EXCLUSIVE: Natasha Jonas is out for ‘revenge’ as she fights undisputed champion Katie Taylor on Saturday… and the Olympian opens up on her shock defeat to Viviane Obenauf and the inequalities that remain in boxing
- Natasha Jonas and Katie Taylor fight on Saturday night at the Manchester Arena
- Taylor emerged victorious when they last met at the London Olympics in 2012
- The Irishwoman’s WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight belts are on the line
- Jonas believes she can exploit Taylor’s faults exposed by Delfine Persoon
In August 2012, Natasha Jonas and Katie Taylor went toe-to-toe in the quarter-finals at the London Olympics, in a bout that fashioned such excitement that the heated crowd inside the ExCel Centre generated more noise than any other event at the Games at 113.7 decibels, more than the human pain threshold is designed to withstand.
It was Taylor who emerged victorious on the day, with the soon-to-be superstar going on to win the gold medal. But nine years later, Jonas has her opportunity for vengeance, as the pair fight for Taylor’s complete set of lightweight belts on Saturday night on the undercard of Derek Chisora vs Joseph Parker.
Jonas proved her world-level credentials with a stunning performance against WBC super-featherweight champion Terri Harper in August last year, in a bout that was scored a draw – despite many believing it was the Liverpudlian who edged it.
But in Taylor, Jonas faces a different proposition altogether. Since they last fought, Tayor has emerged as a star of not only women’s boxing, but boxing as a whole. The 34-year-old is unbeaten in 17 fights and is considered by many as the greatest female boxer of all time.
It’s a sentiment Jonas both acknowledges and agrees with, but when it comes to fight night, there will be just one thing on her mind – revenge.
Natasha Jonas (left) lost to Katie Taylor (right) when the pair met at the 2012 London Olympics
‘I think accolades speak for themselves, and it’s only Katie or Claressa Shields that you could choose as the pound-for-pound No 1, maybe Amanda Sorrano,’ Jonas told Sportsmail. ‘Katie deserves the title in my opinion.
‘There’s just that bit of revenge that I’d love to get, though. There’s always been an expectation that we would meet again somewhere down the line. It’s probably a bit later than we thought, but it’s happening and that’s the main thing.
‘To have any belt in boxing is an amazing achievement, so to have four – and especially the WBC belt – would mean everything to me.’
The respect is clearly there, but Jonas is not taking part just to make up the numbers. This is a fight the 36-year-old is hell-bent on winning, particularly after watching Delfine Persoon cause Taylor all sorts of problems in both of their two fights.
‘Persoon showed that Katie’s human and that she does have faults,’ Jonas explained. ‘I think I’ve got a better shot selection than her. My power has always been one of my strong points and I think that benefits me more in the pro game.
‘The fact that I actually have lost will also help me. Sometimes carrying that 0 can be a burden, but I have been in deep waters and I’ve come back out with that extra bit of resilience.
‘You go in against the legend that is Katie Taylor and you expect to be the underdog, but that has always worked well for me.
‘It means there’s no pressure, and it’s a fight I really do believe I can win. Whether other people believe it or not doesn’t matter. I just need to believe it.’
Jonas put in a stunning performance against WBC champion Terri Harper last year
The fight came two years after Jonas’ shock defeat to Viviane Obenauf in August 2018
Jonas began her emphatic bounce-back with a points victory over Feriche Mashauri
While Jonas has successfully clawed herself back into contention, it looked to many as if her hopes were dead and buried when she suffered a shock stoppage defeat to Viviane Obenauf in 2018.
Jonas lost her undefeated record, her WBA international super-featherweight title and the chance to fight Taylor once more in a match-up that had then been mooted.
But this was not the time to give up. Despite becoming the first-ever female British boxer to qualify for the Olympics, winning five national titles and claiming a bronze medal at the world championships, Jonas’ amateur career left her feeling unfulfilled. And upon returning to the sport after a three-year hiatus and having a daughter, one setback wouldn’t keep the Olympian down.
‘There are things about my amateur career that I feel I should have done and didn’t quite achieve,’ Jonas explained. ‘That was a big factor that made me come back to boxing. With victory, I could finally draw the line and say I’ve done it, I’m happy.
‘I didn’t want to leave it like that after the Obenauf defeat. That ate away at me because of the manner it happened. It had never happened to me before, so I was heartbroken for a very long time.
‘I would have been incomplete if I left it like that. I still have that burning desire to be complete and I just don’t feel like I am at the moment.’
A then-retired Jonas was on commentary duty as Taylor made her debut in November 2016
Victory over Taylor would seal an almost poetic turnaround for Jonas. After hanging her gloves up in 2015, it was only after commentating on Taylor’s debut that Jonas thought about returning to boxing. Now, it’s the woman who in in many ways kick-started her comeback who stands in the way of glory.
‘It was only after Taylor’s debut that the old Team GB captain Tom Stalker suggested I came back,’ she explained. ‘At first, I just said “oh shut up”.
‘There hadn’t enough money to actually make a living out of it at the time, you’d have to train around work. I was also a brand new mum and you’re just so stressed about doing everything perfectly.
‘But by the time Katie fought, my daughter was around 18 months old and in nursery. I was self-employed and doing what I needed to and, when I thought about it, I thought what’s actually stopping me?’
Taylor’s WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight belts are on the line on Saturday night
Four years later, Jonas finds herself on the precipice of greatness. She made history once more last year, when she and Harper were involved in the first-ever all-British female world title fight as they headlined the second weekend of Hearn’s Fight Camp.
She continues to break the mould now. The announcement of the bout was met with excitement, but also genuine disappointment that this wasn’t the headline fight in what Jonas believes was a watershed moment for the sport.
‘It shows how far women’s boxing has come,’ she said. ‘People are asking why we aren’t topping the bill, where previously they were asking why we were on the card at all.
‘Even 18 months ago I don’t think that would have been the case, and it just shows the standard of women’s boxing and that people are enjoying it.
‘I’ve said it before, we’ve crossed the barrier now and got rid of the opinion that it’s just women’s boxing.’
The perception among the public has certainly now shifted, but structurally, Jonas insists there are prevalent inequalities that still remain.
‘One of the reasons why we didn’t get the rematch with Harper is that I didn’t agree with what Matchroom was offering,’ she said.
‘I’ve made it known that the structure of the pay just isn’t fair. Eventually, I would love it to be equal, but at the very least it needs to be fair.
‘I think as a female boxer in the sport now, if you’ve got a platform and a voice you should use it. And you shouldn’t be scared of retribution if you do.’
Jonas has certainly been a pioneer for women’s boxing throughout her career, but on Saturday night she faces her biggest challenge yet. And while the decibel levels will be lower with no fans in attendance at the Manchester Arena, Jonas would make a wave of noise with victory.
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