Ebanie Bridges: “Why can’t they look past my looks and see that I can fight.“
When the world stopped turning in March, all sports stopped with it. Athletes from all sports lost any momentum they might have had.
Women are only now getting real opportunities in boxing. Many fledgling fighters are now turning professional, some at the tail end of their professional peak.
The unbeaten Australian Ebanie Bridges was one such fighter. Four fights, four wins, Bridges was building on her solid start to her professional career. Even a broken ankle in her debut couldn’t stop her, it took a pandemic to do that. The frustration is obvious:
“I wanna fight, I’m 33, I’m not here to mess around, I don’t have 10 years. I want to in there and have some fun.”
It’s difficult to predict exactly when Bridges will be offered a fight to end her period of frustration. But when the call eventually comes, excitement looks guaranteed.
“I want to be like a Gatti or any of those fighters that like to entertain, it’s going to be a good fight, it’s going to be a war, because that’s how I fight. I am all about entertaining and crowd-pleasing.”
After a difficult start in life, Bridges has turned her life around, and has no intentions of looking back at her problems:
“I had some bad experiences in my teens, it’s pretty heavy. I choose not to remember it and go back on all that. I don’t feel as though I want to bring all that negativity into the positive life that I am living now. It’s not something I like to revisit, I don’t feel as though I need to for some kind of closure or therapy. I don’t need that for a story, I am an intelligent woman and I have been successful in everything I have done since then.“
The past left firmly behind, now a maths teacher by trade which runs alongside her professional boxer career:
“I have changed my life around, I had a second chance at life. I chose to turn my life around with the help of my family and live and to make the most of every minute. I’m thirsty for learning because I know I wasted a fraction of my life that I know I won’t get back. Until I am dead I am going to make the most of every single minute. I want to inspire people and teach people who were in the situation I was and be a role model. I’m sure when I am old and retired and I do an autobiography I will tell everything.”
Bridges is brash, at times outspoken, and knows how to use social media to promote herself, go on Twitter, she is literally everywhere. A pleasure to interview, even if you are fighting to get a word in, you ask one question, many more are answered.
But it is no fake act, the Australian is plain and simple just being herself:
“It’s who I am. My parents have brought me up to be the way I am, who I am. They are my biggest inspiration, they are all about expressing who you are. My parents always said to me ‘be you’ so this is me, it’s not something that has happened over the last few weeks on Twitter.”
While much progress has been made in women’s boxing, acceptance of the sport is certainly much more widespread now. But there are still perceptions from some, of how a female fighter should look and act. But Bridges not for the first time in her life, is not sticking to the accepted route in life:
“I’ve been breaking stereotypes since I was 5 when I started doing karate. I don’t look like that kind of girl, people judge you on your looks. They say a pretty girl like me shouldn’t do mechanics, why do you want to do bodybuilding, that’s for girls who look like men. Why do you wanna do boxing, that’s for girls who look like men. Why, why is it for girls who look like men. Why can’t you be pretty, why can’t you be feminine and still fight. Why can’t you promote your femininity and your appearance and be proud of it. Why can’t you have good body confidence and instil that confidence in yourself and your children.
“Why is it such a problem for someone who looks like me, to be like I am in boxing. Should I look like a man, because that what a stereotype of a female boxer is.”
With women’s boxing still trying to establish itself with the masses, although that is a battle it is most definitely winning, it is still a fight very much in progress. There is that argument that Bridges could hinder that progress with how she promotes herself, but she completely disagrees:
“They say women should be respected in sport, but why can’t a pretty girl be respected in the sport they do. Why is it so bad that I am girlie and I can fight. Why can’t they look past my looks and see that I can fight. If I have a conversation about boxing, I probably know more than 90% of the people I talk to. It’s not just boxing, as I said I have been breaking stereotypes since I was a kid.
“I used to stand out on stage when I did bodybuilding, I used to stand on stage with a lot of girls who looked like men. There is now a lot of pretty girls getting into boxing. They see women like me who are proud of how they look and confident in how they look, and they say I wanna be like her, I want to be a boxer like her.”
Bridges is aware the UFC and WWE heavily promote the female side of their brands, and she sees no reason why boxing should be any different:
“In the UFC they are ok to promote their femininity. Then in the WWE, you have got all these beautiful wrestlers. Should I downplay looks, should I cover myself up.”
For Bridges, her return can’t come soon enough. Opportunities might be limited in the short-term, but long-term Bridges could play an important role in her sports upward trajectory.
A visit to the UK looks certain. Despite her recent defeat, a fight with Shannon Courtenay looks like one of those fights that just has to get made, they look a natural fit to entertain in many ways.
But where and when Bridges returns, it is unlikely to disappoint.