Natasha Jonas: “It takes a weight off my shoulders. It’s relief I feel I can enjoy the boxing now. At times I felt as though I was losing my sanity chasing world titles.”

Natasha Jonas: “It takes a weight off my shoulders. It’s relief I feel I can enjoy the boxing now. At times I felt as though I was losing my sanity chasing world titles.”

Life was very different in 2018. The fight with Katie Taylor and hopes of winning a world title looked dead in the water. The career looked over, seemingly with nowhere to go, retirement looked the only option. The sensible option. Viviane Obenauf had shocked Natasha Jonas in 4 painful shocking rounds in that Welsh Ice Arena. Jonas was seemingly a fighter broken beyond repair and she told FightPost that it was:

“The lowest point in my boxing career by a million miles.”

Jonas contemplated retirement, but as time eased many things, ‘Miss GB’ decided this wasn’t how her career should end. The road back was tentative and long, but when it neared completion, Jonas had proved many things. It was very much a public rehabilitation, behind closed doors it was a test of her mental resilience. Many demons needed to be vanquished before her rebuild could be completed.

But, bit by bit Jonas rose from the brink. She had a point to prove to others. And more importantly, to herself. Against all odds, Jonas had silenced any remaining demons from her horror night in Cardiff. But one thing was missing, peace in the form of a world title.

The story has been told many times, the near misses against Terri Harper and Taylor seemed to confine Jonas permanently to the bridesmaid role. Being so near and receiving the many plaudits for her displays were not enough. Jonas wanted one final push, but at 37, time was running out.

But finally, Natasha Jonas can now call herself a world champion:

“It has sunk in, in the sense that I am relieved. If I had lost on Saturday I am retired.”

Jonas entered her fight with Chris Namus not only with the vacant WBO super-welterweight title on the line. But also her career. A third defeat on the world stage would have signalled the end of the road. Even Jonas knew her time would be up if she had left Manchester empty-handed. Namus came in at short notice with little pressure on her shoulders, Jonas walked out with everything at stake. Many would have crumbled under the weight of expectation and the pressure of the occasion, but Jonas used it to rise to another level:

“You have take it for what it is. Motivation. There are two ways to deal with pressure like that, it will either enhance your performance or make it worst. For me on Saturday, it was the first one.”

Namus came in late, but the general opinion was that she was a tougher opponent than the intended dance partner Ewa Piatkowska, albeit with concerns about how fighting fit Namus would be after receiving the call-up so late in the day. But all the talk about how fit Namus was or wasn’t shouldn’t take anything away from the performance of Jonas. The Liverpool fighter simply beat who was put in front of her. Make no mistake, Jonas would have fought anybody.

This wasn’t a fight decided by fitness, the right hand that Jonas landed near the end of the opening round was the pivotal deciding factor. Nothing else. Full camp or not, the end would likely have still been the same. The pre-fight expectation was that Jonas would need to navigate through 10 delicate rounds if she was to bridge the gap in size disparity and claim the vacant world title. Fighter and trainer were prepared for and expected the fight to go the distance:

“I didn’t expect it to end the way it did. I was pleasantly surprised when she weighed in lighter, which helped me. I was expecting to be punching someone a lot heavier for 10 rounds. I prepared myself for 10 hard rounds. She had gone the distance with the likes of Dicaire and Braekhus and Dicaire hit her with some really big shots. Joe said to me don’t go into this fight thinking you will knock her out because you won’t.”

Slow starts have cost Jonas before notably in her titanic struggle with Taylor last year. This time the Liverpool fighter told me she had no intention of making the same mistake again:

“I knew I had to make a fast start because it had cost me twice before. And I didn’t want to let her form into any sort of rhythm so I knew I had to take away her confidence straight away.”

Jonas knew she was rolling the dice in moving up to super-welterweight. But with a scientific approach to her training camp and not making the mistake of just fighting heavy, she came in at the weight she felt most comfortable at, just above the welterweight division. But fighters are creatures of habit, worrying about making weight is part of the course. A camp free from those worries still presented a different type of challenge for Jonas:

“The weight wasn’t a problem because I had done my whole camp at that weight. The blessing in camp is that you are not struggling and worrying about making weight. But the curse is half of your mental energy is worrying about the scales. So I was sort of mentally drained because I was just thinking about the fight during fight week. Normally you are also concentrating on making weight, you know you will make weight, but until you get on those scales you kind of panic a bit. But because I knew I was so far under I didn’t matter.”

When Jonas came back to the sport after ending her amateur career through injury after missing out on the 2016 Olympics, it was for peace of mind. The unpaid career had ended prematurely and was one of unfulfillment. Jonas wanted to be able to call herself a world champion, at many junctures since 2018 it looked unlikely. Impossible even. But after the win over Namus, she finally has everything she wanted:

“It takes a weight off my shoulders. It’s relief I feel I can enjoy the boxing now. At times I felt as though I was losing my sanity chasing world titles.”

