Fight Camp Week 2: The Bar Has Been Set
By Matt Lewis
Tonight, less than a week after the first card of Matchroom’s Fight Camp series, the Sky Sports cameras will return to Matchroom headquarters in Essex for the second instalment.
And if it is anything like the first, we are in for a cracker. A well-balanced and competitive card was topped by a barnstormer between Sam Eggington and Ted Cheeseman, with the latter doing just about enough to take a close decision in a fight of the year contender. Can lightning strike twice?
Terri Harper vs Natasha Jonas (WBC & IBO female super-featherweight world titles)
Terri Harper makes a maiden defence of her WBC and IBO super-featherweight titles against Natasha Jonas in what is rightly the headliner.
This is the first all-British female world title fight in history, another big step in the right direction for the women’s code and for British boxing in general.
Despite the novelty of the occasion, you might think this was a foregone conclusion; both the bookies and the public favour Harper to make a big statement.
Both women have had the same number of fights, but Harper is undefeated having beaten better opposition, including the woman who stopped Jonas inside four rounds, and a bona fide, experienced world champion in Eva Wahlstrom. She is younger by 13 years, is tested over the 10 round distance and is walking her talk both in and outside the ring.
Jonas, meanwhile, looks like a fighter who knows this may well be her last shot at history. Jonas at 36 years old, won’t have the same edge as the fighter who won bronze at the London Olympics 8 years ago.
Her three victories of 2019 haven’t banished the ghost of her 2018 knockout loss to Viviane Obenauf, and the sense that she can get caught has lingered ever since. Her power could be a factor – 7 of her 9 wins ended early – and the Olympic bronze medal is evidence of her skillset.
Jonas upsetting the odds isn’t beyond the imagination, but she will need to keep up with Harper to do so, and that could prove a huge ask. Expect the champion to pull away after hotly contested opening rounds and take a wide decision after a thoroughly enjoyable fight.
Chris Billam-Smith and Nathan Thorley are two men looking for a bigger introduction to the wider boxing world, and there is no better opportunity than facing one another for the Commonwealth cruiserweight belt on a televised card.
Billam-Smith bounced back from his only loss to win the belt last time out, and a win would establish him as a good domestic name in the division.
Thorley did his best work at light heavyweight, where he won Commonwealth bronze in 2014 and the Welsh Area title 3 years later. But poor opposition otherwise, and appearances at cruiser and then at heavyweight following a year-long layoff, cast suspicion over his readiness for 12 rounds.
Billam-Smith’s better opposition, appearances on arena shows and quality sparring (Mairis Breidis, Lawrence Okolie etc) make him the favourite going in, and possibly to force a stoppage late on.
Anthony Fowler continues his return to the top against Adam Harper over 10 rounds. The former Olympian has won three on the spin since his split-decision defeat to Scott Fitzgerald, and a fourth would surely bring the highly anticipated rematch to within touching distance.
Harper is a useful opponent; the Central Area and English champion will see this as an opportunity of a lifetime, and an impressive performance could secure future appearances on Matchroom’s big events.
But he hasn’t enjoyed a single knockout in his 9 victories to date, and it is therefore hard to see how he keeps the marauding Fowler, who has many, at bay.
Harper is tested over the 10 and 12 round distance, however, and a spirited performance may see him go the distance again, but he will need something spectacular to emerge with a win.
Youth Olympic gold medallist Ivan ‘Hopey’ Price opens the show against Jonny Phillips.
In a fight scheduled for 6 rounds. Price is only two fights into his pro career but he has featured on the biggest stages (appearing on Katie Taylor and Anthony Joshua undercards), and a win for him on Friday will continue to persuade Eddie Hearn that that is where he belongs.
Jonny Phillips doesn’t present the greatest of threats – his 5-4 record isn’t Hall-Of-Fame material – but he shared the ring with world title challenger Stephen Smith and took him the distance over 6 at the end of 2019.
Price should nevertheless make it three wins from three without too much difficulty, but doing so inside the distance would be a good night’s work against a never-before-stopped opponent