Ebonie Jones: “I just wasn’t myself without boxing.”
There has been a noticeable shift in the fortunes of women’s boxing over the past few years. Despite the bravery of Jane Couch in winning her historic court battle all those years ago, the progress has been more stop than start. Even when Katie Taylor turned professional in 2016 there was still great indifference and apathy. But when Taylor and Delfine Persoon went to war in New York, things started to change. The emergence of Terri Harper added further intrigue, but when Eddie Hearn gave women’s boxing a prominent place on his Fight Camp series, interest exploded to a level we haven’t previously seen.
Harper and Natasha Jonas gave us a Fight of the Year candidate, Taylor and Persoon served up another classic in their hotly anticipated rematch, and with the likes of Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall subsequently winning world titles interest has remained high. But the sport needs greater depth and new talent coming through to maintain what has already been started.
The amateur pool is deep and rich with talent, and whatever happens with the Olympics this year, more will be turning over throughout this year, the lack of depth will soon be a thing of the past. The highly touted Sandy Ryan recently turned professional and another former amateur star has also joined the paid ranks.
Ebonie Jones has long been tipped for Olympic glory, 60 wins in 65 fights, British titles, European glory, even that hugely impressive resume doesn’t tell the story of her potential. But Jones left the sport in 2019 when she was so close to her dream, but there were problems. Battles with making the 51kg weight limit on top of severe personal problems saw Jones walk away from the sport that had dominated her life for over 10 years.
Jones was in an abusive relationship, depression followed and an attempt to end her own life saw Jones spiral to the brink. The love for her sport and even life itself had gone:
“I was in a really bad place mentally, I had a lot of things going on. I was in an abusive relationship and I ended up with depression, I tried to take my own life. I also couldn’t make the weight anymore, I was basically starving myself at the end and I was taken off Team GB. They said I could come back if I could make 51kg again, but I was never going to make the weight again. So having to face the fact that I was never going to the Olympics and dealing with everything else that was going on I was in a really low place. I couldn’t mentally handle anything.”
After starting her combat journey aged just 12, Jones made the switch to boxing two years later, it was what made her complete. The problems elsewhere in her life and with no boxing, Jones admitted she struggled to cope:
“I went back to work in the Army for a year but it was awful without boxing in my life, I couldn’t even watch it. I was drinking all the time, using it as a coping mechanism, trying to fill the void of a life without boxing. But in time everything started to get better. I got my head down with my training, got the help and medication I needed so everything is good now.”
Jones 22, joined the Army as an engineer when she 17, but with boxing once again her primary focus, the Portsmouth fighter has decided to leave her Army life behind her. It will take 9 months to be fully out, and training will have to be worked around her daily schedule. But with her personal problems now firmly behind her, Jonas is looking forward to what lies ahead in the paid ranks:
“I just wasn’t myself without boxing and I felt I was ready to go back. At least as a professional I can box at whatever weight I want. As an amateur I was in between the two-weight divisions, the pro game will suit me better and there is a lot of money to be made as well.”
Jones is aware the depth in her sport is lacking at the moment, but things are changing for the better:
“Pre 2019 people were turning professional without any amateur pedigree and they were getting world title fights really quickly without earning it, it was a joke. But now more and more girls are turning over, the depth and quality are getting better all the time.”
Jones is looking at making her professional debut in May in the Czech Republic, taking the first few fights at featherweight before gradually settling into the super-bantamweight division. It is a division that has plenty of options for her with potential domestic rivals in Rachel Ball, Shannon Courtenay, Amy Timlin, Carly Skelly and others. Jones doesn’t lack for self-confidence, claiming she is ready to beat the likes of Courtenay right now.
With no fight since 2018 Jones will initially take things slowly, but with the passion rekindled, and her extensive amateur background a valuable asset, the big fights will come sooner rather than later. A sport will only continue to grow with fresh talent and great rivalries. Jones could be in the right place at the right time and looks to have an exciting future ahead of her.