Natasha Jonas looks to enhance her legacy in the sport when the Liverpool fighter makes a homecoming defence of her welterweight championship against American Mikaela Mayer at M&S Bank Arena on January 20.
There was a time when you could have been forgiven for thinking that Jonas was destined to fall short of professional glory. The first female British fighter to qualify for the Olympics fought to a draw against then-super featherweight champ Terri Harper in 2020 before being outpointed by lightweight queen Katie Taylor the following year. She was agonisingly close twice.
However, instead of being disconsolate over these setbacks, Jonas made an unexpected jump from lightweight to super welterweight in 2022. The quick-fisted lefty finally reached world title glory by smashing former champ Chris Namus for the vacant WBO crown.
She then outpointed Patricia Berghult and Marie-Eve Dicaire to unify WBC and IBF titles, and also picked up The Ring Magazine championship. If that wasn’t good enough, Jonas dropped down to welterweight in July and disposed of Kandi Wyatt to pick up the vacant IBF title.
It’s that very championship that Jonas will be defending against Mayer on Saturday and her confidence is visceral. “I just think that everything she does I do better,” Jonas told The Sporting News.
“She’s got good boxing IQ, she’s got good footwork, she’s got good hand speed, and she puts her shots together well. But I just think everything she does, I’m better.
“I know she’s bigger in stature, but when we’re talking about strength, I don’t think she’ll be physically stronger than Dicaire. When we’re talking about work rate, it’s probably equal to Terri Harper. There’s no one I haven’t fought like that.”
As well as being pound-for-pound entrants, Jonas and Mayer share another thing in common. Both fighters have come up through the divisions in a hurry.
After suffering her first professional setback at the hands of Alycia Baumgardner in a 130-pound unification fight in October 2022, Mayer targeted a move north. In 2023, the ex-champ outpointed Lucy Wildheart at lightweight and was even more dominant against Sylvia Bortot at super lightweight.
Mayer is now poised to make her welterweight debut, some 17 pounds north of where she held IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine titles at super featherweight. It’s a big jump and Jonas has been there and done it.
“Your style of boxing changes because you’re a lot heavier and you’ve got to adapt to carry that extra weight around,” said the champion. “Imagine yourself running a time and then me putting two ankle weights on you. It’s virtually impossible [to make the same time] unless you’re super-human.
“She will take time to adapt, but one thing I will say is that she’s no longer struggling to make the weight. Sometimes half the battle in camp is getting yourself down to weight and she’ll have less weight to get off, if any. But that battle and that stress is gone.”
It seems like only yesterday that Jonas was competing in the 2012 Olympics in London and it’s hard to believe that she will turn 40 years old in the summer.
However, while some fighters may lose speed or sharpness at that age, there has been no discernible dip in terms of Jonas’ quality or form. She looks as good as she ever has.
“There’s definitely still a hunger there, especially with these big fights,” said Jonas when questioned about her advancing years. “That’s the main thing – mentally you have to want to do it. Your body can do anything as long as your mind is with it.
“I said to (trainer) Joe [Gallagher] that this was the first time in a very long time that I’ve had that fear factor and that hunger back in my belly. That’s what I wanted.
“That fear factor brings out the best in me. It’s not going to be easy. I know it’s going to be tough. I’m preparing myself for the best version of her because I have to be the best version of me and more.”
As well as being a two-weight world champion, Jonas has a thriving media career and she’s a very proud mother of an eight-year-old daughter. However, being one of the best female fighters in the world today gets her no special treatment at home.
“I only ever got kudos from my little girl when I went into her school,” recalled Jonas with a smile. “I took my belts in and done a little assembly for the school. That was the only time everyone was like, ‘Mela, is that your mum?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, yeah’, but other than that, I get no recognition at all in this house.
“She loves my little sister, Nikita Parris, who plays football. She’s more concerned with her than me. To her, I’m just boring old mum.”
A lot of things could happen in Jonas vs. Mayer, but it certainly won’t be boring. Should the champion come through in style, she wants to continue making matchups against her pound-for-pound peers. Former opponent Katie Taylor and Chantelle Cameron are two of the biggest names on that list.