatic about my performance. There was a lot more I could have brought to the table. But there could be several factors contributing to that, no crowd, the cameras, the pressure or the build-up, I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. I don’t think I was as fluid as normal. Shannon had a really good night, but for me, that was a bad day at the office but I still got the win. I think it shows what I can do even on a bad day.”
However anyone scored the fight, it was unquestionably a close fight, but Ball believes she did enough to win the fight:
“I’m a bit rubbish when I am in there, because there is a lot going on and it is that intense, so I don’t always know how the fight is going unless I am completely dominating my opponent. But my coach will not pamper my ego, or tell me I am doing well when I am not. So when he tells me I have won that I know I have done well. I trust my coaches to tell me how I am doing because he has a better perspective than me.”
Ball broke down in tears when she did her post-fight interview for Sky Sports. The emotion of the fight and the week in the spotlight finally hitting her:
“I’m so embarrassed, I am a bit of an emotional geek. It was just the amount of support I had off people was absolutely phenomenal, and it blew me away. The kindness of people was really overwhelming, I think that was what came out in the interview after the fight. I was thinking before the fight I might have a little cry, just because of how wonderful the week has been, meeting new lovely people and famous people, it’s just been amazing. I didn’t think it would come out while I was being interviewed, I just couldn’t stop it. I was like a little excited kid all week.”
Courtenay strongly believed she won the fight and when Ball went to console her the thoughts had already turned to a potential rematch:
“I let her have some time to herself, I got my coach to check if she was happy for me to go in and see her. I don’t think she wanted to see me, to be honest with you. I went in and asked if she was alright, and she just said ‘I want the rematch’ that was the first thing she said to me. I just said that’s fine and I still stand by that. If I can beat her on a bad day then bring it on. She said ‘I think I won round so and so and you can take a punch.’ I just said come here you and gave her a big hug, I don’t think she wanted to but I am just that kind of person.”
Opportunities are rare in life, and when they come around you have to take them. Last Friday, in that back garden, Ball certainly took hers. There is something very refreshing about Ball, no arrogance, one of the most genuine and down to earth people you could wish to speak to. Ball has nothing but immense appreciation for what has happened to her over the last few days, and I get the impression it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
Ball is now back to normal life, back to the daily rigours of the day job. The fight with Courtenay was a special moment for her, she seems destined to have many more.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing