More than any other sport in the world, boxing is the most like the Wild West. Unlike basketball, baseball, and football, no national league governs the sweet science. Now that boxing is fully immersed ten-toes deep in social media and streaming, along with a media base that is mainly fan-driven, the sport can be described as chaotic.
And over the last five years, one of the pugilists that has embraced that chaos to their advantage is Ebanie Bridges (9-1, 4 KOs).
The Australian known as the Blonde Bomber is divisive among boxing circles, having just as many fans as critics. Some view her as a lingerie model disguised as a boxer, using the sport as a costume. But in reality, she recognized an open niche in the sport and found a lane to dominate.
Also, she is currently a world champion, holding the IBF bantamweight title.
Ebanie Bridges Returns To Ring After One Year Away
After one year out of the ring, Bridges will return to the squared circle against Miyo Yoshida (16-4) to make the second defense of her title. The fight will take place as one of the supporting bouts on the Regis Prograis-Devin Haney card at the Chase Center in San Francisco, tonight.Yoshida, a former world champion at super flyweight, is a late replacement for Australia's Avril Mathie, who suffered an injury pulling out of the fight with Bridges.
Yoshida previously fought just a month ago in November, losing a unanimous decision to Shurretta Metcalf; however, the former super flyweight champion came away unscathed.
The quick turnaround would suggest she is in good enough shape to compete again on short notice.
While Yoshida is more than a serviceable replacement and, as a former world champion, arguably a better opponent than Mathie, she won't be the only adversary Bridges will have to contend with.
It was in her previous fight against a fellow Australian and veteran, Shannon O'Connell, that Bridges pulled off the most significant victory of her career. Over eight rounds, she battered O'Connell. What many felt would be Bridges getting put down a peg turned into a showcase for the Australian. However, Ebanie Bridges entered the ring with a broken right hand that now required surgery.
Besides any possible physical issues the right hand may pose, Bridges also changed trainers. Bridges was trained by Mark Tibbs, who also famously trained heavyweight Dillian Whyte and former middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders. She will now be under the tutelage of former fighter Dave Coldwell. Coldwell also trains Jordan Gill, who recently scored an upset stoppage over Michael Conlan.
The surgery to the hand was necessary, and the change in trainers was self-imposed. Still, Bridges's inability to land a fight sooner was the more frustrating occurrence, leaving her inactive for a year.
“This fight has had four opponent changes,” Ebanie Bridges stated in an interview with Seconds Out. “Yoshida is the fourth opponent. I had an opponent say ‘yes,' my number one mandatory, then wasted my time for a week and changed her mind. We had another one change her mind after a week. So, we wasted another fucking week. And I got to the point of ‘why the fuck am I doing this?'
“I honestly make so much money. I'm not fighting for money. I'm absolutely not. I don't need to put myself through this rollercoaster that boxing is. It's a fucking brutal sport. Outside of the ring more than in the ring. In the ring is the fun part. The sport outside of it is more brutal.”
At the same time, exasperation in dealing with the politics of boxing can be taxing on anyone; Ebanie Bridges is someone who is well-versed in adapting. Before entering the boxing world, she juggled three jobs simultaneously: a math teacher, a bodybuilder, and a ring-card girl.
After making her debut in 2019 and paying opponents to fly to Australia to fight her, Bridges knew that she needed to adjust to the current state of women's boxing to make a name for herself. Instead of waiting on the sidelines for a promoter to take notice, she headed out to Las Vegas. She made herself visible to the boxing press through interviews and self-promoting on social media.
“Look, boxing is a business, and I knew that from the start,” Ebanie Bridges said to Boxing Social. “That's why I am where I am because when I turned pro I knew what I had to do to make it a business and to get a brand and to make money. I knew that when I started boxing, there was no money in women's boxing. And I never boxed for money. My idea was to always create that brand so I can continue to make money.”
Bridges' interviews stood out due to her vibrant and energetic personality. What got the attention of fans and possibly detractors were her weigh-ins. Boxing weigh-ins, now more than ever, have lost their organic energy.
They feel manufactured at times partly due to the official weigh-in kept behind closed doors for big events.
