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Respect earned: Shannon Courtenay and Ebanie Bridges throw hands

Between them, Courtenay and Bridges have fought 11 professional fights.  

Neither’s considered an elite talent. But a few facts were overlooked.  

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Courtenay vs. Bridges fight - photo by Dave Thompson Matchroom
Courtenay vs. Bridges fight - photo by Dave Thompson Matchroom

When it was announced that Shannon "The Baby-Face Assassin" Courtenay would be fighting Ebanie "The Blonde Bombshell" Bridges for a world title, most of the fight world chuckled.

 

Social made a mockery of both fighters.   

 

Between them, Courtenay and Bridges have fought 11 professional fights.  

Neither’s considered an elite talent. But a few facts were overlooked.  

 

Courtenay, out of shape, and looking for something significant to do in her life, took up boxing at 20. 

 

“I was a heavy smoker, drinker, and party animal," Courtenay, now 27, told Kal Sajad of www.bbc.com 

Courtenay worked alongside world-ranked fighters at respected trainer Adam Booth’s gym. Her passion awakened, and after dropping forty pounds, Courtney showed boxing ability, capturing the Haringey Box Cup in 2015, and the Southern Area Featherweight title a year later. She turned professional in 2019, feeling her aggressive style would suit the pro game.  

Bridges, a former bodybuilder from Australia, marketed a bombshell image. She dressed provocatively, promoting herself - amassing a huge social media following by posting racy photos of herself. But looks can be deceiving. Bridges is hardly a dumb blonde. She had a plan. Downplaying her boxing abilities, the 34-year-old school teacher was able to win gold at the Australian Golden Gloves amateur event in 2017. She also holds a master’s degree and a black belt in karate. 


But as the days grew closer to her encounter with Courtenay, the overriding question was: could she fight? The resounding answer from many was "No!" Her five victories were over opponents with more losses than wins.

 

Courtenay’s record was nothing to brag about as well, until she faced Rachell Ball, who entered the fight the winner of five of six contests.  


Courtenay appeared to buzz Ball in the opening round until a Ball left floored her. More shocked then hurt, Courtenay fought back hard until tiring in the last two frames. Ball edged the fight by two points. Courtenay was left devastated.  


After the fight, she wondered if her career was over. Nowadays in boxing, one loss can be a game changer.  


Courtenay fell into a depression.  

 

"My mental health struggled big time. I didn’t know what to do with myself," she told Dylan Terry of BBC sport. "You see people’s true colors when everything isn’t hunky dory." 


After a few weeks she was back in the gym. 

 

"When you get that sour taste of something being taken away from you, you never want to taste it again," she said.  


She rebounded by knocking out Doreta Norek last December. Her next fight was scheduled to be a rematch against Ball but the Aussie battler was still fighting the effects of Covid-19.  


Exit Ball, enter Bridges.  


“This is a huge platform to showcase my skills and who I am," said “The Blonde Bomber” to the world. I’ll bring the fight to Shannon – I’m coming to win that world title, buckle up!”
 

Let the mocking begin. At the weigh-in a day before the fight, Bridges was dressed in lingerie. She seemed to be enjoying herself.  

 

Courtenay didn’t like it.  


“I’m a fighter, not a lingerie model,” Courtenay said. “This is a world title fight. Have some respect for the game." 


Bridges kept smiling.  

 

She was still grinning as she made her way to the ring.

 

Courtenay was all business.  

 

It was fight time.  

 

And after 10 rounds, that was exactly what the fighters did, fight.  

 

The stronger Bridges, no longer smiling, was the aggressor from the opening bell. The more athletic Courtenay moved and jabbed. She also connected with a couple of right hands. Bridges came back in round two, catching Courtenay with a left hook and drawing first blood. Courtenay used faster hands in the next few rounds, though Bridges was hanging tough and banging back. A Courtenay right hand buckled Bridges’ knees in round five. Bridges wobbled as Courtenay went for the kill, but the Australian fighter refused to go down. She stumbled as she went back to her corner. Was this it?  

 

Hardly. Bridges came roaring back in round six, catching Courtenay with shots. The blood continued to seep from a cut over Courtenay’s left ear. Bridges had another more serious problem. Her left eye was swelling, courtesy of a headbutt, at an alarming rate. Soon she wouldn’t be able to see. Bridges hurt Courtenay in round seven, but admitted to her corner that her left lobe was useless.  

 

"I can’t see," she said with yes, a smile.  

 

Tired and semi-blind, Bridges fought back, but walked into combinations in rounds eight and nine. Courtenay connected with more shots in round 10, finishing the fight strong and in control.   


As the words "and the new bantamweight champion of the world" echoed through the arena, Courtenay screamed loudly. The super-game Bridges hugged her as whatever animosity existed between them dissipated.   


Overcome by emotion after the fight Courtenay knew she had come a long way in seven years. She was now a world champion.


Bridges, though officially a loser on the scorecards, was hardly that.  


As a testament to the fight, both women’s shirts were splattered with blood.  

 

The mocking had ceased.

 

Respect on all counts.  

 

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