Ebanie Bridges’ next opponent has been confirmed, with the IBF ordering the Australian boxing champion to defend her bantamweight title against Shannon O‘Connell.
Earlier this year, the 35-year-old maths teacher from Sydney claimed a unanimous decision victory over Argentina’s Maria Cecilia Roman in Leeds to bring home the IBF women’s bantamweight title.
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Roman had held the belt since 2017, but the Australian’s relentless attacks throughout the 10-round slugfest earned her the world title.
“I feel proud of myself, and I feel extremely happy because it means everything I‘ve sacrificed and all the work I’ve put in and everything that I’ve done and everything I’ve done that’s got me to this point,” Bridges said at the time.
“This belt represents all the heartbreak, all the sacrifice, all the training, that’s what this belt represents for me.
“Can I f***ing fight or what?”
And on Saturday, Bridges was given her first challenger.
The IBF has mandated a fight between the “Blonde Bomber” and O‘Connell, a 39-year-old Aussie veteran, setting a deadline of September 26 this year.
O‘Connell is coming off an impressive streak of eight consecutive wins, including four knockouts. Her most recent triumph was last month’s TKO victory over compatriot Sarah Higginson in Brisbane.
“I’m the number one in the IBF,” O’Connell declared after the win.
“They should make me mandatory.
“She’s going to have to fight me, otherwise don’t be a champ
“Ebanie Bridges pretends she doesn’t know me because she’s scared of me. I will punch holes through that girl.”
From the young age of five, Bridges was obsessed by combat sports. She took on martial arts, including karate, which she has a black belt in.
Boxing was her No. 1 passion and growing up she loved watching Mike Tyson and Kostya Tszyu in action.
Desperate to be involved in fighting, Bridges took a job as a ring girl and continued to train religiously.
“I wanted to be in the fights, but wasn’t allowed. So instead I got paid to show off my banging body,” she said, as reported by The Sun.
“Then I started doing competitive bodybuilding all the way through my 20s. By that time, combat sports for women became legal.
“I liked punching people up, so it made sense for me to make the transition to amateur boxing.”
Bridges fought 30 times at amateur level — winning 26 times, before turning professional just three years ago.
Alongside her sporting ambitions, she earned a degree in maths and a Masters in teaching, swapping the classroom for the boxing ring in recent years.
“It’s not just about boxing. It’s about setting your goals and achieving your dreams, so I feel like I’m setting example for my students,” she said.
“To see their own teacher at this level and working hard, and also someone who has already done three degrees and a Masters, shows them that education is important.”
– with The Sun