Molly, Tasha, Ebanie & Nicola
In 2015 I decided to start FightPost, it was a naive idea born out of dark times. There was no plan, little in the way of direction, in truth, I made it up as I went along. Some would say I still do.
But as things developed, it became something far more substantial, an outlet to put other things further and further into the past.
As FightPost grew, in many ways, so did I. The early roughness of the writing slowly made way for something a little more refined, and when I started doing interviews, things changed beyond anything I could have imagined in the beginning.
The fact that fighters I put on a pedestal spare me the time of the day is something I will always cherish. They trust me with their stories, they give their time, and without warning, you start getting emotionally invested in them. You start to care, it becomes harder, impossible even, to separate the sport they grace, from the human and personal side of their stories. The stories may differ, but all of them draw you in. Some more than others.
The more you interview certain fighters the more you get invested in them as human beings. You gravitate to certain fighters more than others. They are fighters, they are a different breed to the rest of us. But they have feelings and fragility like the rest of us. Maybe even more so.
I’ve been lucky, I’ve had some fantastic stories to tell, but the person behind the gloves makes the story. From the start, I was drawn to one fighter. It was a good way to start.
In 2018 I was granted my first media credential. It was a bitterly cold February night in Liverpool, the early signs of the snow that would cover the nation just a few days later. Molly McCann left the Echo a Cage Warriors flyweight champion, but her story was just the beginning.
McCann is one of a kind. Make no mistake, her life has been hard. Too hard at times. Resilience is her biggest asset, she has needed it many times in her life. But when she needs to find something extra, she finds it.
‘Meatball’ was my first ‘proper’ interview, I chose well. McCann has something that draws you into her life and story. She gives a piece of herself in every interview, honest, sometimes brutally so.
When McCann made her UFC debut in her home city just a few months after her Cage Warriors triumph, it was the moment I realised that my then little hobby was turning into something more. McCann lost in heartbreaking fashion, and for me, I then realised I was in deep.
I’ve seen McCann rise from the ashes, that defeat in Liverpool made her. I consider myself privileged to have seen that growth. I use to worry about McCann. I don’t now, she will be just fine.
Boxing is a hard sport, quite rightly labelled the hurt business, at times it hurts a little too much. Natasha Jonas knows this better than most.
Jonas is probably the fighter I’m closest to, the fighter I have interviewed the most. She gives me more time than I deserve. Another Liverpool fighter that has had to show her fighting spirit in many ways. The fight outside of the ring often far more brutal than any fight inside the ropes.
I first interviewed Jonas after her shocking defeat to Viviane Obenauf. She was at her lowest. Physically and mentally she isn’t that person now.
With a little luck, some say she would be a world champion already. Luck shouldn’t come into it. Jonas beat Terri Harper in 2020 at Fight Camp, only the judges denied her on a night that she was supposed to lose and lose well. But that night solidified her return from rock bottom.
Her story isn’t complete yet, there will be one more chance at a world title next year. But win, lose or draw her new Sky deal as an onscreen personality gives her the security going forward. A difficult year has ended well.
McCann and Jonas have many similarities, both their lives and careers could have gone in different directions. They both impress in different ways.
The first time I interviewed Ebanie Bridges early last year, she was largely unknown. But within seconds, I knew that wouldn’t be the case for long. Sometimes you just know.
Bridges is another fighter who has overcome a traumatic start to her life. She vowed not to waste a single second of her life after her troubled start. Bridges has been true to her word.
The Australian just has it. She has what you need to be a success in life. Bridges is a pure fighter who makes things happen for herself. Some may hate, Bridges doesn’t care. Life doesn’t come to you, Bridges understands this. She understands life. The year started fighting in a car park in Australia, those days are long gone. You sense boxing is just the start.
Nicola Hopewell is close to Bridges. Hopewell has also grown in many different ways this year. Her eyes have been opened to many things in 2021.
The friendship with Bridges has helped Hopewell immensely. She is a fighter who deserves better. McCann, Jonas and Bridges have found what they are looking for. Hopewell now knows what she wants, 2022 should give her what she needs.
Watching all four fight is difficult. At times I don’t even enjoy it, in truth, I hate it. In the heat of battle, I see the person and not that fight. I know what a potential defeat means. One punch can change a life and a career. A sport of fine margins.
There are plenty of other fighters who fit the same narrative as the above four. The more interviews I do it will only get harder. It certainly won’t get any easier. The list will grow. It already is.
The following 12 months promise plenty for McCann, Jonas, Bridges and Hopewell. Hopefully, this time next year the follow-up piece will be one consisting of world titles and continued success. And for Hopewell, a platform that is worthy of the talent she has.
Photo Credit: Cage Warriors