Natasha Jonas: New Opponent, Same Goal, Same Dream
It wouldn’t be the normal Natasha Jonas way if there wasn’t at least some kind of drama leading up to one of her fights. The opponent might have changed, but the goal and the dream remain the same. Jonas will now have to get through Chris Namus if she is finally able to call herself a world champion. The original opponent Ewa Piatkowska contracted Covid and in the process forced her off the big Manchester Sky Box Office show this coming weekend.
The Uruguayan steps in at short notice and will face Jonas for the vacant WBO world super-welterweight title in the chief support to the long-awaited domestic grudge match between Amir Khan and Kell Brook. Namus brings experience, aggression and natural size, and despite the late call-up, she will undoubtedly present Jonas with considerable obstacles to overcome.
But Jonas goes into her third world title under no illusions about the size of the task ahead. The skills are with the Liverpool fighter but size is often the great equaliser. Victory will require an almost flawless game plan.
If history is against Jonas, at least in part, ‘Miss GB’ enters the fight in the form of her life. Gone is the fragile-looking fighter of old that we saw in the Viviane Obenauf upset in 2018, a night in Wales where her career looked dead in the water. The signs of fragility were still evident in the early stages of her comeback until the spite and confidence slowly started to filter back into her game.
The opportunity to fight Terri Harper in 2020 came not only because of availability but because she was expected to lose. But Jonas more than proved her worth, and she was only denied by the judges’ scorecards. Make no mistake, Jonas deserved better than the split-draw. For me, Jonas won beyond any reasonable doubt. Judges are paid to find the rightful winner, too many times they get it wrong. That was one such fight.
There was far less controversy when Jonas and Katie Taylor served up another classic encounter last May. But it was close, too close for Taylor. Too close for Jonas. Harper and Jonas was good, this was better. Another fight of the year contender was of little consolation for Jonas, on a night where she again proved her class but again went home empty-handed.
A little workout before Christmas against the perennial show saver Vaida Masiokaite helped shed the ring rust accumulated in the contractual backstage stand-off that restricted her activity last year.
There has been some criticism about the world title opportunity given to Jonas in a weight division she has never competed in as a professional. There is some merit to the argument, if rankings are to mean anything, in a perfect world, they should be used to decide who fights for a vacant title. But any fault here lies with the WBO and not with Boxxer, Sky or Jonas.
Boxxer has done their best by their new client, are they really expected not to pursue opportunities for Jonas just because boxing isn’t as pure or as holy as it should be. And should Jonas turn down a world title fight because other fighters have an issue with her being given that chance? In boxing, money talks. It always has and always will. And people forget that Jonas has been a victim of boxing politics since the Harper fights. Two possible fights have slipped away as a result.
This is no easy night for Jonas. Namus will bring pressure, and more. For it to be third time lucky, Jonas will probably have to win it on points and she might have to navigate the fight with much delicacy. She might have to ignore her natural fighting instincts and become in effect, a boxing pickpocket.
To beat Taylor, I thought it was vital Jonas got off to a good start. But she was too slow out of the blocks, an admitted flaw, and it cost her in a fight of small margins. Against Namus, a good start is probably even more important.
Jonas might have to win the early rounds with the minimum of effort, but with enough clarity to remove any doubt, to preserve the stamina against an opponent who has a style that will make Jonas work for any success she gets.
As she says herself, Jonas won’t have to go looking for Namus and Jonas doesn’t waste punches, and the aggression could very well work against Namus. The Liverpool fighter will look to pick her shots, the uppercut could be a key punch for her. I don’t see Jonas wanting to get involved too much, despite the skills she has on the inside. Too long in the pocket, the weight difference will be more pronounced.
But I do think Jonas has to plant her feet a little in the opening rounds to send an early warning to her opponent that she can’t march forward without consequences. Jonas will have to put doubt in her opponent’s mind that the smaller fighter has enough pop on her punches to command respect at the very least.
It is a fight with much intrigue, in many ways, a fight of the unknown. Jonas could be too classy, Namus could simply be too big.
The manner of any victory could decide where her future lies. The manner of any defeat could determine if Jonas has any future left in boxing. An Important night with pivotal implications.
Jonas has stepped out of her comfort zone, but she will head to Manchester in a good place both physically and mentally. The transformation since that horrible tearful night in Cardiff has been quite remarkable. She has grown as a fighter, maybe even more so as a person since that horror fight with Obenauf. Sometimes in life, you have to reach rock bottom to reach the summit.
A world title is the summit for Jonas. It’s why she came back to the sport. It’s her inner peace. The first time she tried she was unlucky, the second time she was desperately close, Jonas will hope at the third time of asking, she will be the bridesmaid no longer.