Bridges & Jonas: Winners Even In Defeat
Boxing has always been a passion, a lifetime of fights, watching from a distance, real connections to fighters rare. There were favourites, the ups and downs of following Frank Bruno, the emotional nights of Barry McGuigan, fights that stopped a nation. The shattered dreams of Herol Graham, a case of so near yet so far. Home-grown talent that left memories to last a lifetime.
The sheer brilliance of Sugar Ray Leonard, the mesmerising skills that beat every fighter in his prime. Leonard was extra special in an era of special fighters. I cared for some more than others, real emotional investment reserved for a select few.
The late switch in life to writing about and interviewing fighters has brought new meaning to emotional investment, extra respect for the fighters that give us so much. More than perhaps they should give. Some fighters you speak to, you quickly realise it will be a one-off, with others, it becomes much more.
Some you get to know on a more personal level, friends, I dare not presume, a good working relationship formed with trust, I have a little more hope.
When they fight, it becomes a little more, you suffer when they fail, exhale when they don’t. The roller-coaster of emotions, the sport you have loved becomes a little more personal. All of a sudden its different.
The Australian Ebanie Bridges, an enigma to some, anything but to those that have an open mind. Last year Bridges is on the list of potential interviews, you notice her, the self-promotion has worked, any prospective journalist is put on red alert, Bridges wants in. You get tagged in, you are now the hunted. No outlet out of reach, Bridges wants her name out there, a simple but brilliant premise others don’t get.
Very quickly you realise Bridges has something, she makes you believe, some don’t see, but the Australian hopeful has something very few have. Others can learn from her but they won’t be able to copy her.
The gap in the market, her contemporaries moan and resent. Bridges ignores the hate from some, she wants to be different, she is different. It’s not just a PR phenomenon, Bridges likes to fight, she genuinely craves to be a world champion. The born entertainer who wants to put on exciting fights. What’s wrong with that, why is that hard to understand or appreciate.
The recent world title fight with Shannon Courtenay was a hard watch but equally everything Bridges promised. The blood, the guts and heart, the story unfolding, the two fighters trading shots in search of a belt that meant so much to them. The emotional investment making the watch a little more personal. The grotesque swelling another little twist, further proof of what Bridges really is about.
Bridges was written off prior, long odds against her, her critics hoping those odds would reflect the outcome. Bridges would lose, and lose badly, never to be seen or heard from again. They would cheer, acknowledge smugly that they were right all along, and then wait by their phones for the next one in line.
But even in defeat, her stock rose, Bridges stayed in the UK, she’s still here. The story continues, Bridges has a way of pulling you in the more you talk to her, there is depth to Bridges and her story.
Natasha Jonas on Saturday night in Manchester came so close to beating Katie Taylor, 60 seconds from the end, she was set to win. Heading into the last round, two judges had it dead even. The first minute of the 10th and final round Jonas won, and won it well. Taylor knew it was close, the unbeaten record, the undisputed and all the plans for the future, everything was in real danger of crumbling. But the champion found something only the very best have.
Jonas was exceptional on the night, but Taylor just found a little more, the difference was miniscule, a wafer thin margin between success and failure. Agonisingly close to realising her dream, tears would have been excused, we got class and a desire to go again.
But like Bridges, Jonas’s stock rose, yet again exceeding expectations on the highest possible stage. Both will get further opportunities.
Jonas is the fighter I have spoken to the most, and I understood what the fight meant to her, it was everything. The win would have resulted in the inner peace she was looking for, completion of her sporting journey. The fight with Taylor was memorable, it was always going to steal the show. Anyone who knows boxing could see it. The fight deserved to be the headliner, it deserved a crowd, it deserved better. We deserve to see it again.
I felt for Jonas, I know how confident she was, what it meant to her. Hopefully, the incredible performance will offer her some semblance of comfort. It should, you can be a champion in different ways.
Ebanie Bridges and Natasha Jonas have shown that you can be a winner even in defeat.
Jonas and Bridges and a few others, tug at the heartstrings, they make the sport even more personal. I hadn’t bargained for this, as it goes on it will undoubtedly get worse. Other fighters with different stories will invade the emotions, and then when they fight each other, how can you choose who to cheer for. Do you even watch it. It’s bad now, it will only get worse.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing