Shannon Courtenay lifted the WBA bantamweight title but had to work hard for the full ten rounds before getting the better of Ebanie Bridges via a unanimous decision at the Copper Box in London.
Courtenay and Bridges swapped plenty on insults in the build-up and they never stopped exchanging punches for the full ten rounds. Bridges looked the stronger and constantly took the fight to Courtenay, but the British boxer was the more stylish and had the two best moments of the fight in the fifth and ninth rounds when she hurt the Australian.
Bridges, who was only having her sixth fight, had been due to face Rachel Ball for the vacant title, before Ball contracted COVID. Courtenay is now likely to face Ball, who beat her over eight rounds last summer.
“We worked so hard and being someone who has genuinely turned their life around, this is proof that anyone can achieve anything,” Courtenay said. “I boxed nicer, I had the cuter shots, I kept popping the jab out, which was landing every time she was trying to knock me out. When I made mistakes, I got reckless when I traded with her. I think my jab won me the fight.
“I was told the Rachel Ball rematch was next, so I want Rachel Ball next.”
Bridges went on the front foot at the start, backing up Courtenay with a double jab, but when Courtenay found her range, she landed well with the right and landed two good hooks when backed up on the ropes. But the Australian fired back in the second, as she tore into Courtenay, catching her with a solid left hook and then an uppercut as the British boxer tried to match her pace, but was also cut over her left ear.
Courtenay grabbed hold of proceedings in the third, though, making space for herself and landing wider shots to head and body. It was the better hand speed that was giving Courtenay the edge, but when Bridges dragged her into a close-quarters battle in the fifth, she walked into a huge right from Courtenay that stopped the Australian in her tracks and made her dip at the knees.
But Bridges came firing back in the sixth, piling into Courtenay and landing some solid shots, although, by now, she had bad swelling over her left eye. The Australian had a big round in the seventh, staggering Courtenay with a right hook and then landing repeatedly as Courtenay stood and traded.
By the eighth, though, Bridges was starting to look weary as she walked forward into punches, many of which she probably couldn’t see coming.
The ninth was a tough round for Bridges, as she looked exhausted and Courtenay opened up and hurt Bridges, who was trying hard to stay in the fight. She saw out that round, though, and the last, trying to force Courtenay back into the ropes, but Courtenay, who ran out of gas when fighting Ball last August, finished the stronger.
Bob Williams scored it 97-94, while Luigi Boscarelli and Grzegorz Molenda both had it 98-92 in favour of Courtenay. Michael Alexander was the referee.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.