Natasha Jonas: On The Outside Looking In
Back in 1982 Sugar Ray Leonard invited Marvelous Marvin Hagler to the Baltimore Civic Centre, with the expectation that Hagler would be about to get his wish. Leonard, coming off eye surgery was expected to announce his return to the ring to square off against Hagler.
But with microphone in hand, Leonard looked directly at Hagler, and instead of announcing the superfight, he announced his ‘retirement’ in a moment that still seems incredibly cruel and cynical even now:
”A fight with this great man, with this great champion, would be one of the greatest fights in history. Unfortunately, it’ll never happen.”
I was reminded of that moment last night, Natasha Jonas was invited along to the party for the female triple-header, sadly not in the ring where she should have been. Jonas is excellent in the punditry role, and once her ring career is over, that surely will form at least part of her future.
Jonas was ringside last night for a reason, or that was at least the perceived viewpoint. Past rivals Katie Taylor and especially Terri Harper sat at the top of the card in another landmark moment for their sport. Jonas was present with the intention to add more fuel to the fire for a rematch with either of her former foes, or so we thought.
A deal wasn’t done in time for Jonas to be part of this show, Jonas has her value, Eddie Hearn couldn’t or wouldn’t meet it. Jonas now seems frozen out of the picture, at least for the immediate future.
Harper was impressive last night in retaining her unified world titles, but in the post-fight interview for the Sky viewers, neither Harper or Hearn mentioned Jonas, which said plenty.
The talk was of unification, and with Matchroom now having all the world super-featherweight champions under contract with the exception of the American Mikaela Mayer, Jonas is on the outside looking in.
The camera panned back to Jonas, she remained classy and respectful, but you could feel the inner pain. It felt heartless, unnecessary as if Jonas was being told you are not part of the picture, and we wanted you here to hear it first hand.
After her impressive performance in August, where she can count herself extremely unlucky not to have left Fight Camp a unified world champion, if Jonas isn’t deemed worthy of being in the conversation, the question needs to be asked why?
Harper has one blemish on her record, the split-draw to Jonas, why isn’t that the priority, to remove all doubt from their classic first encounter. The draw didn’t satisfy anyone, talk of an immediate rematch soon faded into an abyss of smoke and mirrors.
When Kate Taylor remained undisputed soon after Harper extended her reign, Jonas finally got a mention, but it seemed more a passing comment than any real conviction of intent. Other possibilities seemed more attractive than running back their Olympic battle from 2012.
Jonas has to wait and hope that the pieces fall in place in her favour. Harper won’t return until March or April, for many reasons Jonas is highly unlikely to be in the opposite corner.
There are the other champions, the WBO champion Mikaela Mayer, also outside of the Matchroom bubble, might be the more likely option. Mayer to, might see herself not being invited to a seat at the table. The unbeaten American badly wants Harper, like Jonas, she may have to wait. A Mayer vs Jonas fight works for both. Mayer to do the job on Jonas that Harper couldn’t do, Jonas to get a belt and to be let back in. A fight of mutual benefit and convenience.
A fight with Taylor does seem the more viable option for Jonas, certainly in comparison to another meeting with Harper, and Taylor as at least mentioned that possibility herself.
Jonas of course would have met Taylor before now if she had not lost to Viviane Obenauf back in 2018. Now Jonas has redeemed her reputation with the performance against Harper, Taylor has a more than willing and credible dance partner on her legacy quest. But sadly, I feel again that Jonas will be left frustrated when Taylor reveals her next opponent.
Whatever happens in the next few months, the political games will hopefully resolve themselves, and the path clears for ‘Miss GB’ to get back where she belongs. It will require patience and compromise, negotiation works both ways.
Jonas proved her point in August, picked for a reason then, ignored and avoided for many more now.