Setting herself apart from her contemporaries, Ebanie Bridges used her bodybuilding background to stand out from the average monotonous weigh-in by wearing bikinis or lingerie.
“Bodybuilding is what inspired my approach to wearing lingerie at boxing weigh-ins now,” Bridges wrote in a piece about her career for TalkSport. “To me, the weigh-ins are just like a mini body building competition, with a little less tan, but it's a very similar feeling. I didn't love the process of bodybuilding, but I loved being on stage, so I thought with boxing, I can kill two birds with one stone here. I can have a little bit of bodybuilding vibes, still have my stage presence and posing, and then I get to bash bitches. So it's perfect for me, and I love it!”
Bridges' weigh-ins are part of the allure of seeing her perform, but how she fights inside the ring has given her more credence within boxing circles. When she fought Shannon Courtenay in April 2021 for the vacant bantamweight WBA title, she earned a victory in defeat. The fight was a back-and-forth war, and even when a clash of heads left a bruise that covered her entire right eye virtually closed, Bridges never backed down, continuing to plow forward, taking the fight to her rival.
Those who were and still are detractors of Bridges may have believed that she would wilt the first time she faced adversity in the ring. The closed eye against Courtenay and even a broken ankle in one of her first bouts in Australia are a testament to her resolve and mindset.
Ebanie Bridges is aware that the lingerie weigh-ins are more the sizzle to attract new fans to bring them in, but what makes them stay is what she does inside the ring. The former math teacher wouldn't be nearly as successful as she is if she flopped inside the ropes. No matter how much attention her weigh-ins have gotten, it wouldn't be worth anything if, between the ropes, she proved to be a dud.
“The reason people want to tune in and watch me fight is because they know it's going to be a barn storm,” Bridges explained in an interview with Boxing Social. “They know it's going to be a fucking fight. What fight have I been in that hasn't been a war? Realistically, boxing is about entertainment, and that's what the fans want to see. Sure, they want to see boxing skills, of course, and I have that. But the fights that everyone talks about, the wars, and the people who dig deep and got heart. As long as I'm entertaining, I'm happy.”
Ebanie Bridges has been boxing for seven years, and only four of those as a professional.
At 37 years old, she has maximized her time in the sport by setting goals for herself. Her self-awareness keeps her hungry, with her biggest motivation being to improve to become the best version of herself. Although travel and location were two of the most significant reasons she chose to change trainers, Bridges is willing to admit that she still has room to grow. She might be her own toughest critic in the ring and doesn't rely on admirers to soothe her ego.
“I want to improve,” Bridges said about training with Dave Coldwell. “I want to be taught, and I want to learn. This is what I need. I need someone that's going to tell me everything that I need to do. And not kind of cheerlead.”
Following the bout with Yoshida, if Bridges comes out on top and her title still in hand, the next move is unifying the titles at bantamweight.
Denmark's Dina Thorslund currently holds the WBO and WBC titles. The 30-year-old unified champion is ranked in the top ten pound-for-pound by Ring Magazine and is an undefeated two-division champion.
The fight with the highest probability of taking place next for Bridges is against the United Kingdom's Nina Hughes, who holds the WBA title at bantamweight. Hughes, at 41, will be the bigger money fight should a match occur in the United Kingdom.
Realizing her time in boxing is finite and having other avenues of revenue, regardless of who holds the titles, Ebanie Bridges has placed becoming the undisputed bantamweight champion as her next goal.
“After I get this fight this fight out of the way, then I'll definitely by chasing my goals and what I want to do,” said Bridges. “Having those unifications and those big money fights.”
Ebanie Bridges would continue, “I will because I've said it. And I always achieve everything that I say I'm going to achieve. So, I have no doubt in my mind that I will be undisputed.”
When climbing up the mountain of boxing and life in general, the scariest part can be the first step. Bridges has never been afraid to take that step, not knowing if she will fall or fly.
Boxing needs fighters like the Blonde Bomber, who can carve out their own path and understand that the science behind being successful in boxing is recognizing that it's equal parts sport and entertainment. Hate it or love it, having one that is always self-assured can be nothing but a positive in today's era.
It won't be forever, but the Blonde Bomber is here to stay, and boxing should be thankful for it.