Shannon Courtenay emerged victorious from her heavily hyped world title duel with Ebanie Bridges
Conor Benn vs Samuel Vargas may have been the nominal main event at London’s Copper Box Arena, promoted by Matchroom and broadcast by Sky Sports and DAZN, but a pair of female novices had stolen the show long before it began. Abbots Langley’s Shannon Courtenay, who had lost a contentious decision to Rachel Ball in her only worthwhile contest, squared up with Australian Ebanie Bridges, who if her in-ring talents matched her gift for self-promotion would be the best woman fighter of all-time.
The pair spent fight week bickering over lingerie - the extrovert Bridges’ insistence on wearing it for the weigh-in and Courtenay objecting on the grounds her opponent was disrespecting the sport - but over a scheduled 10 two-minute rounds, ludicrously for the vacant WBA bantamweight title, the pair had to put jibes aside and actually fight. This they did with significant courage and will to win.
In a battle of compact aggressors, Bridges began on the front foot, Courtenay forced to wing hooks off the ropes. Bridges proved physically strong and cut the ring down well, but Courtenay was faster and appeared to possess the broader skill-set. Shannon did however sustain a cut on the scalp in round two. Bridges was plodding, albeit dogged and walked into some sharp counters,
Courtenay worked well in combination from the middle rounds, as Bridges started to look tired. Shannon stunned the Australian with a clean counter right in the fifth, her knees buckled and she clung on. Ebanie responded admirably in the next, trying to impose her physical strength, pushing Courtenay back and targeting the body. They traded heavy leather in round seven as Bridges, marked up and left eye closing, compelled Courtenay into her style of fight.
There was certainly no shortage of guts and determination in there, not to mention workrate. Perhaps sensing weakness, Courtenay poured forward in the ninth, landing several hard right hands, but just as it seemed Bridges would go, she connected with a flush left hook on the bell. Brave Bridges deserved to last the course and, despite being picked off in the final round, she did just that.
The judges scored it 97-94 and 98-92 twice, all for Courtenay. Neither lady looked elite but no one can deny their world-class fighting spirit and it was a highly entertaining affair between fit, well-matched boxers.