Terri Harper to put lessons into practice in second world title defence

Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas do battle back in July. Picture: Mark RobinsonTerri Harper and Natasha Jonas do battle back in July. Picture: Mark Robinson
Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas do battle back in July. Picture: Mark Robinson
For a boxer, the title of world champion is as good as it gets.

It is a validation of years of hard work, an acknowledgment from your peers that you are, quite simply, the best in the world at that moment in time.

It does not mean, however, that you are the finished article, as Terri Harper can attest.

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The 24-year-old from Doncaster scaled the mountain top in February when she won the WBC and IBO super featherweight titles.

But six months later she nearly lost it all, taken to the ‘deep waters’ as she puts it, by Natasha Jonas in a controversial draw.

Perhaps lucky to still have those belts to defend against Katharina Thanderz of Norway at Wembley Arena tonight, Harper accepts she still has much to learn.

“I was involved in a tough fight and it was a big learning curve for me, but these are the fights you need to take you to that next level,” Harper said.

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“It kind of brought me back down to reality, made us all come together and look at what we need to work on.

“That was my 11th professional fight, I’m nowehere near finished, I’ve still got a lot of learning to do.

“Even on Saturday night there’s going to be things I’m going to kick myself for and wish I’d have done better but you’ll never know until you get in the ring and have that experience.”

The experience against Jonas in the ‘Fight Camp’ series in Eddie Hearn’s back garden in August, can certainly be labelled as the toughest of her career.

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Jonas, the Olympic veteran given one last shot, used all her ringcraft to draw the much younger Harper into a bloody battle.

“People say this was a great fight for women’s boxing,” gushed men’s heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua afterwards. “I think this was a great fight for boxing as a whole.”

Just thankful to survive, it took Harper a while to appreciate the magnitude of the occasion.

“The fight with Tash was a hard fight and I kicked myself for days after it,” she remembers.

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“When I watched it back there were things I was doing wrong, but equally, there were things I was doing well.

“I’ve just got to remember myself that Rome was not built in a day. I’m not perfect, I’m going to make these mistakes.

“For me the biggest mistake was allowing myself to get dragged into that fight. I’m a long-range boxer, but everything went out of the window and I got dragged into a dog fight.

“Tash took me to those deep waters. I got chin-checked in the eighth round, I got buzzed in a fight for the first time, I had to learn how to survive. I’ve been taken to those deep waters now, I know I can do the rounds.”

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Of the lessons to be learned from the Jonas experience, one was in her preparation.

She went back to her manager and trainer, Stefy Bull in Conisbrough, and said ‘let’s get a strength and conditioning coach in’.

“We were doing a lot of stuff old school, I was coming in and just doing my own strength work, I was literally winging it,” she admits.

“But we’re at that level where we cannot be doing that now. I’ve got sponsorship money there to be used and invested in making me a better athlete.”

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A rematch with Jonas is on the agenda, but first a chance to get back on track against Thanderz, another fighter not to be taken lightly given she is an unbeaten former European champion.

“I’m excited, I’ve had a good camp, I know everyone says that but I really have,” says Harper. “We’ve made a few changes with the strength and conditioning coach coming on board and I’m looking forward to putting that hard work into practice.”

It is not just the opponent she is having to get used to, though, it is the differing environment.

Last time it was in Matchroom promoter Hearn’s garden; this time at an empty Wembley Arena. All a long way from the support she receives at the Doncaster Dome.

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“The last one really got to me a bit, I think because it was a big domestic fight,” says Harper, whose fight on the undercard of the Katie Taylor-Miriam Gutiérrez world title fight will be made free to air by Sky Sports on their YouTube channel.

“This one is a lot more chilled, maybe too much, because I’ve got to keep reminding myself that I’m fighting. I’m dealing with this fight a lot better than I did the last one, I think it’s because everything was so unknown. I know a bit more what to expect.”

Of the occasion, and of herself.