Boxing’s mix of elation and heartache was captured perfectly when Rachel Ball was announced as the winner of her gruelling bout with Shannon Courtenay on Friday night.
Both Ball and Courtenay struggled to hold back the tears after leaving their hearts in the ring in the dramatic surroundings of Matchroom HQ.
But whilst Courtenay was left heartbroken by the first defeat of her professional career, Ball cried tears of joy after a win which will change her life.
The social worker, 29, booked a week off work to take on the fight of her life and started the week as the 6-1 outsider with the bookies.
By the time the first bell rung, she was the favourite after being backed heavily by family and friends back in her hometown of Aldridge in the West Midlands.
“I’m sure a lot of my family and friends are extra happy – they all owe me a drink when I get back!” Ball said.
“I knew it was because everyone at home and all over the place had been betting on me and believing in me.
“That’s why I was so emotional in the interview straight after because it’s been madness for me how everything has turned.
“I was the underdog then the bookies’ favourite in the end – it’s been crazy and I can’t believe the belief people have in me.
"For me, this has been like a fairytale. I've been whisked away from my normal life to this crazy bubble and I haven't stopped smiling from ear to ear all week. I just wanted this to be my night.
“I’m just so, so happy. It’s been a brilliant week and it’s had a dream ending – I couldn’t have asked for any more.”
Whilst Ball expects to get a few drinks to celebrate her exploits, that is likely to be her most modest reward.
She immediately asked promoter Eddie Hearn to have her back on another show and the mark she made on Fight Camp is sure to lead to more major opportunities.
In the meantime, though, it is back to the day job on Monday morning, with plenty of concealer to cover the damage from her gruelling contest.
“It’s back to work on Monday. I’ve got a 9am zoom call with a lot of foundation and a lot of concealer!
“I’m a social worker for over 65s with dementia and mental health difficulties. I do a lot of care assessment planning, advice and information and things like that.
“It’s hard but I have to do it, I haven’t got a choice. I’ve got bills to pay and at the same time I love boxing, and it’s my dream to be doing things like this.
“I’ve been fortunate to get this opportunity so I need to put 100% into both and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
“I said before the fight that a win could be life-changing, and now I’ve done it I’ve just got to wait and see what happens now and what comes of it.
"I'd love that (to be full time), and I've always got social work to fall back on and I'll always be passionate about it.
"I'm proud of what I do every day and I'm proud that today I've achieved my dream.
“I want to be back here, I want to be on the big stage and fighting. I said to Eddie,’can I come back!’
“He said ‘yeah, of course’, so we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Ball got off to a dream start against Courtenay, catching her much shorter opponent with a well-timed left-hook which put her on the canvas.
At that stage, she was confident of a stoppage but Courtenay came back into the fight and both traded blows throughout eight frantic rounds.
Both thought they had done enough and there was a long, anxious wait before Ball was announced as the winner with a 77-75 scorecard.
“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” she said of her wait for the result. “It’s like they drag it out for fun!
“It’s always horrible waiting but I felt like I had done enough, Gav (Burrows, coach) wouldn’t tell me I had if he didn’t think I’d won it.
“It’s always a nervous wait but it was just an incredible feeling when my name was read out, one I’ll never forget.
“After I got the knockdown I thought, ‘this isn’t going to go eight rounds’, but it did and it was a good fight.
“I need a good watch of it back to analyse it. My corner always push me and Gav is always very critical of me to get the best out of me.
“I’ll have to sit down, have a watch of it and see what I think of it.”
Talk has immediately turned to a rematch with Courtenay.
“I’m open to it,” Ball says. “I just need to see what’s best for my career.
“Boxing is a selfish sport, I need to see what’s best for me so I’ll discuss it with my coach and my manager.
“We want to get a title, that’s what I want, so we’ll see what the next steps are.”
Whilst Ball waits for the rewards of her dream win to come, she hopes her fairytale journey will leave a legacy as she aims to inspire the next generation of female fighters.
“I coach youngsters as well and I’m massively into promoting women,” the former world kickboxing champion said.
“We’ve got to support the girls and if you do see a girl that is just turning pro or looking to go into fighting, just please support them.
“Go and buy a ticket, go and cheer for them, give them a like and give them a message. That’s what we really need in the sport and hopefully what I’ve done can show people what is possible.”
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