Eva Wahlstrom has had a strong run as WBC 130-pound titleholder, dating back to 2015, winning four title defenses through 2018.
But the 39-year-old Finnish fighter has had a bit rougher of a go since then. She moved up to 135 pounds in Dec. 2018, where she was shut out and outclassed by Katie Taylor. Keeping the belt at 130, she returned to defend it last August against Ronica Jeffrey in Las Vegas, and went to a 10-round draw in a fight that very easily could have gone to Jeffrey.
Given her age and those two recent appearances — she also did win a non-title tune-up bout in late November back in Finland, mind you — it’s reasonable to suspect we’ve seen the best we’re going to see out of Wahlstrom (23-1-2, 3 KO), and that the time may be right for someone to rise up and take her belt.
23-year-old British fighter Terri Harper (9-0, 5 KO) is counting on it when the two meet on Saturday.
“Eva has been around for quite a long time. She’s got a lot of ring experience, she’s been in with some top girls,” Harper said ahead of the fight. “But I feel like it’s the right time for me to come through now and challenge myself against Eva, and prove to myself that this is where I belong.”
Harper, who turned pro in late 2017, has been featured on a few Matchroom undercards already, officially signing with the company last fall ahead of her Nov. 2 win over Viviane Obenauf, a solid 10-round performance. It was that day in Manchester, with Harper winning on her 23rd birthday, that promoter Eddie Hearn surprised her by announcing in the ring that terms had been agreed to face Wahlstrom.
It’s a big step up for Harper, but the skills seem to be there. Trainer Stefy Bull, who also promoted most of her fights thus far, believes she’s special. And Wahlstrom agrees that Harper has the goods in spite of a relative lack of experience.
“I think she is really good, in many ways,” Wahlstrom said this week. “Even though she is quite young, I think she is a really smart boxer. She’s technical, well-trained. I think she acts very professional already. I’m sure this will be one of my toughest fights.”
Denaby’s Harper admits that there are some butterflies ahead of the fight, which is by far the biggest of her career and her first crack at a world title that anyone recognizes outside of press releases.
“There’s a few nerves there, just because of the big occasion, but there’s a lot of excitement for me,” Harper said. “I’m in a proper fight on Saturday night and I get the chance to test myself. Obviously the WBC world title is up for grabs. I’m going to go in and give it all I’ve got.”
When you look at this card, Wahlstrom-Harper does line up as a potential show-stealer. The main event between Kell Brook and Mark DeLuca isn’t expected by many to be very competitive, and while Kid Galahad vs Claudio Marrero is a meaningful fight at featherweight, Galahad has never been known for his action style.
Harper, on the other hand, has shown a lot of in-ring determination and a willingness to force a fight, but she’s also facing a new level of competition. Wahlstrom, meanwhile, may have faded a bit, but can still fight. We’ll see if experience or youth win out on Saturday.