Natasha Jonas: A Story of Perseverance
Boxing is built on lies, honesty is forbidden fruit. Many fighters are lost in delusion, trapped by denial consumed by their own ego, in many ways, they have to be. Many fighters crumble when they get beat, once the cloak of apparent invincibility has gone, they are reduced to being a lesser fighter. Lose and they are often never ever the same. Something is lost that can never be put back.
Natasha Jonas was perceived to be that kind of fighter when Viviane Obenauf shocked her in 2018. Humbled and beaten badly in 4 rounds, there were tears and many of them. The ride home from Wales was long, a devastated heartbroken fighter feeling that she was done, finished in a sport that rarely does sentiment or second chances. The safety of her hometown couldn’t come quick enough. The career looked over, Obenauf had beaten her in a manner that appeared there was no coming back from. Jonas returned to the sport for peace, it looked as though she had got anything but.
But through the darkness that followed something did change for Jonas. Instead of crumbling, a gentle rebuild eventually began. It was far from easy, the fight to beat the mental scars that Obenauf left took time. But Jonas proved she was different, a rare gift of resilience beyond normal levels.
Jonas not only rose from the ashes of despair, she came back better. But sometimes even that isn’t enough. It still looked like a story without the happy ending. Jonas wanted a world title for that inner peace. She was more than unlucky against Terri Harper in August 2020 in an attempt to win the unified world super-featherweight titles. Jonas was written off against Harper, everyone remembered Obenauf and forgot everything that came before. Only denied a deserved victory by two judges who saw something many didn’t. Jonas was left a different kind of heartbroken.
But ‘Miss GB’ had proven something to those that had written her off, maybe even more to herself. The fighter seemingly assigned to the boxing scrap heap had somehow risen to become a serious threat once again. Maybe too much of a threat. Talk of an immediate rematch with Harper soon gave way to the usual case of smoke and mirrors boxing throws up all too regularly. There are many different ways of avoidance in boxing. Jonas now needed patience.
Jonas for many reasons, was left on the outside looking in. But the call finally came and the Liverpool fighter had the opportunity to challenge her old amateur rival Katie Taylor for the undisputed world lightweight titles last May. Again, Jonas came close, two judges only had her losing by a point. Make no mistake, Taylor was at her best in Manchester. She needed to be.
Like the fight with Harper, Jonas had given us another fight of the year contender. But Jonas still hadn’t found her peace, the many plaudits she received didn’t give her what she needed the most. From resilience to patience it was now perseverance Jonas needed. And a change of scenery.
There was talk of another fight with Taylor, but as the negotiations dragged on, Jonas received a better offer. And one that couldn’t be matched. There were backstage wranglings akin to the Gunfight at the Ok Corral, but Jonas had found long-time security with Boxxer and Sky. But one thing was still missing, that elusive world title.
With no immediate route back to another world title opportunity at her more natural weight, Jonas had to look elsewhere. Above and far beyond her comfort levels. When the WBO super-welterweight title became vacant, in many ways, Jonas stepped up.
On an emotional night in Manchester in February, Jonas finally did it. All the frustration was unleashed on Chris Namus. It nearly ended in the opening round. It wouldn’t last much longer. When Namus was stopped just seconds into the 2nd round, Jonas finally had what she craved.
Not so long ago Jonas had limited options and seemingly nowhere to go, she now has them in abundance. A unification fight with Scotland’s Hannah Rankin looks next, and if successful, a possible fight with boxing royalty Cecilia Brækhus could follow. Even a flickering Twitter beef with Claressa Shields could have led to more. It still might.
To gauge how far someone has come, you need to look where they once were. Jonas has come further than most. A career that once looked dead in the water is now one with the precious world title. And there could be more. Jonas has never been one to settle for what she has.
Jonas has that security with a multi-year broadcasting contract with Sky that runs alongside her deal with Boxxer. But there is still ambition left in the fists of Jonas. There are big fights for her in the short-term at super-welterweight, but there is still unfinished business with Katie Taylor and a desire to test herself against the likes of Jessica McCaskill. For many reasons, Taylor and McCaskill might be improbable. But it is by no means impossible. Where there is a will, there is a way.
The career eulogy has been put on ice since 2018, some will already have written their words waiting for what they percieve to be inevitable. But Jonas had other ideas. She has made them wait. A story of perseverance, and so much more.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer