The greater boxing acumen and heavier hands of Shannon Courtenay won through against an extremely game Ebanie Bridges to clinch the vacant WBA bantamweight title at the Copper Box Arena in Hackney, London, on Saturday night. Scores were 98-92 (twice) and 97-94.
Bridges was hampered by a swollen left eye in the closing stages and badly hurt in the fifth and ninth rounds, yet won admiration with her toughness and heart in a losing cause. But Courtenay, the crisper puncher throughout, finished the stronger and was a worthy winner.
“Amazing. I don’t want to cry. Amazing,” said Courtenay (7-1, 3 KOs) afterwards. “I feel like my jab won me the fight to be honest. My conditioning, my attrition, all of the hard work. My two coaches Charlie and H kill me on a daily basis. They kill me in the gym. I hate them for it, but it bloody paid off. My nice jab, my fitness and my conditioning won me that fight.
“I have to give credit to her because that was a bloody good fight. She was tougher than I thought she’d be. I knew if I stuck to my boxing I’d win. I had to keep listening to Charlie – he kept saying, ‘box, box, box’. When I was getting into a war it was stupid of me. The jab won me the fight.
“There was respect before I got in the ring because anybody that gets in the ring deserves respect. I now have more respect for her. When it was a shootout that was my own stupidity. I’ve come a long way. I’ve said it all week. Tonight is proof that anyone can turn their life around.
“I’m a different person to who I was back then. I’m a world champion, baby! I’m wearing this belt everywhere. This is such a proud moment for me. This is such a good example to young girls that you can turn your life around. I can’t put it into words.”
The Australian came to fight and ramped up the pressure in the second, cutting Courtenay on the top of the head as she ploughed forward with industrial pressure. Courtenay’s sharper blows, more educated jab and bodywork stole a march in the third.
Yet Bridges (5-1, 2 KOs) was sturdier than anticipated and proved a credible foe. The snap and variety of Courtenay was apparently nudging her ahead, but Bridges’ strength and persistence was keeping her in the fight.
Courtenay’s heavier hands began to tell at the midway point. A big right stunned Bridges in the fifth and her legs buckled. Badly hurt, the Australian held on grimly and did well to see out the round.
They engaged in the sixth, but Bridges’ left eye was swelling rapidly. Yet she stung Courtenay with a right hand in the seventh and had the Watford girl beating a hasty retreat under furious pressure.
The hectic pace didn’t waver with Bridges tearing forward, but she started eating right hands in a tough ninth with her swollen eye restricting her vision. Courtenay sailed close to a late stoppage win but Bridges deserved to hear the final bell.
Glasgow bantam Kash Farooq outpointed Nicaraguan Alexander Espinoza in a brisk encounter. Scores were 97-93, 97-95 and 97-94. Throwing punches in bunches, the classy Farooq is always pleasing to watch, but his lack of pop remains a concern as he rises in class. Espinoza was halted by the less than sturdy Dixon Flores, but Farooq never looked like budging him.
Earlier in the light-heavyweight division, John Hedges moved to 2-0 with a comfortable four-round decision over Croatian Stanko Jermelic and Glasgow heavy Nick Campbell debuted with a second-round win over Czech Petr Frohlich.
Main image and all photos: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.