21/02/2024

Australia's Ebanie Bridges shows off her belt after dethroning Maria Cecilia Roman in Leeds - Photo: Matchroom Boxing/Twitter

Ebanie Bridges has become Australia's newest World champion, ending the five year reign of Argentine Maria Cecilia Roman in Leeds.

Ebanie Bridges (8-1, 3 KOs) has re-shaped the world of women’s boxing, ending the five year title reign of Argentina’s Maria Cecilia Roman (16-6-1) in Leeds.

After fighting at a grueling pace for 10 rounds, the Australian walked away unanimous decision win (100-91, 97-93 x 2) and the IBF Bantamweight belt around her waist.

From the opening bell, the pressure of Bridges was almost smothering. Of note, a much improved jab found its mark across the opening two rounds.

No longer showing a propensity to plant her feet and load up on power punches to head, Bridges used her lead hand to take the fight to the inside in the ensuing rounds. Here, the 35 year old landed the punches that defined her performance.

In the pocket, Bridges peppered Roman’s body with sharp rips, also finding a home for sneaky uppercuts through her opponent’s tight guard.

Not willing to lie down in the seventh defence of her title though, Roman flicked a switch in the second half of the fight.

Having seemingly mastered the timing of Bridges’ attacks, the tenured champion increased her volume. After a very slow start, Roman threw fast combinations, scoring time and again with looping hooks.

Still, the challenger battled on. So steadfast in her game plan was Bridges that she continued to press forward, despite showing signs of fatigue. With less power in her punches, relative to the start of the fight, she still continued to attack.

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Sensing that she needed the final round on the scorecards, Bridges dug deep in the last stanza. For every right hand that landed for Roman, a punch was returned in equal force.

The tenth proved to be academic, however. When the judges scores were totaled, there was only one clear winner of the contest. Although the scorecard of 100-91 from Don Trella can only be described as wildly inaccurate, the overall result is not.

In victory, Bridges becomes Australia’s newest World champion, joining a growing number of fighters from ‘Down Under’ doing great things on the sport’s biggest stage.

What is sometimes forgotten in this tidal wave of momentum though, is the class and skill of our female boxers.

Fighting underneath the Bridges bout, 2020 Olympian Skye Nicolson improved to 2-0 as a professional with a points decision win (60-54) over Bec Connolly (3-12).

On April 20, Cherneka Johnson (13-1, 6 KOs) will challenge for the IBF Super Bantamweight title in Melbounre. A month later, Taylah Robertson (4-1) has the opportunity to gain World youth title gold.

These are just a few examples of Australia’s female boxers taking on high-level challenges in what could be a banner year for the nation’s women in the sport. The charge towards this, of course, is now led by Bridges’ triumph.

Moreover, the New South Welshwoman made a personal statement.

Often, Bridges has been maligned for a willingness to use sex appeal to sell fights, specifically by wearing lingerie at weigh-ins. For this reason, she has been cast aside as somewhat of a gimmick by the greater boxing public.

Even after a contender for fight of the year with Shannon Courtenay (7-2) in 2021, the criticisms did not subside.

By ending the reign of Roman, Bridges proved that these views are unwarranted.

The ‘Blonde Bomber’ as she is colloquially known, showed that she possesses every trait that lies at the very core of what makes a fighter. The heart displayed, as well as improvements that only come from a dedication to craft, signifying that Bridges is a boxer to take seriously.

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