Boxing is a sport full of character due to the need for individuals to promote themselves – but some fighters choose more unorthodox methods than others to boost their profile.
In the case of IBF bantamweight world champion Ebanie Bridges, she first caught the attention of boxing fans when she started attending weigh-ins wearing lingerie.
This has led to Bridges building up a passionate fan base in her adopted home of Leeds, having appeared on ‘The Leeds Warrior’ Josh Warrington undercard in her previous two fights.
‘Leeds fans are the best’, Bridges told talkSPORT via bet365. “I’ve had a lot of love from Leeds since moving here. I go out into the community, I work with the community, I reach out and try to do things.
“I love the Leeds community, not just the football club, but there is something special here. I always represent Leeds and talk about it globally. Anyone who knows the international and can make a big city should.
That being said, there’s also a bit of an unusual side to Bridges’ fanbase that she regularly gets requests for her socks, her bath water or just to insult them, but that doesn’t seem to bother the Australian as long as they’re ready to get their wallets taken out.
“Give me your money, that’s my answer!” Bridges said, “You want my stuff, so you have to give me your money. There are a lot of weird people there.
“I didn’t sell my bath water, but I got so many weird requests that I was like, should I go buy pots?
“I did the socks and my feet because it’s fun and harmless. I thought that was funny and they ended up paying so now all the requests coming in I’m just like here it’s my PayPal.
“You’d think normal people would want lingerie or something, but it’s just feet and socks. I get random requests for bath water and other weird things that I won’t go into now. It’s money at the end of the day, if they want to pay it’s up to them.
“I really don’t care, as long as I put food on my table and the bills are paid, I’m happy.
“At the end of the day, it’s entertainment boxing, so if they talk about me for any reason, it won’t hurt me. Few female fighters get talked about in the mainstream media like me.
“So yeah, keep talking about me. It’s good to be underestimated, it’s a big advantage for me. All of my opponents underestimate me, every one of them even though I’m world champion now and they still can’t get past him until they’re in there and they get hit.
“They feel the anger and then they get the shock and know who they’re dealing with.”
While Bridges’ choice to wear lingerie for the weigh-ins turned out to be a lucrative business venture, it’s not what she wanted.
“I just wanted to wear lingerie. I thought why do I have to go buy the same underwear everyone else is wearing? Everyone always wears matching Calvin Klein underwear, and everyone does the same.
“I have about 100 sets of lingerie, the men in my life are very lucky, I love lingerie. I want to look good on the scale, why not? I will wear what I like and why must I be like everyone ?
“It’s still underwear, the only difference is that I have a big pair of boobs. Since then I started doing it, others started too.
“I was a bodybuilder for ten years, and that’s what I did in bodybuilding, wearing beautiful thong bikinis on stage while I posed. I was all about stage presence and energy and that’s what I do when I jump on the scale.
“It certainly wasn’t a tactical thing or a business choice, it was just that I was being myself and expressing myself.”
Aside from bodybuilding, Bridges has had a storied past to say the least, from being a ring card girl to becoming a math teacher and she’s even appeared on ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’.
“It was a long journey,” Bridges explained. “I feel like everything I’ve done in my life has led me to where I am now. From the age of five to the start of martial arts to where I am now, everything along the way has led me to combat sports. It’s as if I was destined to do boxing.
“From Karate as a five-year-old to Muay Thai and Kickboxing as a teenager. I played soccer and from there I did bodybuilding, which although it wasn’t related to combat sports that gave me so much strength that still accompanies me today in boxing, I have a lot of power.
“If I hadn’t been in bodybuilding in the last 10 years, I might have looked like all the other girls who just box and don’t have that physique, so that’s something which definitely helped me.
“Throughout my twenties when I was in bodybuilding I was a ring card girl. In Australia women couldn’t fight, it was illegal until 2008 in combat sports So even though I did karate, I couldn’t legally fight in boxing or kickboxing. I did card-girling because I love fighting and I’ve always been a fan of combat sports.
“After I finished my bodybuilding career, I thought I couldn’t sit still all day, what am I going to do? Well, you know what, I’ve always loved bashing b**** ** so why not go out there and do something that I really really enjoy.
“Even though I was good at bodybuilding, I didn’t really like it. I liked it because I was good at it, but boxing is a passion for me.
Today, Bridges is the IBF bantamweight world champion after defeating Maria Cecilia Roman in her last bout.
Next, she will face experienced ‘Shotgun’ fighter Shannon O’Connell (23-6-1) in an all-Australian world title clash, after promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing won the bidding.
“It’s an exciting fight for women’s boxing and it’s an exciting fight for Australian boxing,” Bridges said, “I know a lot of people are arguing that we should get this over with. [in Australia] instead, but I think it’s a great opportunity for the world to see Australian boxing, because nobody sees them in Australia.
“So to have this kind of fight, for a world title, here in the UK on a Matchroom card, which is global, is a great opportunity for us and for the rest of the world to see Australian boxing.”
O’Connell has had 21 more professional competitions than Bridges and she has a better knockout rate, but that’s not a concern for the Leeds resident.
“Maria Cecilia Roman was 15 years as a pro in her 8th world title defense and I did well in that area. So experience is one thing but not everything.
“With me, I am underestimated. Experience is one thing, but you can be 20 in the gym and get beaten by someone with 5 years of experience.
“There is something special about me and I know I am destined to continue to reign as world champion and become unified and undisputed. I believe it’s my time.
“To be honest, I think I can probably stop it, but if not, I’m winning no matter what because I’ll make sure it happens.”
After O’Connell, Bridges wants to avenge the only stain on her record, a loss to Britain’s Shannon Courtenay last year.
“It’s not even about avenging the loss but about fighting for the titles and for the fans.” Bridges said: “I know I beat her when we fight again, but that’s not even about it because I thought I beat her the first time.
“It’s just that women’s boxing needs these kinds of fights. We’re still raw, women’s boxing is still raw in society, even though it’s been around for a while, people are only just starting to accept it, and it’s those kinds of fights and rivalries that need to happen to help the sport to develop. .
“Being world champion, I would like her to go and get a belt. She’s on her own path now, having lost hers, but she has to rebuild herself and do what she has to do. God willing, even though she’s a rival, I want her to win a belt so we can unite.
“It would be a great story to unify the belts. Otherwise my plans are to go unchallenged and if it fits somewhere then it’s definitely something that can happen.