A necessity for self promotion means boxing is a sport full of interesting characters and some are just naturals.
In the case of the female IBF bantamweight world champion, Ebanie Bridges who defends her belt against Shannon O’Connell, she first caught the attention of fight fans when she started attending weigh-ins wearing lingerie.
This has led to Bridges accumulating a passionate fanbase in her adopted home of Leeds, after appearing on the undercard of ‘The Leeds Warrior’ Josh Warrington, in both of her previous two fights.
“The fans in Leeds are the best,” Bridges told talkSPORT via bet365. “I’ve had a lot of love from Leeds since moving over here. I go to the community, I work with the community, I reach out and try and do things.
“I love the community of Leeds, not just the football club, but there’s something special here. I’m always representing Leeds and talking about them globally. Anyone who’s known international and can big up a city should do.”
With that being said, there is also a slightly unusual side of Bridges fanbase from whom she regularly receives requests for her socks, bathwater or just to insult them, but this does not seem to bother the Australian as long as they are willing to get their wallets out.
“Give me your money, that’s my response!” Bridges said. “You want my stuff, then you’ve got to give me your money. There’s plenty of weird people out there.
“I haven’t sold my bathwater, but I’ve been getting so many weird requests I was thinking, should I go buy some jars?
Tyson’s first fights were in unlicensed gyms – and he was still deemed too brutal
Gervonta leaks $10million offer from Hearn, asks why he isn’t banned from promoting
In the cold
Promoter Warren tells Joshua he fits ‘nowhere’ in Fury’s future plans
Crawford wants Spence fight in London because UK supports boxing more than USA
Fury calls on ‘toughest man’ Joyce to take on ‘biggest puncher’ Wilder
Let’s get it on
The Marine and judge who became boxing’s top ref and kept Tyson in line
“I’ve done the socks and my feet because it’s a laugh and harmless. I thought it was funny and they ended up paying, so now any requests that come through, I’m just like here is my PayPal.
“You’d think normal people would want lingerie or something like that, but it’s all feet and socks. I do get the random requests for the bathwater and other weird things which I won’t go into now. It’s all side money at the end of the day, if they want to pay then it’s up to them.
“I don’t care really, as long as I’m putting food on my table and the bills are being paid, I’m happy.
“In the end it’s an entertainment business boxing, so if they’re talking about me for whatever reason, it won’t do me any harm. Not many female fighters out there get talked about in the mainstream media like I do.
“So yeah, keep talking about me. It’s good to be underestimated, it’s a big advantage for me. All my opponents underestimate me, every single one of them even though I’m a World Champion now and they still can’t get past it until they’re in there and get hit.
“They feel the wrath then they get the shock and know who they’re dealing with.”
While Bridges choice to wear lingerie to weigh-ins has turned out to be a lucrative business venture, that is not what she intended.
“I just wanted to wear lingerie. I thought why do I have to go and buy the same underwear everyone else wears? Everyone always wears matching Calvin Klein underwear, and everyone does the same thing.
“I’ve got about 100 sets of lingerie, the men in my life are very lucky, I like lingerie. I want to look nice on the scales, why not? I’ll wear what I like and why do I have to be like everyone else?
“It’s still underwear, the only difference is I have a big set of boobs. Since, I’ve started doing it, others have started, too.
“I was a bodybuilder for ten years, and that’s what I did in body building, wearing nice G-string beautiful bikini’s on stage as I posed. I was all about stage presence and energy and that’s what I do when I jump on the scales.
“It definitely wasn’t anything tactical or a business choice, it’s just me being me and expressing myself.”
In the lead up to her next fight, she also has partnered with adult film star Kendra Lust, posting a video about the collaboration in a social media post wearing a ‘Lust’ t-shirt.
As well as bodybuilding, Bridges has had a storied past to say the least, from being a ring card girl to becoming a maths teacher and she even appeared on ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’.
“It’s been a long journey,” Bridges explained. “I feel everything I’ve done in my life has led me to where I am now. From the age of five starting Martial Arts to where I am now, everything on the way has got me into combat sports. It’s as if I was destined to be in boxing.
“From Karate at five years old to Muay Thai and Kickboxing in my teens. I played football and from there I did bodybuilding, which even though it wasn’t related to combat sports it built up so much strength in me which is still with me today in boxing, I have a lot of power.
“If I hadn’t have done body building for the past 10 years, I might have looked like all the other girls that are just boxing and don’t have that physicality, so that’s something that’s definitely helped me.
“Throughout my twenties while I was doing 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 the Karate, I couldn’t legally fight in boxing or kickboxing. I did the card-girling because I love the fights and I’ve always been a combat sports fan.
“After finishing my bodybuilding career, I was thinking I can’t sit around all day, what am I going to do? Well, you know what, I’ve always loved bashing b****** so why not go there and do something I really truly enjoy.
“As much as I was good at bodybuilding, I didn’t really enjoy 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 by beating Maria Cecilia Roman in her last fight.
Next up, she will take on experienced fighter ‘Shotgun’ Shannon O’Connell (23-6-1) in an all-Australian world title clash in December, after promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing won the purse bids.
“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 saying we should be over [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, hosting this kind of fight, for a world title, here in the UK on a Matchroom card, which is global, is a great opportunity for both of us and the rest of the world to see Australian boxing.”
O’Connell has had 21 more professional contests than Bridges and she has a better knockout ratio, but this is not a concern for the Leeds resident.
“Maria Cecilia Roman was 15 years as a pro in her 8th World Title defence and I did well in that. So, experience is one thing but not everything.
“With me, I get underestimated. Experience is one thing, but you can have 20 years in the gym and get beaten by someone with 5 years’ experience.
“There’s something special inside of me and I know I’m destined to continue to reign as a World Champion and become unified and undisputed. I believe it’s my time.
“To be honest, I think I can probably stop her, but if not, I’m winning no matter what as I’ll make sure that happens.”
After O’Connell, Bridges wants to avenge the only blemish on her record, a loss against Britain’s Shannon Courtenay last year.
“It’s not even about avenging the loss but fighting for the titles and for the fans.” Bridges said, “I know I beat her when we fight again, but it’s not even about that as I thought I beat her the first time.
“It’s just women’s boxing needs these kinds of fights. We’re still so raw, women’s boxing is still so raw in society even though it’s been around for a while, people are only now beginning to accept it, and it’s these kinds of fights and rivalries that need to happen to help the sport grow.
“Being a world champion, I would like her to go and get a belt. She’s on her own journey now, having lost hers, but she needs to build herself back up and do what she needs to do. God willing, even if she’s a rival I do want her to win a belt so then we can unify.
“That would be a great story to unify the belts. If not, my plans are to become undisputed and if she fits into there somewhere, then it’s definitely something that can happen.”
Tai Emery promises more wild celebrations after flashing crowd following her KO win on bare-knuckle boxing debut – despite the ex-American football player fearing she’d be jailed in Thailand