Ebanie ‘Blonde Bomber’ Bridges: Looks can be deceiving
Now that boxing is slowly opening back up following months of pandemic-induced lockdown, fighters are starting to get opportunities to enter the ring again. With that comes an important question that professional pugilists will have to answer. Have they been behaving like professionals or not? Have they stayed dedicated to their training routines despite the lack of equipment and sparring? Or have they slacked off and allowed their hands to pick up the fork instead of the gloves? One boxer who has stayed committed to training and bettered her skills is Australian bantamweight Ebanie “Blonde Bomber” Bridges (4-0, 2 knockouts), who is trained by Arnel Barotillo out of the Barotillo Bombers gym in Sydney.
Bridges has been able to deal well with isolation because she experienced a similar situation after her pro debut in February 2019. During the first round of that bout, she severely injured her ankle. “The only time my ankle didn’t hurt was when I was throwing punches, so my way around the pain was to keep punching. If you watch that fight, I must have thrown hundreds of punches per round.” She didn’t let the pain spoil her debut and came away with a decision win.
However, the ankle injury required two surgeries, which put her on the shelf for eight months. “I was in crutches for three months. I couldn’t stand up or drive. It turned my whole world upside down. But I committed as much discipline and dedication into those months of rehab as my fighting. It’s supposed to be a seven-month recovery, but I was back training within five months. That’s why this isolation is fine because I’ve been here before. My career is on hold, but it’s not the end of the world, which it might have felt like if I hadn’t experienced worse.”
“To be honest, it wasn’t until I broke my ankle that I could say that I was truly able to get over adversity. I had two choices; sit here and feel sorry for myself and give up on my goals or keep working towards them. I started accepting things for how they are. So now, if anything happens, I say it’s happening for a reason. After the rain, there are always rainbows.”
While speaking to Bridges, I could sense her determination and drive to succeed. Growing up in the Toongabbie suburb of West Sydney, a rough part of town, life was not easy for her. Although she excelled in soccer and karate, she experienced her share of hardships.
“My teens were tough; a lot of things went on that I had to work through. Thirteen to 18 years old was a write-off. My best friend killed himself, my boyfriend died. I was in a dark place; I got involved in drugs and hanging with the wrong crowd. But with my parents’ help, I pulled myself out of it. At 18, I decided I need to change my life.”
It was then that she found competitive bodybuilding, which became an outlet through which she could transform her life for the better. She competed in bodybuilding for eight years and won numerous regional and state titles.
After achieving her goals in bodybuilding, Bridges returned to combat sports at 28. She had trained in kickboxing and Muay Thai in her teens, but never competed because professional combat sports were illegal for Australian women before 2008. Her initial intent was to pursue kickboxing, and she took up boxing classes to improve her footwork. But she fell in love with boxing and decided to give it her full attention.
“The Blonder Bomber” amassed a 26-4 amateur record from 2016 to 2018, during which she won Golden Gloves and state championship titles. During that time, she was just as focused on her education at Western Sydney University as she was on boxing. Bridges earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physical Education, and then a Master’s degree in Teaching (secondary education), during which she graduated at the top of her class.
Bridges made sure those countless hours studying weren’t for nothing as she now works as a high school math teacher and a professional fighter. Hearing about the schedule that Bridges maintained while competing in the amateur ranks is dizzying.
“During my Master’s degree, I was juggling three jobs while boxing,” revealed Bridges. “I worked at a bar, tutored, coached girls in bodybuilding. I slept four hours a day. I didn’t have a day off for three years. Sometimes I would study during the day, tutor in the afternoon, work in a bar at night, and then get up again for school. On weekends, I would prepare my clients for bodybuilding and do nutrition plans, and work until 2 or 3 at night. And I still boxed. I would run in the morning and train. Thinking about it now makes me sick in how I did it.”
Bridges managed all those responsibilities and was highly successful as a boxer because of her willpower. “I am a prime example of no excuses,” she said. “You will never hear me say I can’t train or do my assignment because of this or that. If you can’t do it, it’s because you don’t want it bad enough. But I wanted to make money, box, and do my degree, so I had to find a way to fit it all in. That meant no sleep, driving all over, packing three different pairs of clothes, and food for the whole day. I just made it work because if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen.”
After winning her pro debut and rehabbing her ankle injury, she ended her first year on a high note with consecutive wins. She then signed a contract with Split-T, an American management company, whose goal it is to help build her profile in North America. That signing led to her successful U.S debut with a victory over Crystal Hoy on February 8, 2020, in Hammond, Indiana.
The decision to work with Split-T aligns with her goals of being known beyond her home country: “My goal is to be global; I want to fight anywhere and everywhere. I have no problem fighting away from home. I want people to see the kind of fighter and person I am. I think I can inspire a lot of people. My style and look are very fan-friendly, and I like to entertain. So why does it have to be restricted to one country? I think I have the style, strength, and tenacity to be a world champion and get that recognition. And I have the look, because let’s be honest, that helps.”
That attractive look has resulted in a sizeable social media presence with over 23,000 and 18,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter, respectively. “I am a crowd-pleaser,” said Bridges. “I like to show off at weigh-ins. 90-percent of boxing fans are men, so why not play on that? I’m going to use what I have to be successful. Why not be proud of the body I’ve put 10 years of bodybuilding into?”
But no matter how many likes and followers a boxer has on social media, they only earn the respect of hardcore fans if they back it up in the ring, which is something Bridges is eager to achieve.
“I know I don’t have long in this sport. I’m not 21 or 22; I’m 33. I know it’s going to be a short and sweet career. My goal is to pave the way for Australian female boxing. And I want to be remembered as a people’s champion, like Gatti or Ward. I don’t care so much about being undefeated as long as I’m giving the crowd good fights, and I show my heart. And you can’t get that from cherry-picking easy fights. That doesn’t satisfy me; I don’t like easy things. If I did, I would have given up on life a long time ago.”