Skye, Rhiannon, Hannah, Lauren & Nicola
Women’s boxing has come a long way in the last few years. It once struggled for acceptance in many ways, apathy from the masses, but times are thankfully changing. We witnessed further signs of evolution on Saturday night in Leeds. Two Australian fighters were on the main card, but there were future stars scattered around ringside who will all help further progress their sport.
Ebanie Bridges was near the top of the card, a fighter who has gone from fighting in an Australian car park to a relative handful of locals to becoming the IBF bantamweight champion of the world. It is a quite remarkable story, a testament to having a dream and a vision and executing it with hard work.
Opening the main card was her fellow Australian the former Olympian Skye Nicolson. You can’t truly appreciate just how good a fighter is until you see them live. Nicolson was seriously impressive in beating Bec Connolly over 6 rounds.
Connolly told me post-fight that she didn’t realise how good Nicolson was and that she couldn’t lay a glove on her. Connolly has fought many an elite fighter, her words are telling. Nicolson has the look of a special fighter, something different. Her performance on Saturday was one of majestic brilliance that you couldn’t fail to be impressed by. Now 2-0, the plans are to stay busy, another fight in April is likely. Her sport moves fighters along very quickly and she looks too good to be held back for long. Nicolson could emulate her fellow Australian as a world champion incredibly quickly.
But as the two Australians entertained and impressed in equal measure there was a plethora of talent watching and waiting for their moment to be on the big stage.
Fellow Matchroom fighter Rhiannon Dixon (4-0) has already appeared on a similar stage, but her career has been one of frustration. The pandemic and injury have resulted in just two fights in as many years. But the unbeaten lightweight prospect will look to make up for lost time when she returns to action in the next few months.
Dixon is tipped to be a future star by many in the sport including her trainer Anthony Crolla and training partner Natasha Jonas. Expect a strong second half of the year for Dixon.
Hannah Robinson was also a more than interested spectator in Leeds. The amateur star told me late last year:
“There has been a temptation to turn professional. When you see people you have sparred with or beaten in the amateurs on TV getting that recognition it makes me think I can do that.“
Robinson will almost certainly turn pro in the coming months, and Jonas also rates her very highly. If and when she does join the professional ranks, Robinson will definitely be a fighter to follow.
Supporting their friend Ebanie Bridges in Leeds were two super-flyweights Lauren Parker and Nicola Hopewell.
Parker (5-1-1) is signed to Unified Promotions and will have her second fight under their promotional banner in April and wants to remain active for the rest of the year. Like many, her career has stalled because of the pandemic, but her debut for her new promotional home in Sheffield last year was particularly impressive.
Being part of the Bridges camp leading up to her world title fight on Saturday will serve her well in many ways. Parker returns on April 29th in Sheffield.
Nicola Hopewell has left her old boxing world behind and is close to sealing her British Boxing Board of Control license. Unbeaten in seven fights in her previous boxing home, Hopewell will look to make the same impression when she starts the next stage of her career in the coming months.
The Worksop fighter has a more than decent amateur career behind her and there were multiple offers for her professional signature. Hopewell has gone with where she feels more at home and will be another exciting addition to the professional ranks.
Bridges and Nicolson are very much a sign of the present and the future, but there was enough talent at ringside to feel confident that women’s boxing will continue to thrive. But Matchroom is now not the only show in town.
This coming weekend in Newcastle the latest Boxxer card will not only feature Savannah Marshall, but also the likes of April Hunter, Chloe Watson and Georgia O’Connor. Boxxer is heavily investing in female talent and they haven’t yet finished adding to their roster. The sport once lacked for depth but that is now changing, and fast, and with more and more fighters turning professional the sport looks set to keep moving in the right direction.