WHEN Natasha Jonas pushed Katie Taylor to the wire in a 2021 ‘Fight of the Year’ contender, losing only by the narrowest of margins, she was, at the time, oblivious to the fact the performance would be both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, so thrilling was the fight, and so impressive was Jonas’ showing, many came away seeing the Liverpudlian in a new light, assuming a world title would one day inevitably be hers. Yet, on the other hand, given how dangerous Jonas appeared that night, and given how she so nearly conquered Taylor, the performance also gave prospective opponents every reason to avoid fighting Jonas in the future.
Since that night, alas, Jonas has fought just once [a points win over the 2-11-4 Vaida Masiokaite in November]. She has seen numerous rivals turn down fights with her and has even had to escape her tried and tested weight divisions – super-featherweight and lightweight – in order to seek opportunities elsewhere.
Now, at 37, and with time running out, Jonas looks ahead to a future as a super-welterweight.
“I said to Ben [Shalom, promoter] when signing [for Boxxer], I want to be a world champion,” Jonas told Boxing News. “When we reassessed it in the new year, the landscape looked like this: Terri [Harper] had lost, [Alycia] Baumgardner looks like she’s fighting [Hyun-Mi] Choi, I’m not sure what Maiva [Hamadouche] is doing, Katie [Taylor] is going to be in two fights with [Amanda] Serrano, Chantelle [Cameron] is in the [Road to Undisputed] tournament, and [Jessica] McCaskill is chasing Katie. They are all gone. Those four weights are gone. I have no other option. How he did it I’ll never know, but Ben managed to pull it out of the bag for me to fight at 154 [pounds]. It was either fight there or fight no one.”
Jonas’ first outing as a super-welterweight takes place on February 19 in Manchester. It will be a fight for the vacant WBO super-welterweight belt and it will be against Poland’s Ewa Piatkowska, 16-1 .
“There isn’t much footage of her available, if I’m honest,” Jonas said. “But she’s fought at a heavier weight before and is naturally a little bit bigger. She’s 5’9, so quite tall. Good reach, good long shots. But when you look at competition you always look at their faults and there’s a lot of faults. She’ll look at me and think the same.”
As chief support to the overdue but still somehow compelling battle between Amir Khan and Kell Brook, Jonas’ fight against Piatkowska is a meaningful one and means more than just the belt on the line. It is, for Jonas, an opportunity to rediscover some much-needed momentum and also come away with a bargaining chip she can later use at the negotiating table.
“I’m high-risk, low-reward for a lot of girls,” she said. “I’ve not got a title or anything and you’d be surprised how many people don’t want to fight. I’ve chased a lot of people who are high up in the rankings in certain weight divisions and they don’t want to fight.
“If I win this at 154, I’ve got something to bring to the table and offer to someone like McCaskill. Or I can say to Hannah Rankin, ‘Okay, do you want to unify?’ Win this and I’ve got another step. Right now, I’m sitting here with no steps.
“It is boring just waiting around and seeing what happens. I haven’t got time on my side to do that. I’m not like your Sandy Ryans or your Ellie Scotneys, who have got loads of time. I don’t want to be boxing forever and time is running out for me.
“Don’t get me wrong, there are boxers like [Maria] Lindberg and [Cecilia] Brækhus who fight into their forties, but I don’t know if I’ve got that in me. I’ve got a world title challenge in me and, if I win, a big fight against someone else. But I don’t know how long this can go on for. I don’t know how long I can keep putting myself through it, mentally more than physically.”
With many of the first wave of UK female boxing stars now in their mid-to-late thirties, it is, for some of them, a time for reflection and perhaps even regret. Yet Jonas, still hungry for titles and still learning from rather than lamenting past mistakes, remains both ambitious and determined to be known for more than simply giving Katie Taylor all she could handle in 2021. That fight still irks Jonas, it’s clear, but ‘Miss GB’ is nevertheless backing Taylor to defeat Serrano in April and is in some ways grateful to Taylor, too, for teaching her a lesson.
“I do think Katie still wins, but I think it’s one of her riskiest fights,” said Jonas, 10-2-1 . “I think Serrano is all wrong for Katie. If you look at her amateur record, the people who beat her or pushed her close were all southpaws. In the pros it’s the same. [Delfine] Persoon was a tough, come-forward, non-stop fighter, and that’s also what Serrano is. She does MMA as well as boxing and you can punch as hard as you want but there’s nothing like a kick to the head. She’s tough, she’ll come forward, she’ll be aggressive, and she’s a southpaw. Those things combined make her a problem for Katie.
“Having said that, there isn’t a style Katie hasn’t fought before. She knows how to win close fights. Even in our fight, she won the fight in the last two rounds by throwing one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four a couple of times with 30 seconds to go. It ended up being round nine that let me down. But that was also experience on her part. That was a learning curve for me and I won’t make the same mistake again.”