Joe Gallagher: “It would be a shame if Natasha Jonas didn’t get to become a world champion.”
Eddie Hearn said before Natasha Jonas challenged Katie Taylor for the undisputed lightweight titles on May 1st, that he hadn’t seen Joe Gallagher so confident about a fight before. Despite the odds, Gallagher and indeed Jonas were supremely confident that they would win. Jonas would ultimately just fall short, but only after another heroic effort in yet another potential Fight of the Year contender. Gallagher was surprisingly accepting of the result:
“I’ve watched it back, it’s what you like. I can see Katie winning, I can see Natasha winning and I can also see it being a draw. Round 9 was an important round, Natasha allowed Katie to kid her out of it a little bit. One judge had it level after 6 rounds, another had it level after 7 rounds, I had it level after 8, I gave the 9th to Katie and the 10th to Natasha. It’s very much what you like, the flip of a coin. I do think it is a fight people want to see again especially with a crowd.”
For once the judge’s scorecards seem to reflect what transpired in the ring, too many times recently we have had cards that bear little resemblance to what most observers see. There were certainly more than a few swing rounds, some seeing it one way, others another, all perfectly reasonable and acceptable opinions. But however it was scored round by round, the general consensus of opinion was that it close enough, maybe a draw or a round either way, to warrant talk of a rematch sooner rather than later.
But as ever in boxing, the waters are not clear. The recent hand injury to Terri Harper, and the subsequent withdrawal from her planned super-featherweight unification fight with Hyun Mi Choi, Jonas inadvertently might now benefit from the unfortunate and untimely injury to Harper. But Gallagher sees the rematch with Taylor or a further move up in weight more likely:
“It depends what they do with that. It would be really good for Natasha to fight Choi. But I’m not sure they would risk that, I don’t think they want any part of Natasha, so the rematch with Katie is more likely or we might have to move up to 140 next.”
Jonas despite coming into the fight labelled washed up, a supposed weight drained fighter, suspect around the chin and being a big betting underdog she fought Harper to a draw last August. Many saw Jonas as the winner, but she had to settle for a bitterly disputed split-draw. Despite the post-fight talk of an immediate rematch, Harper went a different route, leaving Jonas no option but to do the same. Gallagher is convinced the Harper return is remote at best and sees chasing a rematch with Taylor as her best option:
“You have to remember that in both fights Natasha was the away fighter. She was the away fighter against Terri and the away fighter against Katie, the scoring tells you a lot, imagine if she had been the home fighter. Eddie Hearn and Stefy don’t want to put Terri anywhere near Natasha. They avoided the rematch, they want no part of her. Terri is a good fighter, but she came up against Natasha who could punch and there is no way in the world they would risk it. In my eyes, Natasha should just be gunning for the rematch with Katie and that’s it.”
Having had the pleasure of speaking to Jonas numerous times over the past few years, the change in her has been nothing short of remarkable. Jonas went from being one win away from a fight with Katie Taylor to being written off and being consigned to the boxing scrap heap. The surprise loss to Viviane Obenauf in 2018 left Jonas seemingly on the road to nowhere. But the Liverpool fighter has bounced back in a way few would have imagined, and Gallagher thinks we still haven’t seen the best of Jonas:
“Natasha was in a bad place after the defeat to Obenauf, it wasn’t a good performance but it was a lesson learned. It’s been a long road back but she has proven herself. She was a big outsider against Terri but she proved herself. Some were saying that Katie would stop her in a few rounds, but again she proved herself. Natasha is on a learning curve as a fighter, a fighter can think they know it all, they stop learning and stop investing in themselves. But Natasha is doing a lot of reading, some good Wellbeing stuff, she has a thirst for knowledge and she is as good as I ever trained. She’s at the peak of her career now and I can only see her getting better.”
There has been some level of resentment at calls for Jonas to be granted another world title opportunity after two unsuccessful attempts in recent months, but there are exceptions to every line of thought. After the scoring controversy arising from the Harper fight and the level of performance against Taylor, Jonas has more than proved herself at world level, another title chance certainly wouldn’t be that undeserving:
“It would be a shame if Natasha Jonas didn’t get to become a world champion. There is nobody more deserving, she hasn’t been given an easy road, she has had to fight two good fighters. Natasha has just got world championship quality about her. The way she acts, the way she fights, she throws good body shots and has a good boxing brain.”
Gallagher himself has a relentless schedule, early starts long days, a non-stop lifestyle. There is always another fight, another training camp to organise. The daily pounding his body takes, the admin side of his job few will see, little time for the things the rest of us take for granted:
“You don’t get no time for yourself. I was in the Callum Smith bubble, then the Natasha/Marcus bubble, now we are into camp for Hosea Burton and Paul Butler, other fighters have now got dates, it’s non-stop. We’ve just been talking about what weekend we might be able to have a bit of a holiday.
“I’m up early in the morning. Depending on who is in for training I go to the gym, I do all my paperwork, emails, I touch base with everyone. We do a gym session that finishes around 2. Then I return any missed calls, then we are back for the second session, be it on the track or swimming. Then we could do a later session depending on who’s fighting. Sometimes you are not getting home until after 10 in the evening, that could be 5 days a week, Saturday you might be at a show, Sunday you might be in for sparring. It’s been very hard these past 10 years or so having a stable of around 12 championship fighters. Having some great nights, maybe 4 on one show, 3 on another, week in week out. But there is a lot of wear and tear on the arms and the body, mentally as well. We have achieved an awful lot over the last 10 years, you only get out what you put in, the results speak for themselves.”
Gallagher, the 2015 Ring Magazine trainer of the year, has received many such plaudits and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The hours are long, in many ways, painful ones. But even his critics have to admire the passion he shows for the fighters under his wing. The admiration and respect he has for Jonas is obvious, and something his fighter reciprocates. Jonas might be coming into the twilight years of her boxing life, but with a willing body and a mind that still craves a world title, the perfect ending for both, is still very much within reach.