The Lockdown Interviews: Natasha Jonas
For Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas, a world title opportunity has been a long-time coming. But then in March it finally came, the long-awaited moment finally arrived, and then suddenly it was gone, at least for now.
Jonas was due to challenge the unified world super-featherweight champion Terri Harper in April, but the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic put paid to the fight, and the entire boxing calendar for the foreseeable future. Despite the obvious frustration in the fight being delayed to possibly July, Jonas is trying to stay positive about the situation:
“It was really frustrating, but I can’t dwell on it because I would wind myself up. It is what it is, we can only do what we can do. It is out of my control that is what I am trying to say to myself. I’m not even stressing about it because I can’t do anything about it anyway.”
The wait has been long, and if the fight with Harper does go ahead in a few months time, the atmosphere around the fight will be completely different to being in a packed arena in Doncaster where it was originally scheduled to take place:
“When we do come back it will be behind closed doors and when I win that world title I won’t even be able to cheer and celebrate with my friends and family. But I am a fan person, so like Liverpool, if the choice is winning the title behind closed doors or not at all, then I would rather them win it behind closed doors.”
The hoped return for boxing and indeed the Harper-Jonas title fight is tentatively planned for July. But with the virus still posing a constant threat, and problems preparing for any fights that get scheduled, there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome:
“There are issues around it, we don’t know when the full ban will be lifted. We have to bring in sparring partners, and the logistics around that. Joe (Gallagher) is a carer for his mum, and I do bits of caring for my nan. So there is all that to consider, we don’t want to take unnecessary risks and infect them. The virus more than likely isn’t going to harm me because I am young and healthy, but I can pass it on and I don’t want to do that. We are going to take all the precautions we can, we have bought some testing kits to test our sparring partners.”
Jonas was seemingly on her way to a fight with Katie Taylor, before her upset loss to Viviane Obenauf in 2018. Despite 3 wins since that awful night, there is still much to prove for Jonas. But she thinks the lack of expectation by many pundits will actually help her:
“The pressure is off me, if I lose people will say we already knew that. But when I win, people will then say we didn’t expect that and then I am back in the spotlight. So the pressure is on Terri.”
The loss to Obenauf and Harper subsequently beating the same opponent, could make many think the result is a foregone conclusion, the challenger doesn’t see it that way:
“It would be silly to go into a camp and think I can’t beat her. But I know a way to beat her, and I know they will think the same. They will say they have found a way to beat me, but we will see. I just think I am stronger and more powerful than her. I think she is thinking I am past my best, but I aim to show her I am not.”
The regularity of the daily grind in the traditional boxing gym, and Jonas has had to adapt to a new routine, but she still sees a return in July as being feasible:
“I’m limited to a bike and running. I’ve got a few bits of equipment from my uncles’ gym. But it’s not the specialised gym equipment we are used to. I can only do what I can do. Eddie said he is looking at the end of July, and depending on the issue of sparring partners that I think is a realistic date. He also said he will send over a couple of possible dates.”
The break in the normal grind of training and even life itself, can have a negative impact on a fighter, but at least in some ways, Jonas appears to be embracing it:
“I’m enjoying it, having time with the baby, spending quality time with her. Mentally I’m fine, cooking more and reading more. I’m learning more about my daughter and myself as well, so mentally I am in a good place. Physically I am doing what I can do, I’m not getting stressed because I am not punching or sparring, I can’t spar so there is no point stressing about it.”
Before the lockdown Jonas spent a bit of time at the Next Generation MMA gym in Liverpool, training alongside and even sparring with the likes of UFC flyweight contender Molly McCann:
“It was good to be fair. My brother was there already so it was just one of those things, I thought I would do something different. I was enjoying it, I didn’t have any fights coming up, so I kept on doing it. I was doing it 2/3 times a week until the fight with Terri came about and I then I had to concentrate on my boxing. There were some aspects that you can take to the ring, like manoeuvring your opponent where you want them to be when you are in a clinch. Now that I have actually done it, I can appreciate it a lot more now.”
Jonas despite being 35, might be eyeing up another combat sports career once her boxing career draws to a close:
“Never say never, if the right opportunity came along with either the UFC or Bellator. MMA has shown they know to how to promote and really get behind female fighters, with the likes of Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and others headlining major shows.”
Whatever the future holds for Jonas outside of boxing, her career still has a few more chapters to run yet. After speaking to her three times in the last few months, you can sense the confidence rising from the first time I spoke to her.
The pain of that loss is slowly but surely ebbing away, and replaced by a determination to prove a lot of people wrong, and maybe proving a point to herself.
Jonas told me in our very first interview that she returned to boxing because she felt she hadn’t achieved everything she could have done. A win over Harper and becoming a world champion would be the crowning glory and would cement her already impressive legacy even further.