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Friday, November 24, 2023

Odelia Ben Ephraim Wins French Featherweight Title

Odelia "Thunder" Ben Ephraim captured the vacant French featherweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Lydie Bialic tonight at Palais des sports in Cahors, France. Ben Ephraim combined a high level of volume with a highly intelligent punch selection in an impressive performance.

The former sparring partners wasted little time before swapping punches. In the second round, Ben Ephraim dipped her left shoulder and connected with a left hook. By the next round, the 24 year old from Blagnac controlled the fight regardless of the range. At distance, she landed sneaky jabs and straight rights over the top of the shorter Bialic's guard. Bialic, a 23 year old from Auch, often loaded up on her shots and Ben Ephraim's well-timed jabs greatly disrupted Bialic's attack.

In close, the former amateur champion of Israel was just as good. She took half steps back and tagged a charging Bialic with short accurate shots. She slipped and blocked a lot of her opponent's forays. In the third round, a trickle of blood escaped Bialic's nose. The next round saw Ben Ephraim dip her left shoulder, but this time a right over the top found the target.

Bialic had a relatively better fifth, landing a couple of hard rights and finally initiating a body assault. She couldn't carry the momentum into the sixth round and took a beating. Bialic exhibited tremendous heart as she pressed forward throwing punches, but Ben Ephraim expertly maintained distance and her fists repeatedly found a friend in Bialic's face.

Odelia seemingly went for the knockout early in the seventh and when it didn't come, she returned to boxing. Late in the round, she pulled off a Mayweather-style pull-counter with a straight right. In the final period, Thunder unleashed a barrage while Bialic was trapped on the ropes and another five-punch combination in center ring..

Ben Ephraim won by scores of 79-73, 78-74, 78-74. She was ecstatic when her name was announced as the victor and jumped for joy. The Jewish Boxing Blog had it 79-73, giving Bialic only the first.

Odelia told The JBB that she was a little disappointed in her performance. She knew Bialic's style from their previous sparring sessions and developed a strategy just for her. The plan was to keep Bialic at range, but Ben Ephraim believes she only managed to effectively control distance in the later rounds. She had been working on changing angles, but didn't show that new wrinkle in the ring.  "It's crazy how you lose so much capacity and so much technique during a fight," she said. "You can be great during sparring, but once you step up into the ring for a fight you can lose a lot of skills."

One weakness of Odelia's performance is she landed very few body punches, which is unusual for her. "We worked a lot on body shots [in training]," she said. She felt Bialic's charging style and ability to get in close took that option away. The plan was to change angles in order to land more body shots, but it didn't pan out this time. Though Ben Ephraim was critical of herself, she showed tremendous skill and intelligence during a high-action fight.

Ben Ephraim hurt her hand early in camp and later twisted her left elbow while sparring, so she couldn't work on her jab for a few days, but she didn't feel any pain heading into the fight. Her record is now 5-2. She has yet to register a knockout, which of course is much more difficult with two-minute rounds. Bialic is now 2-3-1.

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