Natasha Jonas: “I am at the point now where I am sick of looking back, I just want to look forward.”
There are recurring themes whenever a Zoom interview with Natasha Jonas is scheduled. Despite several reminders throughout the day she is always late to dial in, and when the connection is finally made, her patented smile always seems to make you forget however long the wait was this time. But in recent times the smile has in truth been a little forced. Behind the smile has been pain, frustration and at times, more than a hint of rage.
There is far more to the story of why fights at Fight Camp and more recently in Liverpool fell by the wayside. It has been difficult for Jonas, she has said very little for many reasons, she wants to say more, but sometimes less is more. Read between the lines, everything you need to know is already there. The background whispers of prejudice and ignorance can only hide so much. A distorted truth isn’t the whole truth. While not being able to give her side of the events in full has been frustrating, Jonas told FightPost she is keen to move on and leave the past behind her:
“It’s been frustrating only because I don’t think people get the full picture. But I am at the point now where I am sick of looking back, I just want to look forward and move on from it now. No matter what I say, people still say Eddie was right, it’s Joe’s fault. So there is no point now if you are in that mindset where you have already made your mind up and you are not even prepared to take on board what I say then I am not wasting my time or my energy, I’m over it now.”
But in the past few weeks, the smile has returned at full beam, it is forced no longer. Jonas has a new deal, free from the politics of the past, on a pay grade she is happy with, a new long term career up and running and still with that burning ambition to finally achieve her peace inside the ring. Jonas is happy with her life, and trust me, that hasn’t been the case in recent months:
“I’m boxing and I get to talk about other people boxing. I am learning a new role obviously with the commentating and other stuff but it’s nothing that is out of my depth, so what is there not to like. I am sure if I asked all the Facebook and Twitter people and the likes of yourselves if they would like a full-time job writing reports or talking about boxing and with a good wage they would all want to do it, of course, they would.”
Jonas is only a few weeks into her new job with Sky and Boxxer but there is already a reality her life is suddenly very different. Most of us take our lives and job security for granted, secure employment should be a given, for Jonas, it is something refreshingly new:
“It’s more than I expected, I never thought I would get to a position where I would be long-term employed and not just self-employed. I’ve always got by with doing bits and bobs like the punditry or doing sessions anywhere and everywhere. You get a different type of confidence and security knowing that you are getting a regular wage.”
When you have been frozen out and with options to leave it all behind Jonas could quite easily and understandably have walked away into the sunset and started a new life beyond the ropes. But Jonas came back to the sport for a reason, for fulfilment and for inner peace. Jonas has yet to find what she is looking for and even at 37, retirement wasn’t a consideration despite all the behind closed doors issues:
“I didn’t want to pack it in for the simple reason I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to and that is my main motivation for keeping going. If I had beaten Katie Taylor I would have called it a day 100% there would have been no reason for me to carry on.”
Jonas has been more than vocal about being paid what she feels she is worth. Deals and fights have been lost in those bitter negotiations. But fighters now have options, more than one place to ply their trade at the top level. Competition means more money for the fighters. Jonas is an obvious beneficiary of the new times. Boxxer and Sky recently joined forces, and ‘Miss GB’ sees the obvious benefits of more promoters coming to the party:
“The more promoters, especially on big platforms like DAZN, BT and Sky, that there are is obviously better for the athletes because there is more competition for your services and you will be paid a higher wage. It is good for the other promoters too because it has kind of been monopolised with who goes where and who gets the best talent, the pick of the litter. Look at the Olympians that are turning over now they will be on a lot better deal than the ones who turned over in 2016. So it is a lot better for the athletes and that’s good.
“There are people who think the fighters should be happy with what they are given. Then there are certain athletes who don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. And there are fighters who say how it is once they have left the sport. Some don’t want to speak out because they don’t want it to affect their careers.”
With just two fights in two years, Jonas has made no secret of her intentions to get active once again. Fight dates have come and gone but finally, Jonas was back in action on November 20th in a hastily arranged short-notice fight against Vaida Masiokaite in London. The Lithuanian was very much the opponent, nobody connected with the fight tried to promote it as anything it wasn’t:
“I’m not under any illusions as to what it was, it was just a comeback fight. It was what it was, I wasn’t supposed to lose, she wasn’t supposed to win. It was about getting some rounds in, getting a bit of ring rust off, a bit of money before Christmas, that’s all it was. It wasn’t me trying to claim beating her would make me a mandatory for someone else. Hats off to her as well, she didn’t have to take it either. We tried to get better opponents but it didn’t work out, 10 different fighters turned the fight down for different reasons. She was supposed to fight Caroline so she was available, it was what it was.”
Jonas knew she would get some criticism from the usual suspects for taking the fight and there were initial doubts about whether to take the fight or not. But with the fight only being mooted on 6 days notice, only confirmed on the Wednesday before the fight, and even then the search for a more ‘suitable’ opponent was still ongoing, the level of the fight was always going to be somewhat restrictive.
But Jonas got out of it what she needed:
“I’m glad I took the fight now, mentally as much as anything. To keep doing them camps with no fight at the end of each camp was like a never-ending story. Now I feel like I have earned my rest.”
Jonas went the full 6 rounds, and after her usual slow start, she found her range and timing in the final two rounds. Jonas told FightPost that her slow start is nothing unusual for her:
“It’s been a constant problem since I turned pro and has probably cost me a couple of fights. I like to see what they do and see where I can see the gaps or certain feints and it takes me a couple of rounds and then I think right I have stored all that information and after the 3rd round I get better. I’m working them out that’s what I like to tell myself anyway.”
It is now a short period of rest for Jonas before the chase for the so-far elusive world title begins once more early next year. There are options out there and with Jonas expressing her desire for big fights in multiple weight classes, those options are not as limited as some might suggest:
“I would say I will fight again in February. I know that’s when Sky are planning some big cards and introducing some new fighters. It’s nice to just be able to tick over and have Christmas off and then start again properly after that. It will be a big fight with someone who is half mandatory for a title I would think. I think that’s why MTK put it out there asking who I should fight next and why I did as well. I want to see who people want to see me fight. It’s good to get a general consensus on who people think I should fight, I’ve got my own list and it isn’t too dissimilar to who people are saying. The likes of Baumgardner, Mayer, Choi, Katie, McCaskill and Persoon, a fight with Persoon would be a very good fight you know.”
In many ways, Jonas now has options. The TV work will expand into other sports as will her onscreen boxing role. Sky have big plans for her, Jonas perhaps has bigger plans for them.
But Jonas is still very much in the moment. The boxing career still has plenty of life. The fight in February should put her right where she wants and where she feels she belongs. With a win, a third crack at a world title becomes very much a reality. After her narrow defeat to Taylor in May, Jonas said she might always be destined to be the bridesmaid, but 2022 brings real hope that narrative could be about to change.