Harper Suffers A Devastating Setback In Sheffield
The night was a slow burn, a long way removed from the game-changing narrative that continues to be pushed despite the lack of real validity. It needed a conclusive and dramatic ending to save the show. We got that and more.
It ended in a way that nobody could have seriously predicted. It was savage, brutal and a painful reminder that careers can change in an instant. Any talk of unification is, for the time being, dead in the water. It might now be a case of serious talk about the future. Trust me, it was that kind of night.
In the main event Kid Galahad lost his title against a challenger that looked made for him in many ways. Kiko Martinez at 35 was the veteran and widely considered the safest of options. But the Spaniard hadn’t read the script. Martinez saved his career at this level, in a seismic shocker of an upset.
But the fight before had put the seeds of doubt in the air. Sweet Caroline could have easily have been replaced by a little bit of Phil Collins.
Terri Harper came into her comeback fight with talk of unification fights and beyond, but her night ended in heartbreak and with tough decisions to make going forward.
Alycia Baumgardner had that air of supreme confidence all week long. She had the look that she knew something we didn’t. Baumgardner came with a reputation about the power within her fists, that reputation we now know was very much justified.
Harper has had a torrid year or so. The mental scars of the close call with Natasha Jonas would have been hard to extinguish. Two different hand injuries, the subsequent operations, the year-long lay-off, it always looked like a tough ask for Harper. The decision to face Baumgardner was a brave one, but equally a questionable one. A foolish one even.
Boxing is a business, but even before hindsight, this looked like bad business. The sort of decision where careers are changed, maybe forever. Picking fights is an important art, not always noble, but it is the crucial skill to a fighters development and career trajectory. Last night, they got it wrong. Badly.
Right from the opening bell, Harper looked lost and out of her depth. A difficult opening round for Harper set the tone, very quickly it had the look that this wouldn’t end well for the WBC & IBO super-featherweight champion.
It got worse, much worse, in the 2nd round. Harper was badly hurt and did well to survive. The American continued her dominance in the 3rd, the big comeback was becoming a nightmare, very soon Harper would become an ex-champion.
Early in the 4th round a big right hand practically knocked Harper out on her feet. It brought back memories of when Floyd ‘Jumbo’ Cummings did the same to Frank Bruno all those years ago. The bell saved Bruno that night, there would be no respite for Harper.
The referee Mark Lyson acted swiftly, and as bad as it was, it could have been a whole lot worse. It was the perfect intervention. Harper appeared frozen in time, her night was done, her future now uncertain.
There is the rematch clause. There always is. As much as I understand the need for the promoter to protect his financial investment but the manner of any defeat for the ‘home’ fighter should determine if any rematch is immediate or even happens at all.
Harper would be well advised to swerve that rematch, at least for the short term. Shattered confidence is hard to get back quickly, she would be served better to let the likes of Baumgardner and the impressive Mikaela Mayer get a little closer to undisputed and start that slow rebuilding process elsewhere.
It would be unfair to write Harper off after just one defeat, it could end up being the making of her. If she needs inspiration Harper could look at her old rivals return to form after a shocking loss.
Jonas suffered her own night of devastation to Viviane Obenauf. But the Liverpool fighter eventually recovered, but it took a few fights before the old spite returned. On the evidence of last night, Harper needs time and plenty of it.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing