Ebanie Bridges: “I just feel I am born to do this and destined to be in the spotlight.”
From relative obscurity, in a short space of time Ebanie Bridges has got herself noticed. A social media blitz with one aim, her mission is now very much accomplished. Bridges got noticed by Eddie Hearn, and it should have come sooner. Injury curtailed her scheduled world title opportunity in November against Rachel Ball. But in that weird reversal of fortunes that we often see in boxing, Bridges has benefited from the misfortune of others. Ball was scheduled to face her old adversary Shannon Courtenay for the vacant WBA bantamweight title, but she, unfortunately, caught Covid, and the longer-term effects of the virus left Ball unable to fight in April.
Bridges has just come off her comeback win over Carol Earl in Sydney to move to 5-0 as a professional, a fight to end her own hiatus, in many ways, it served a purpose:
“I can definitely see the ring rust. It was still a great fight I was still dominant and I won every round. But I can see on the thinking side where I could have made it so much more easier for myself. I got that in the closing rounds where I was out-boxing her, it wasn’t the fight I was expecting because she was so tough but it was a real good fight for me. Everything happens for a reason, and it was the perfect prep-fight for Shannon Courtenay. It was a tough 8 rounds and I hadn’t done 8 rounds before so it has given me that confidence and after the 8 rounds I felt I could have done more.”
With prior knowledge that Bridges would be heading to England as a late replacement for Ball, staying focussed on the initial task at hand was hard. Unusual methods and with a little help from her inner circle and any danger of her looking too far ahead were diminished:
“I knew a week before the Earl fight I would be fighting Courtenay if I won so it was hard to stay focussed because I had so much to organise, flights etc. I knew I was going to leave Australia for America the day after the fight if I won so that was playing on my mind because I had so much to organise including an exemption to leave the country. I am lucky I have people like Phil Riches who is one of my sponsors who helped me with all that. My coach was also pretty good at bringing me back if I mentioned anything about Shannon. I literally put pictures of Earl all around my house, I had her face everywhere to help me stay focussed on Earl. I even had a picture of Earl in the bathroom and my boyfriend told me to take it down because I don’t want to look at her.”
Heading into the Earl fight Bridges has suffered a stop-start professional career since she turned over in 2019. Despite winning on her debut the Australian suffered a broken ankle, the subsequent rehabilitation period resulted in 8 months out. Three quick wins in a few months followed on her return, before another extended absence because of the worldwide pandemic left Bridges again feeling frustrated:
“It was my first time in a boxing ring in 13 months so I had to experience it all again. I’m not an overly experienced fighter, in the amateurs I used to fight every second weekend, and if I had more than a month off I felt it. I thrive off fighting often and in the pros, I would if I could. I would fight every month or every two months to keep that momentum. Unfortunately, I haven’t had that momentum so far in my career because things keep happening, my broken ankle in my debut and now Covid.”
After her lengthy period away from what she loves, there is a rapid turnaround for Bridges. In a perfect and more normal world, a traditional training camp would be a more preferable route leading into a world title opportunity, but Bridges still sees it as far more positive than negative:
“Definitely more positive that I am fighting again so soon. I could look at both sides but I am looking on the positive side of it. I could say it would be good to have a whole camp just to focus on Courtenay and tactics for the fight. I do a lot of visualising and doing that for 8 weeks helps. But I am fresh from the fight, if it was another two months of training, my body would start to get tired, even another two weeks it might be too much. Any sooner it would be too quick so it is perfect how we have it. Every day in Philly I am getting sharper and learning so much, it is perfect for me here.
“Having just done 8 rounds I have got loads more confidence knowing I have now done it and it was such a high pace fight. So I am prepared for another high pace fight, I have just done it and Shannon isn’t really like that. But I just focus on myself and my strengths.”
Courtenay lost her unbeaten record against Ball last August, climbing off the floor in the opening round to lose a close decision at Fight Camp. Courtenay has since got back in the win column, but Bridges expressed her doubts that her next opponent hasn’t yet proved herself in a back and forth war:
“Shannon hasn’t really had a tough fight that she has won yet. She’s gone from the Rachel Ball fight which she lost, to her last fight which was easy for her.”
Bridges has been everywhere on social media over the last 12 months. A decision to enter the world of Twitter and to be incredibly active on that platform as well as being on every major boxing outlet doing a relentless grind of interviews has seen her profile rise in a relatively short period of time. But her sudden rise to prominence is no surprise to Bridges:
“I’m not surprised because that was my goal. When I got on Twitter that was my aim to fight in the UK, and I was due to fight in November against Ball, so it would have happened even faster. I keep saying it, but when you say something believe it. For me when I say something I get it, I am not being cocky but I just do it. So I am not surprised I am impressed by how many fans I have in the UK. I didn’t think I would be adopted by the British fans and so loved. But I am humble and I love all my fans, they mean a lot to me.”
Bridges has certainly won her fight to get her name out there, and she has done it by just being Ebanie Bridges. The world title challenger comes with little filter, love or hate her, she is being herself. From her bodybuilding days, and now in her boxing career nothing can mask her love for what she does:
“I am made for this, it is who I am. I just feel I have that aura that attracts people. I just feel I am born to do this and destined to be in the spotlight, my character and personality are made for it. I love to entertain and I love people. I love fighting and I want to have entertaining fights and it’s great to be able to do that on a big stage in front of the whole world.”
Courtenay sadly, probably gets more hate online than most, and Bridges does have sympathy for her upcoming opponent:
“I have to respect her for how she handles and puts up with the hate she gets. I honestly don’t get much hate, probably around 2% on my timeline is hate. I wouldn’t know how to handle all that hate, I kind of feel sorry for her.”
There has been heavy criticism from some about the fight being for a world title. But the rights and wrongs of that particular argument is nothing to do with either fighter. But the fight, with or without a title being on the line looks like one that can’t fail to deliver. Both have crowd-pleasing styles that look certain to gel to give us a highly entertaining fight:
“It will be a good fight for sure. I do rate her as a boxer. Shannon is still a novice but she is definitely skilled. I don’t think it will be an easy fight at all.”
Bridges can’t wait to enter the UK it was one of the primary reasons for all the Twitter activity of the last year. There was a desire to fight in the UK, and now she has her reward, sadly without fans. But going into the isolation of the Matchroom bubble doesn’t hold any fears for Bridges:
“I can’t wait for the bubble, I am going to be all smiley, lovely and happy. Nobody would have met me before, everyone will be coming up to me, even the Matchroom guys. I just know everyone will be excited as me to have me in the bubble, I will make things exciting. It is just the way I am, my energy and everything. I think it will be tough for Shannon to take being pushed to one side for me. She is used to being the A-Side and the centre of attention.”
There is a nice little rivalry brewing between Courtenay and Bridges, the tension is already there, and the confinement of the hotel bubble is unlikely to defuse the hostilities.
Bridges has her critics, but she had a plan all those months ago, and she has succeeded in that goal. The Australian understands the business of self-promotion and creating interest in her, and as a consequence, in her sport. To continue the growth of women’s boxing, the sport needs fighters like Bridges, sometimes the in-ring skills are not enough on their own. You need something a little extra to make the fans gravitate towards you.
But Bridges faces her moment of truth against Courtenay, to justify all the hype she has to deliver where it matters most. There is something about Bridges that really impresses, an incredible conviction in her ability, a rare but believable self-belief.
Written off many times in her life, many will do so again against Courtenay. Bridges has surprised before, don’t be surprised if she does so again.