Natasha Jonas: Waiting In The Wings
Women’s boxing will be heavily featured in a crowded schedule to close out this year of uncertainty.
The brash confident American Mikaela Mayer gets her first world title opportunity. Also taking place this coming weekend, Savannah Marshall and Hannah Rankin will finally get to settle their own personal feud with a world title on the line. On the same show, two unbeaten prospects, Amy Timlin and Carly Skelly have a Commonwealth title to fight for.
But the big female Matchroom promoted triple-header on November 14th is perhaps the most important card yet in the recent resurgence of women’s boxing.
Three world titles on the line, with Katie Taylor and Terri Harper taking on their mandatory obligations, and Rachel Ball will welcome the Australian Ebanie Bridges to UK soil with the vacant WBA bantamweight title at stake.
One name missing from the forthcoming cards is that of Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas.
Jonas was written off prior to her fight with Harper for unified WBC and IBO super-featherweight world titles. Accusations of being weight-drained, over the hill, no chin, unproven as a professional, Jonas entered the Harper fight with very little expectations.
But Jonas surprised everyone and gave the highly-touted champion by far her toughest fight so far. Jonas can count herself considerably unlucky not to be a world champion herself, after a performance that removed all doubt about her credentials at the very highest level in the professional ranks.
Jonas, despite the long odds, clearly fancied it, and her confidence was not misplaced. Jonas always seemed the fighter having the last word in the exchanges, and badly hurt Harper in the 8th round. At the final bell, ‘Miss GB’ looked the likely winner, but was denied by the judge’s scorecards, a split-draw left one fighter relieved, the other bitterly frustrated.
It was by no means a robbery, I had Jonas 6-4 up in rounds, but Jonas left the ring feeling aggrieved it wasn’t her night, many agreed.
The immediate aftermath saw talk of an immediate rematch, but even then you had a sense it would not happen. Jonas had proved her point, but equally, may have shown herself to be too dangerous, and firmly left in the best-avoided club. Harper will next square off against her mandatory challenger Katharina Thanderz, leaving Jonas somewhat out in the cold.
Jonas took the Harper fight for the opportunity, her purse already on the low end, was cut further because of Covid. The performance against Harper should have seen her value greatly enhanced, few can seriously argue otherwise.
An offer was made to fight the IBF super-featherweight champion and recent Matchroom signing Maiva Hamadouche on the November 14th card, Jonas didn’t deem the offer enough to satisfy. A new improved offer was subsequently accepted, but apparently not in time to feature on the Taylor card.
Matchroom have now virtually monopolised the super-featherweight division, Ewa Brodnicka the WBO champion is also in the Matchroom stable, but she faces a tough task in Mayer this weekend.
Clearly trying the unify the belts is the plan, and Jonas could have nowhere to go, at least in the short-term, could be frozen out. The quest for unification is understandable, but that could take the best part of a year, or even longer. But are deserving contenders like Jonas and others, suppose to just hang around while their division is tied up for an extended period of time. A balance needs to be found, it shouldn’t be about one promoter having their own personal playground.
Mayer could open the door for her in many ways, and the fight with Hamadouche could of course still happen, and that fight might be the best option at super-featherweight in the immediate future for Jonas. But Hamdouche is also on the hunt for unification fights.
Jonas desperately wants the rematch with Harper, but it looks as though she will have to play the waiting game. Harper, at least on the surface, doesn’t seem that interested in facing Jonas anytime soon. If Harper gets past Thanderz, she seems certain to chase the winner of Brodnicka and Mayer, a fight with the American however, might be more problematic to make. Jonas is on the outside looking in, probably relying on other fights not to materialise for her to get back in the mix with Harper.
Katie Taylor could hold the key for Jonas if as is widely expected she holds on to her titles next month.
A rematch of their classic 2012 Olympic battle would be an easy sell. Talk of a fight with the Bellator MMA star Cris Cyborg will continue, but I think it will be just that. But again, Jonas is waiting in the wings to see if the stars align in her favour. But a rematch with Taylor looks far more likely than one with Harper.
Jonas at 36, doesn’t have time to waste, and it would be a shame if, after the latest round of fights, she is again on the outside looking in.
The Harper fight at the very least, left a lot of doubt, and the WBC should, in my opinion, give Jonas another chance at the title, sooner rather than later. Politics and fairness rarely come together in boxing.
Over the coming weeks, Jonas will be watching the action with much frustration, anger even, that she will not be playing a part. The pieces will slowly fall into place, and hopefully, Jonas will get another chance to get what many people thought she was denied last time.