The split-draw with Harper and the wafer-thin loss to Taylor were both behind closed doors. But the win in Manchester was in front of a sold-out crowd allowing her to celebrate in front of family and friends. Jonas told me it was a special night for her:

“It was 100% special winning the world title on a show like that and with that kind of atmosphere. I couldn’t have asked to have been on a better card. I was a little bit worried about the crowd. When you have a crowd that’s heavily in your favour when you hit an opponent they will cheer, if the opponent starts landing shots they go a bit quieter. But you try that little bit harder because you can be a little bit too eager to please. I remember thinking before I walked out, take it all in a little bit but once I started walking I blocked everything out.”

It was a truly special occasion. Jonas seemed to unleash all the years of frustration in both the fight and in her celebration in the immediate aftermath. It will in truth be a hard night to top:

“Unless I am on another major card like that or a big hometown show in Liverpool it will be tough to top that. But if say I fight Hannah Rankin in the ‘Echo’ that will be huge for me. I will never get that sort of crowd again unless I am on AJ type card.”

When all the obligatory media obligations were out of the way, Jonas returned to her hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning. She was greeted by a never-ending round of hugs, handshakes and the initial heartfelt round of applause. It was a moment that you wished you could bottle up and replay. Jonas appreciated the moment and the love she gets. A fighter who will never forget where she came from. It is the kind of story and Jonas is the type of person that you can emotionally invest in:

“I like to think I am a good person. The messages I got from so far and wide I just think people were willing me to do it.”

Joe Gallagher is a major part of the Natasha Jonas story. Often treated unfairly by many on the outside, but when Gallagher is in your corner, he is in many ways:

“Every session I have done, everything I have been through, all the ups and downs Joe has been there. He’s been through it as well. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said when we drove back from Cardiff after the Obenauf defeat, we were both crying in the car all the way home. I thought my career was over, and Joe said just have time off and think about it. But Joe was crying when he was saying it, it was just horrible. Like I said every track session Joe is there. If I say to him I haven’t got a babysitter, he’ll say just bring her. He just gets me and I can’t thank him enough. Everyone who is close to me messaged Joe saying they know how much it means to him and I know how much it means to him.”

When Jonas walked away from a Matchroom deal and a rematch with Taylor, it did raise a few eyebrows from the usual suspects. But Jonas had a better offer elsewhere. With a dual onscreen and offscreen role on offer, an increase in fighting pay that wasn’t matched, Jonas made the jump to a brave new world. It was a move for financial security in the long-term but there were promises made for the short-term. Jonas still wanted what was missing. It did look as though Jonas would need a little patience, she was prepared to fight anyone to get her into a mandatory position. This observer knows of fights and opponents that have fallen by the wayside, some comments made in ignorance have been way off the mark. Someone once told me, don’t presume you know something. Know.

But Jonas didn’t need patience, very quickly she got the vindication for making the leap of faith to sign with Boxxer. The Liverpool fighter has often felt short-changed in her career, Boxxer delivered in many ways:

“I’m not going to lie it was my biggest payday to date. I have a very good relationship with Ben Shalom. I begged him, kicked and screamed and spat my dummy out and all that. When we sat down to discuss the deal he said it would be difficult but we will get a world title for you. They tried to get fights for me with fighters high up in the rankings nearer my normal weight divisions but nobody wanted it. And when he came to me with this opportunity, I didn’t even ask what weight, I just said who. I just didn’t care I just wanted to fight.”

With the world title now firmly in her grasp, thoughts will turn to what’s next for Jonas. Hannah Rankin the unified WBA/IBO champion was offered a fight with Jonas earlier this year, but now Rankin and Jonas are seemingly on a collision course for a fight that will part unify the division:

“Hannah is a world champion with two belts. She is more natural at the weight and is naturally bigger than me. I respect who she is and I respect what she’s got. But if it comes to me and Hannah fighting she has got something that I want. But I really do admire her, Hannah has been a big advocate for females in sport as well.”

Jonas is probably in her last year in the sport, it could be one fight and done for the former Olympian. A fight with Rankin in her home city would be the fitting swansong, the perfect way to end her career. Boxing rarely does the sentimental ending, it’s not a sport that often lets you leave on a high. But win, lose or draw against Hankin or whoever is next for Jonas, the newly crowned world champion has already had her moment. Seeing the smiling beaming Jonas in that Manchester hotel, giving her time for everyone who was there speaks volumes of the person she is. In her moment of triumph, Jonas was still giving back. That has continued all this week.

The smile hasn’t left and is one of contentment, with a little relief thrown in but also with the realisation that she has finally done it. Jonas now has her world title and her peace. Boxing can do happy endings.

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