Natasha Jonas: Third Time Lucky?
When Natasha Jonas decided to leave the relative home comforts of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing for pastures new Jonas would have known that in the short-term she would have to think outside of the box.
The deal Jonas signed with Boxxer/Sky has obvious financial rewards. Now in the final stages of her boxing career, Jonas has found long term security by way of a developing broadcasting career that looks set to go way beyond boxing. But Jonas still has remaining ambitions left in boxing for her final push in a sport she has graced so well for over a decade. But those ambitions have had to be readjusted while things outside of her control run their natural course.
With Matchroom running their own in-house tournaments to unify weight divisions and other champions tied up where Jonas would normally ply her trade, Jonas has to, at least for now, go down a different route.
The deal with Boxxer comes with many benefits, they have the financial muscle to make things happen when the dust has settled elsewhere, the Liverpool fighter will get what she craves. But for now, Jonas is looking elsewhere in the boxing world. With the WBO super-welterweight title recently becoming vacant, Jonas has found one door that has unexpectedly opened for her.
Poland’s Ewa Piatkowska will square off against Jonas on February 19th on the undercard of the Amir Khan/Kell Brook showdown. Piatkowska will come with the obvious size advantages as Jonas will hope it is third time lucky after the near misses against Terri Harper and Katie Taylor.
Despite fighting in much lower weight divisions as a professional, ‘Miss GB’ does have some experience at the higher weight from her early days as an amateur and is no stranger to sparring sessions in the confides of her gym with much bigger girls. But Jonas is under no illusions fighting at a higher weight will present new obstacles to overcome:
“I know it will be a lot different. It is what it is, beggars can’t be choosers basically. It’s not like I haven’t had spars with people at that weight before. I’ve sparred the likes of Stacey Copeland, Savannah Marshall and others, I’ve come across it loads of times before.“
Jonas will enter the ring in Manchester next month with a body that will not be depleted by cutting weight. The body will be somewhere near her walking around weight, but there will be changes made to her physique. With the February 19th date being in the conversation since well before the Christmas festivities began, Jonas has had time to change what is needed:
“I don’t have to cut any weight. I have to bulk up, I have to turn my fat into muscle basically. It’s no different to what the likes of McCaskill have done really. I would never get in the ring at 154 anyway, just through training you are bound to lose weight. I’m not eating crap and putting weight on, I am eating healthily and just not cutting weight. I have had my eye on this date for a few weeks now so I have been in training camp.”
The previous sparring sessions Jonas has had with the bigger girls have given Jonas some degree of confidence, but equally, the realisation that the game plan has to be one of near perfection:
“I was a little quicker and a little sharper. I do realise I am 9 stone going up they will probably be 12 stone coming down. So I know there will be weight behind their punches so I have just got to be smart.”
The move up in weight has to be one of balance. It’s not just a case of adding additional weight, there has to be science behind it. Jonas is likely to come in much lower than 154lbs, how much she weighs could be crucial to her chances of success. Coming in too heavy could have a negative effect on her ability to go 10 hard rounds. Jonas told FightPost the next few weeks will determine many things:
“I think not draining yourself will have a positive impact on my stamina. But also some might say carrying that bit extra weight might tire you also. At the moment I just don’t know, I will find out more as the spars go on I have only really started sparring this week.”
Boxing is hardly a sport of predictability, the unlikely often becomes the likely, but Jonas, if she wins the vacant WBO title doesn’t plan on staying at the weight for long unless a potential unification fight is on the table:
“I’ll probably vacate straight away. I just want to say I have won a world title. I don’t plan to keep hold of it if I’m being honest unless say another champion like Hannah Rankin is available and everyone else is still tied up then maybe I would fight Hannah just to try and get more belts. But in terms of staying at the weight, it is not where I want to be at. I want to be a champion before I leave the sport and at the moment with everyone else being tied up this is the only option on the table.”
Jonas has always said she wants to win a world title before leaves the sport. Her return to boxing was one of finding peace after an amateur career that was in many ways, unfulfilled. But even a victory in Manchester, won’t completely satisfy the itch. It’s more a case now of not a belt, but the belt.
With a belief that she can beat Katie Taylor, and a body that is far more suited to lightweight, Jonas still harbours ambitions to share a ring with her old rival one more time. There is of course Jennifer McCaskill the undisputed welterweight champion, who is also very much a fighter of interest to Jonas. Taylor looks set to be tied up most of this year with fights with Amanda Serrano, and McCaskill also appears to be chasing a fight with the winner of Taylor/Serrano. So for Jonas, the doors to those particular fights remain closed, at least in the short term, a fact she openly acknowledges:
“I think McCaskill is holding on for the Katie Taylor fight which I don’t think will happen. I think Katie potentially fights Serrano twice, so I think she is holding on for something that won’t happen.”
The one-dimensional critics will point to the fact that Jonas could have had her return with Taylor if she had signed on the dotted line before her switch to the new kid on the block. In simple terms, Jonas had a better offer available to her. An offer that in many ways, was way too good to turn down. Financially better in the short and long term, for Jonas, it was a no brainer, albeit with complications in her boxing career in the immediate future.
But Jonas understands where she is, and what she has to do. Once the 154 run plays out, thoughts will again return to where is most comfortable. With enough money offered and the right timing, the McCaskill fight might suddenly open up for Jonas. A big conclusive win for Serrano might even give Jonas a way back in at lightweight. There are also fights available for Jonas to put herself into a mandatory position at either lightweight or welterweight. She isn’t a fighter without options or hope.
But before thoughts turn to the future Jonas knows she has to deal with the present. The former Olympian might have to play a supporting role to the main event, but it is a pivotal night for Jonas. It might not be everything she wants, but for now, it is all she has. A win is a must, in a fight where literally the weight of expectation is high. The cynics will have their say, but sometimes a little bit of understanding will be preferable before speaking without thinking. A fighter accepts what is offered, the promoter fights for their client, any criticism should be aimed elsewhere.
The fight with Piatkowska is high risk, but it is a calculated gamble and Jonas has been here before. She isn’t afraid to roll the dice. Jonas seems to reserve her best for nights like this.
We have had to wait an eternity for Khan and Brook, but that has belatedly arrived. Jonas is still waiting for her world title moment, but before the two old rivals get to do their thing, Jonas might already have a world title belt around her waist. But knowing Jonas, it won’t be enough to satisfy her:
“I always said a title but I don’t think a 154 title will be satisfying enough for me. I want to be in the mix with the likes of McCaskill and Katie.”
At 37, age is just a number for Jonas. Based on her last two world title attempts she seems to be getting better and Jonas doesn’t appear to be a fighter on the decline. Evidence would say it is the complete opposite. The old Manchester Arena has seen special emotional nights, and Khan and Brook just might have a very hard act to follow if Jonas makes it third time lucky.