Walsall boxer Rachel Ball has described her shock at being chosen for a world title bout as she prepares for perhaps the biggest moment of her combat sports career.
The 29-year-old, who is a former three-time kickboxing world champion, rose to prominence on the world boxing stage when she won a narrow points decision over popular fighter Shannon Courtenay on Eddie Hearn’s Fight Camp card in August.
Ball’s performance earned her national and international recognition, meaning that with only seven professional fights – having won six of them – the Aldridge boxer will now fight for the vacant WBA World Bantamweight title against Ebanie Bridges.
“When I got the call I was really shocked,” Ball told the Express & Star.
“It was funny because me and Ebanie were doing an interview together for a podcast, because we get along quite well. They asked us if we’d fight each other and we said yes, it would just be business and we’d hug it out afterwards.
“I didn’t think anything of it and then I got the call to say the WBA world title and I was expecting the rematch with Shannon – but it was Ebanie. I didn’t expect it.
“Especially with Covid I didn’t know if she could physically get over to the UK.”
Despite being friends with her Australian opponent, Ball insists that they both will focus on the task at hand on November 14.
“We spoke last week before it was announced and I wished her a safe journey across and we both said we’d give the fans a really good fight,” Ball added.
“We’ll tear it up in there.
“I said if anything comes out in the media that sounds disrespectful or I’ve been quoted out of context that she knows that’s not me. We’re cool.
“I don’t think we’ll be sitting around having cups of tea together before the fight. We’ve said what we need to say and we’re not exchanging messages now.
“We’ve done all the chatting that we need to do and we need to concentrate on the job now.
“The whole of my journey both in kickboxing and boxing has held me in really good stead for this fight.
“My last fight was an eight-rounder and I hadn’t been out since November, so it was valuable ring time in preparation for this 10 rounder. I’m really confident for this.”
Maths teacher Bridges is a former body builder and in similar fashion to Ball’s last opponent Courtenay, she has built up a large social media following despite having only fought four times as a professional – winning all four.
With that in mind, Ball is expecting a stern test.
“I know she’s going to be strong, she used to be body builder and she’s short, considerably shorter than me,” she said.
“I have to bare that in mind, use my height to my advantage but be strong in there as well. I can’t let her bully me around but I am confident that I will get more technical in my ability and ring experience.
“That’s going to pay dividends in there as well.”
Ball, who works full-time with the elderly who are suffering with mental health difficulties and dementia has since moved into a managerial role, rather than front line, since her last fight.
It was felt that the move, which she already had her eyes on, would suit as people began recognising her more, but the boxer insists life has not changed too much.
“My Instagram has gone a little bit crazy with lots of messages which I try to reply to, but I have to prioritise my training and rest,” she said.
“It’s been a busy time. I’ve started a new job as well, so it’s been crazy, but I’m looking after myself.
“Life hasn’t changed too much. I’ve been recognised outside the Co-op and Tesco and one guy knew I was a boxer but thought my name was Rita – so life hasn’t changed too much.
“Moving to this job my manager knows but he doesn’t really understand boxing to know what level I’m at.
“It’s quite nice having a work and boxing life balance, keeping the two separate. Boxing that consume your life, so it’s nice to have a break away.”