Terri Harper: A New Beginning?
Terri Harper and Sandy Ryan have similar missions on Saturday night, the same destination maybe, but they are coming from totally different places. Harper has been there already and wants to go there again. Ryan seemingly has a one-way ticket to the very top of her sport.
Nottingham will see both fighters take very important steps in their careers. For Harper, the rebuild begins. A shocking, worrying even, defeat to Alycia Baumgardner in Sheffield last year prompted the usual changes after such a crushing defeat. Some were probably more of the subtle nature, another probably an indication of many things. A move up in weight usually follows a devastating setback, often with mixed results. There is no guarantee carrying a few more pounds will result in a few more years at the top. Sometimes moving up is the correct call, but can equally be a convenient excuse.
But Harper seems happier, the frame seems impressively stronger, but the fragile confidence will need time. The manner of the defeat to Baumgardner should not be dismissed easily. Harper looked lost from the first bell, make no mistake it was a horrible night for her, the type of defeat that can linger long in the mind. A little patience would seem advisable.
Was that defeat a result of the body being denied what it needed to compete at this level or a sign of something else? Did we already see the signs back at the original Fight Camp in the summer of 2020? Did Natasha Jonas take something away from Harper that can’t be put back?
The decision to fight Baumgardner after her hand injury and subsequent extended time away was widely criticised. It seemed a tough ask even without the benefit of hindsight. But hopefully, it can be a guiding light to help Harper going forward. They can not afford a repeat. Another defeat and Harper will face an uncertain future.
But with Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano set to decide many things, almost certainly over two fights, Harper has time to grow into her division. The last thing she needs for the present and career longevity is tough fight after tough fight. Boxing is a business, picking the right fight at the right time is crucial. Many a career has been lost by decisions made behind closed doors. If ever a fighter needs a ‘soft’ fight it is Harper.
Argentina’s Yamila Abellaneda is first up on Saturday, and looks a safe enough choice, especially with the late call-up. The original intended opponent Heather Hardy will likely follow later this year. I expect Harper to win both fights, but how she looks in doing so will tell us plenty about her future in her new division.
Once Taylor and Serrano have settled their business, the world lightweight titles will likely be splintered, and Harper will likely benefit. Another world title reign should not be ruled out in such circumstances.
Harper will take her first tentative steps on Saturday night, and it is very much a new beginning. It will tell us much about if it is a road to greater things or a road to nowhere.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing