Ebanie Bridges: Born For The Big Stage
Just over a year ago, Ebanie Bridges was fighting in a car park in her native Australia, trading leather for a few die-hard locals. Tonight in Leeds, it will be very different. And a sign of how far she has come. If ever someone was born for the big stage, it is Bridges.
Not long after that little dance in the car park against the tough Carol Earl, Bridges had a trial by jury against her heated rival Shannon Courtenay. Despite being hampered by that grotesque swelling over her left eye, Bridges pushed the home fighter hard. There were moments where Bridges looked like being too much for her opponent, the scores of 97-94, 98-92 and 98-92 were too wide. Two of the cards had little resemblance to the back-and-forth action we witnessed. To give Bridges only two rounds for her night’s work was beyond parody and reality. Without the injury to the eye, Bridges would have probably won.
There was no world title to take home, but Bridges more than proved her point. It was some fight, savage and beautiful in equal measure.
Bridges was signed to a Matchroom contract and showed her improvements against Bec Connolly at the second incarnation of Fight Camp last year. There was clear visible development against Connolly, that version of Bridges, would have beaten Courtenay. And probably stopped her in doing so.
There was a swift return in Leeds last September, almost certainly too quick. Mailys Gangloff is a more than live opponent and came with ambitions of her own. Bridges started well before an injury to her right hand, and an additional calf injury made it a battle for many things. The Australian got the nod after 8 good rounds. Some labelled it as controversial, it wasn’t, but Bridges will perhaps always divide opinions in some way.
The three fights in England have left the days of fighting in car parks long behind. There will be another trip to Leeds tonight, a bouncing atmospheric First Direct Arena will be some spectacle. Josh Warrington might be the main act, but Bridges will look to steal the show when she challenges the long-reigning IBF bantamweight champion Maria Cecilia Roman for her title.
There is a vast difference in experience, Bridges brings 43 rounds of ring action to the ring, Roman has 140. It is a big leap, a big ask for Bridges. But this is the sort of challenge she thrives on. And one that excites her.
I saw a tweet yesterday from someone saying he couldn’t take Bridges seriously as a fighter because of what she wore at the weigh-in. Are we still at that stage, where fighters are defined by what they wear? Why does it matter what they wear? Why should it matter? The weigh-in attire is only a small part of the show.
But to many, there is now an acceptance that Bridges can fight. She has in truth, been fighting her whole life. In many ways, Bridges doesn’t have to prove herself anymore. A life of hard knocks and survival, many would have crumbled, she has thrived.
Behind the ropes, and away from the cameras, Bridges embraces her fans. Making time for them, asking them their names, making it a little extra personal for anyone who wants a photograph. The way her life has changed isn’t just down to lingerie and other such lazy narratives. People warm to her because of the person she is, and because of the fighter, she is.
Win, lose or draw tonight, the Ebanie Bridges story will go on. But don’t be fooled into thinking winning isn’t important. She desperately wants that world title, and she goes into the biggest fight of her career in the best physical and mental state possible.
Bridges has had her best training camp ever, weight was made with relative ease, and we will see further improvements to her game tonight. Despite her patented self-confidence, Bridges is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead. To win, nothing less than her best will be enough.
Roman is 39, and with 11 years in the sport, she might simply know too much for Bridges. But the rounds in the bank, do at some stage catch up with you. It could be tonight.
Bridges deserves credit for the way she has changed her life, victory tonight would take it even further. It is a tough ask for her, but Bridges is extremely confident of victory, and I do think her incredibly vocal Leeds faithful will help her immensely in pushing her to victory. The atmosphere in that compact arena has to be seen to be believed.
An Ebanie Bridges fight is never dull, this will be no different. It will require patience, improved footwork and a greater use of her jab. I believe we will see what Bridges needs. I have said many times that Bridges makes you believe, her words carry conviction. There is quiet but reassuring confidence by her words leading up to her acid test tonight. It won’t lack for drama or excitement, and it certainly won’t be easy, but before Warrington takes centre stage, I think their adopted hero will start the party off in some style.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing