Heartbreak for Terri Harper as she loses world titles to Alycia Baumgardner
Terri Harper suffered heartbreak on her return to the ring as she lost her world titles and unbeaten record with a vicious stoppage defeat to American Alycia Baumgardner in Sheffield.
Successive hand injuries had kept the Denaby Main fighter out of action for one day shy of a full year and there certainly seemed to be an element of ring rust as she was undone in less than four rounds.
This was far from the Harper that had rapidly risen to WBC and IBO super featherweight world title glory and the status of one of the top female fighters in the world.
The superb engine, resolve and tenacity were noticeably diminished and it was difficult not to look back and ponder the significance of her looking gaunt during a round of media interviews a week prior to the contest.
Questions over her condition continued through a ring walk lacking in natural energy.
This was a bout the 25-year-old was fully expected to win as a stepping stone to the world title unification bouts that her injury woes cruelly put on the backburner.
But it quickly became clear Harper would be in for a tough night against a game and confident opponent.
Baumgardner was quicker from the opening bell and she was getting to Harper, who seemed to be hurt in the second round with an overhand right.
Harper appeared to be growing into the fight in the third but her night was over inside the first 30 seconds of the fourth when caught with a huge right hand.
She did not go down but was out on her feet and dangerously vulnerable. Referee Mark Lyson reacted quickly and superbly to step in and wave the fight off.
Harper spoke candidly about the development of her self-confidence during her year out of the ring and she will need that assurance as she looks to bounce back from her first defeat.
A rematch clause is there to be activated but there are undoubtedly issues to be addressed before she steps back in the ring with Baumgardner after a thoroughly off-colour performance.
Earlier in the night there was disappointment for Bentley's Jimmy Joe Flint who was outpointed in his attempt to claim the vacant Central Area welterweight title.
Opponent Dom Hunt took the contest 98-93 on the card.