Terri Harper retained her WBC and IBO Super-Featherweight World Titles with a thrilling split decision draw against Natasha Jonas in a historic main event at Matchroom Fight Camp.
It was the first time that two British women had competed against each other for a Word Title, and the all-action fight more than lived up to the occasion.
In a battle that showed women’s boxing at its finest, Liverpool’s Jonas suffered a nasty cut early on but quickly found her composure and began to trouble Harper.
‘Miss GB’ hurt 23-year-old Harper in the eighth round with a left-right combination and looked on the brink of winning a first World Title at the age of 36.
At the end of a thrilling back and forth contest, the judges scored it 96-94 for Harper, 96-95 for Jonas and 95-95.
“I know I hurt her,” said Harper. “She hurt me a few times. I’m disappointed by my performance but that was only my 11th competition on the big stage. That was a big learning fight for me. I felt it, I felt my legs go, I sucked it up and dug deep for the last two rounds. I knew she was a tough opponent but I didn’t expect her to come out like that! Massive respect. Tasha is someone I looked up to. I could tell the class she had. Maybe I underestimated her a bit.”
“I won the eighth clearly,” said Jonas. “I thought I won the ninth and tenth. It was close. I had myself one or two up. History in the making and it was an honour to share them. She made some statements which I had to prove wrong, to her but to myself as well. All eyes were on women’s boxing and hopefully we made the public proud. One million percent I’d do that again!”
“Jonas was brilliant,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Nobody gave her a chance! Everyone was high on Terri and rightly so. I scored it a draw. But if anyone was going to get the decision it would be Jonas. We have to see that fight again. I know we are talking about unifications and mandatories but you have to do that again. Jonas deserves another shot at the World Title. Jonas was hurt in the second. Harper was buzzed in the eighth. Unbelievable to watch.”
Anthony Fowler looked back to his destructive best as he dominated the tough and game Adam Harper, dropping him in round four before sealing the win with a stoppage in the seventh.
‘The Machine’ had too much fire power for Harper, and will now look towards an explosive Super-Welterweight showdown with Bermondsey’s Ted Cheeseman or a rematch with Preston’s Scott Fitzgerald.
“I should have been more composed,” said Fowler. “I got greedy. I know Shane McGuigan can take me all the away. I am improving. I boxed alright. I started off and I felt good in my shape. I was outclassing him early on. I got a bit greedy and thought ‘he’s got nothing to come back with anything hurtful’. He’s not the biggest puncher. He was quite hittable. I got greedy and I was looking for those big shots. I need more rounds under the lights. The likes of Eggington and Cheeseman are great fights for me. I need to improve to beat them lads.
“I thought the low blows were a bit harsh. They were hitting his waist band. We knew he’d never been stopped. He’d been to Australia, boxed a world ranked Middleweight in Michael Zerafa and went the distance with him. Zerafa couldn’t stop him, I did. I knew I would. As soon as I caught him clean I hurt him. I like the kid. He’s got a lot of heart and a lot of balls. A good chin. Big respect to him and I hope he carries on in the sport.”
“He was sharp and disciplined but got greedy,” said Fowler’s trainer Shane McGuigan. “Some of these tough guys can take shots all day and are accustomed to the power. I want to push him onto Ted Cheeseman or even European level.”
“Eggington, Fitzgerald, Cheeseman,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “It’s time for Fowler to leap in with those guys. Sergio Garcia for the European Title?”
Leeds Featherweight prospect Hopey Price extended his unbeaten record to 3-0 (1 KO) with a composed points win over Sandhurst’s Jonny Phillips.
The 20-year-old, trained and managed by Dave Coldwell in Rotherham, neutralised the early aggression of Phillips to seal a comfortable 60-54 verdict.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” said Price. “I’ve been working with Dave Coldwell over the past year since I turned pro. I sparred with Kid Galahad and Jordan Gill and it has brought me on leaps and bounds. I’m not just a one dimensional fighter. I can adapt to any situation and I think I proved that tonight.
“As you saw through fight week, he’s a pretty hyped up fella and he talks a lot. You see him banging his gloves and banging his chest. I might only be a young kid but I’ve got an old head on my shoulders. I just had to keep boxing and keep disciplined. I did what I needed to do tonight.
“I’ve been training for weeks but I never knew who I was boxing. I prepared for any style. He was a game kid but I dealt with it very well tonight. He started slowing down around rounds three and four. I started putting my shots together nicely in rounds five and six. It was a good performance. He’s a tough kid and he’s never been stopped.”
“The sparring he had with Kid Galahad was invaluable,” said Coldwell. “It’s about learning how to manage. When there is a tornado, don’t go straight into it. Wait for it to blow itself out then get to work. They are the kind of fights to ask questions of Price. You saw tonight that when he is put under pressure by a stronger man, he can handle it.”
Chris Billam-Smith blasted out Cardiff’s Nathan Thorley in two rounds as he successfully defended his Commonwealth Cruiserweight Title for the first time in the opening bout of Fight Camp Week 2.
The 30-year-old utilised his superior size and power, backing up Thorley from the off and forcing ‘Thunder’ to take a knee with a big left hook at the end of round one.
Sensing an early finish, ‘The Gentleman’ resumed his ruthless assault in the second round and clubbing punches again floored Thorley, who briefly fired back defiantly, before a crunching counter punch prompted the referee to wave it off.
The impressive win potentially sets up a shot at the vacant European Title, previously held by Billam-Smith’s gym mate Lawrence Okolie, and Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy could be the man he faces for the belt later this year.
“It was different.” said Billam-Smith. “It was different with no crowd. I’m happy with the win and I’m happy with the finish. I felt like I hurt him in the first round. Not visibly, but you can tell when you’re landing them shots you know. Then obviously I dropped him at the end of the first. I knew the good finish was coming.
“He had a fight back in there but as soon as he had success I knew he’d get reckless so I just walked him onto a shot. I have boxed out in a tent in Brentwood when I was an amateur funnily enough. I got the win then as well. It’s an unbelievable set up. Very different with no crowd and not having my fiancé here. We’re meant to be getting married tomorrow so I’ll send my love to her.
“It’s a completely different and a great set up. It’s wicked. I trust the team. They’ve looked after me superbly so far. We’ll fight anyone. I think I’ve proven that already. If that fight comes for me it’s a brilliant fight. Such a prestigious belt in the European Title. The fights are there. Whatever Shane and Eddie want to do with me, then great.”
“Chris started fast,” said his trainer Shane McGuigan. “I think Nathan’s game plan was to try and take it to the later rounds and use his feet and mobilise. Chris started so fast and hurt him early. His physical size and his punching power, I think he’s a real force.
“He’s been out sparring Mairis Briedis. He only sparred Lawrence Okolie this whole way through camp. The two of them are brining each other on all of the time and I’m really happy with how quickly he’s progressing. I really want to push him on to European level now. The European Title is vacant now that Lawrence has vacated it. I think we could push Eddie to try and get Tommy McCarthy against Chris Billam-Smith for the end of the year.”