WBC junior lightweight titleholder Terri Harper was set to face Natasha Jonas in a first title defense on Apr. 24 from the Doncaster Dome, which would have seen the popular rising star Harper headlining a DAZN and Sky Sports card for the first time.
The COVID-19 pandemic put that card off for the time being, but the fight is still planned for this summer at some point.
Harper and Jonas spoke with Eddie Hearn from home for an ePress Conference on Thursday to discuss the fight ahead of them. (Boxing has really gotten into this “e” thing lately, which to me feels super dated for, like, the early 00s or so, but that’s about boxing’s speed of keeping up with the world at large, I suppose.)
“I’ve finally been able to take my foot off the gas a little bit,” Harper said of lockdown, adding that she’s been able to reflect on what she’s achieved. “It has been strange training in the garage, but I’ve been enjoying it. Personally, I don’t think it’ll take me that long to get into the swing of things.”
The 23-year-old Harper (10-0, 5 KO) said she’s been able to spar a bit with Jason Cunningham, a local veteran and former Commonwealth bantamweight titlist — and more important, like Jonas, a southpaw.
“I’m not rich enough to shop at Tesco yet,” Harper joked of her rising fame and popularity in Yorkshire. “But it’s nice. The whole village and the surrounding villages really got behind me, and I think (when I won the world title) in Sheffield, the whole village was there. It’s nice to have the support I have behind me, and it’s growing every day.”
Jonas (9-1, 7 KO) is the older fighter at 35, and has suffered a pro setback with an upset loss to Vivane Obenauf in 2018. She’s won three straight since in bounce-back six-rounders, and is hoping to deliver on the promise she had coming out of the 2012 Olympics, where she lost to Katie Taylor in the quarterfinals.
“I think with Obenauf, in boxing, you can get caught, and I got caught,” she said of her loss. “I was there physically, but I just hadn’t recovered. It was a shock to me more than anyone. Out of every loss I’ve ever had, it was the most painful. I’d never been stopped in my whole career.”
Jonas also admitted she did consider that the loss might have just been the end in boxing for her.
“I am getting on — don’t wanna say old, but I am getting on,” she chuckled. “I did think, ‘Am I past it?’ But there’s always something in boxing that keeps you coming back, and I haven’t achieved what I wanted to, and I believe that I can.”
Jonas continued, “I respect the way she’s come through. She hasn’t come from the big amateur background and had a TV deal from the start. She’s got herself to that point. She’s hungry, but I’m hungrier.”
Harper also fought Obenauf, winning a decision in Nov. 2019 in Manchester.
“I was there on the night, and I was the first to congratulate Terri,” Jonas said as Harper nodded. “I think it was a great performance, and obviously I was sitting there thinking, ‘Why didn’t I just do that?’
“I do respect her. I think she’s young, I think she’s hungry, she’s quick, she’s got a good engine. But no disrespect, I just think I’m better.”
Harper asked why Jonas thinks that, noting that Obenauf faced Jonas on short notice, whereas she had a full camp to prepare for Harper, and Harper still beat her. “The facts are kinda not really showing it,” Harper said of Jonas’ claim.
With Hearn needling Jonas on, Jonas stated she believes there’s nothing Harper does that she doesn’t do better. Harper said it’s the same belief from her side.
“You have to have that belief in yourself,” Jonas said. “Otherwise what’s the point in doing it? If you think you’re gonna lose, what’s the point?”
Later, Jonas talked about the life-changing potential of a win in this matchup, and the progression of women’s boxing for the general public.
“That’s why there will be no stone left unturned,” Jonas said. “For British boxing as a whole, it’s good to have two females. When Sky put out the Tweet (about this fight), there was only, like, one or two negative comments about this fight. And I thought that was a status to show how far we’ve come. A couple of years ago or in Jane Couch’s era, there’d be lots of negativity, but we’ve come that far to where people understand it’s that much better.”
As for the potential of losing her title and momentum, Harper
“Obviously you’re gonna have them thoughts, ‘What if? What if?’ But you can’t dwell on them too long,” Harper said. “I’m enjoying this journey that I’m on and I don’t want to end, and it’s not going to end.
“I’m going to be beating girls like Tasha to go to the next level. I’m not overlooking Tasha, but for me, I want to become undisputed at [junior lightweight].”
Harper vs Jonas will be coming at some point this summer on DAZN and Sky Sports.