This Friday, Aug. 7, streaming live on DAZN in the United States and airing on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, Terri Harper returns to the ring in week two of Matchroom’s Fight Camp series, headlining in a WBC 130-pound title defense against Natasha Jonas.
Bad Left Hook will have live coverage starting at 2 pm ET (7 pm BST) on Friday, and today our staffers make their picks for the main event.
We’ve said, and seen said elsewhere, that Natasha Jonas’ pro career hasn’t gone as expected, based on her big amateur background. And it’s true she’s a well-schooled amateur, fought at London 2012 where she lost to Katie Taylor, won bronze at the 2012 World Championships, bronze and silver at the 2011 and 2014 European championships, etc.
But she didn’t turn pro until 2017, when she was already 33. And for such an accomplished amateur at an advanced age, her level of opposition was pretty awful until she fought the scrappy gatekeeper Viviane Obenauf in Aug. 2018, which was Jonas’ seventh pro fight. Obenauf rattled Tasha up but good and stopped her in four. Jonas has since stepped the competition way back again and won two more fights in 2019.
My feeling at this point, with respect to what she did accomplish as an amateur, is that the people handling her pro career have known very well that there are some sincere limitations to her. She wasn’t being asked questions at all until she fought Obenauf, and Obenauf may have provided answers that they were scared of going in.
Harper does not have a big amateur background, but at 23 she has stormed the pro ranks, and Matchroom took notice and got behind her. They clearly believe in her in a way I don’t think those behind the scenes have ever truly believed in Jonas, in all honesty. While you can look at Jonas’ career and wonder if people weren’t a little scared to put her in tough, or even kinda tough, that’s just not the case for Harper. Terri had a few nothing fights early, as most fighters do, but was facing halfway decent pros by her sixth fight, beat Obenauf in her ninth fight (after Obenauf had beaten Jonas), and then was aggressively pushed into a world title fight in her 10th pro bout, where she handily defeated Eva Wahlstrom to win the WBC title in February.
On paper, at least on page one, this is a potentially very interesting matchup, youth vs experience or whatever. But if you turn a page or two, I lose faith that Jonas has any real chance at beating Harper, who is younger, much fresher, far more energetic, has shown a good gas tank, has shown a bit of power, and is fully invested in her boxing career. Jonas is now 36 years old, has seemed half-in for a while, hard to say if she’s ever been truly, 100 percent in on a pro career, in all honesty, and has expressed, somewhat quietly, the fact that she knows boxing isn’t going to last forever. She may have half a foot out already. And in all reality: who actually has the better pro experience? It’s Terri Harper, not Natasha Jonas, and frankly it’s not close. I don’t think the fight winds up being very close, either. Harper TKO-6
Terri Harper is a pretty well-skilled technician, sporting a pretty tight jab and some decent enough head movement. I mean, she has a tendency to keep her head in a straight line more than I’d prefer, but honestly her defense is much better than, say, Miranda Adkins.
Natasha Jonas is a southpaw who might give Harper a look she’s not fully comfortable with, but she sometimes throws her left hand shots with a tell and that could make all the difference against a capable opponent. I’m not convinced of either woman’s power, so I’ll take Harper with the more refined technical ability to outpoint Jonas over the distance. Harper UD-10
Patrick L. Stumberg
I’m honestly not clear on how Jonas is supposed to go about winning this. Her standard attacking style plays right into Harper’s hands, as the latter excels at slipping out of range of incoming fire and doing quality work with her jabs and 1-2s. Where Harper can struggle is when she’s forced to lead, as Eva Wahlstrom demonstrated, but Jonas is horribly ill-equipped to exploit that weakness. The last time Jonas tried to fight off the back foot, Viviane Obenauf bulldozed her with far cruder punches than the sort Harper can dish out.
The same Obenauf that Harper utterly dominated the following year, I might add, and one of only two opponents with winning records that Jonas has faced in her career.
With a totally empty record and no clear avenue of victory, this question is less whether Jonas will win and more whether she’ll stay on her feet for all 10 rounds. Harper thoroughly outclasses her for either a wide decision or late finish. Harper UD-10
It’s hard to ignore the experience of Tasha in this one. The challenger has seen it all, boxed around the world in empty halls and will be no stranger to the “us against the world” mentality she’ll need to harness on Friday at the silenced Fight Camp. Things might not have gone completely to plan in the pro ranks, and her 2012 Olympic contest against Katie Taylor – where she pushed the Irishwoman all the way – feels a long, long time ago. Trying to trade her way out of trouble against Obenauf (a fighter Harper dealt with comfortably) has set her back in her quest for world honours.
We still don’t know how good Harper is. The 23-year-old was close to chucking it all in and settling for a life behind a fish and chip counter, but Matchroom have backed her and thrown opportunities her way. The champion is busy, hungry, quick to the punch but isn’t exactly a puncher – just technically sound and seems to do most things right. I’d like to see her chin tested by Jonas, but the disparity in age and freshness may be abundantly clear on Friday.
Jonas has never gone past seven rounds and will probably struggle with the energy of the champion. Her power could ask questions of Harper. I’d like to see Jonas get through this one and get close to the upset – I’m still not convinced she’s a 6/1 dog as listed. Harper UD-10