Less a week after its maiden show the back garden of the Matchroom headquarters is again the scene as Sky Sports televise the latest Eddie Hearn offering from Matchroom Fight Camp live this Friday.
Atop this bill in Brentwood, Essex sees a World title clash that was originally scheduled as a homecoming for Denaby Main’s Terri Harper (10-0, KO5) back in April.
The Doncaster Dome was set to be the scene for Harper’s first defence of the WBC Super-Featherweight crown but that contest, along with several others, bit the dust in the wake of the global pandemic.
Harper now tops the bill at Hearn Towers against former decorated amateur, Natasha Jonas (9-1, KO7), and the bout is the first all British female World title fight.
Harper has grown in stature and ability seemingly with every contest she takes part in under the tutelage of Stefy Bull.
‘Belter’ has crossed over from novice to prospect to World champion.
A professional since November 2017, Harper picked up the IBO International Lightweight belt in just her sixth fight with a dominant tenth and last round stoppage win over Nina Bradley in Barnsley.
With the full backing of Bull, Harper managed to secure home advantage in Rotherham in July last year to pick up the vacant IBO Super-Featherweight title, knocking Nozipho Bell down twice en route to an eighth round stoppage win.
This win got the attention of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, who signed Harper to a promotional deal that began with an impressive first defence against Viviane Obenauf in Manchester in November 2019, with Harper coming through widely on the cards.
Hearn was keen to move 23-year-old Harper quickly, and three months later, Eva Wahlstrom was enticed to Sheffield to defend her WBC strap against the Yorkshirewoman.
It was a competitive battle, but Harper, aided by a seventh round knockdown, unified the belts with a big points win.
Now Harper defends the famous green belt in a domestic dust up that has recently become more than a bit spicy.
There have been claims and counter claims, stemming from Natasha Jonas’ trainer, Joe Gallagher, claiming that Harper had been knocked out cold in sparring, a claim strongly denied by Team Harper.
“You know boxing, news travels fast” said Gallagher in an interview with Sky Sports. “Someone mentioned to somebody in the gym that Terri got done in sparring. She got knocked out, that’s why they’ve stopped sparring.”
This seems a bold claim by Gallagher, especially as Harper has since been sparring and training with Jason Cunningham, a man who took Michael Conlan ten rounds as recently as December 2018.
Counter claims from the Harper camp points to a stamina issue with Liverpudlian Jonas, with their belief that Jonas has struggled to get past four rounds.
‘Miss GB’, Jonas, has only lost one pro fight, but has swiftly found herself at a career crossroads since being sensationally defeated for the first time in August 2018.
Jonas was a standout amateur, winning medals at both European and World Championships, and became the first British female to box at an Olympic Games in 2012, eventually losing out to the great Katie Taylor in the last eight.
Jonas, 36, turned professional in June 2017 after reversing a retirement decision following the birth of her daughter.
She quickly moved to 6-0 with five knockouts, but was stunned in her seventh outing by Viviane Obenauf.
The Brazilian down three times in all on the way to a shock fourth round stoppage win.
Jonas has won three on the bounce since, against much inferior opposition, and her last appearance came in November 2019, a second round stoppage of the 3-3 Blanka Majlath in Liverpool.
Prediction: Harper looks better with every fight and training camp, whereas time isn’t Jonas’ friend in an unforgiving sport where time waits for no one.
‘Belter’ has a great engine and stamina in abundance, and I think she will take Jonas into deep waters here.
After a competitive first four rounds, I think the fresher Harper can take over down the stretch, and my pick is for the champion to score a late stoppage win.
With the Matchroom Fight Camp series being full of competitive fights, there’s a decent looking scrap at Cruiserweight, where Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith (10-1, KO9) defends his Commonwealth crown for the first time against Cardiff’s Nathan Thorley (14-0, KO6).
29-year-old Billam-Smith has flourished under Shane McGuigan and his only career loss remains a thriller with Richard Riakporhe at the O2 Arena in July 2019.
Billam-Smith was floored in the seventh round, and in the end rallied and ran out of time to mount a comeback in a split decision setback.
Chris rebounded in Liverpool four months later, picking up the vacant Commonwealth belt in a crossroads fight with the talented Liverpudlian, Chris Glover. ‘The Gentleman’ dominated, flooring Glover three times on the way to a fifth round stoppage win.
In Nathan Thorley, it’s a bit of a step into the unknown, as the Welshman has not been exposed to this type of level.
Thorley is unbeaten though, but has only moved up to Cruiserweight in his last two fights, having served as Welsh Light-Heavyweight champion in December 2017.
The pick here is for the talented Billam-Smith to halt Thorley around the halfway mark.
Another intriguing clash comes over ten at Super-Welterweight, where Anthony Fowler (12-1, KO9) continues his rebuild against former English champion and former Commonwealth title challenger, Adam Harper (9-1, KO0).
Fowler continues to chase a rematch with his only conqueror in Scott Fitzgerald, and he has won three on the spin since that March 2019 setback.
Harper hasn’t fought since September 2018, where he won the English title in a majority decision win against Billy Bird.
Adam comes out of retirement to face Fowler, and a pumped up ‘Machine’ now under the guidance of Shane McGuigan, can halt Tewkesbury-based Harper before the fifth here.
In an eight rounder at Lightweight, Oldham’s Aqib Fiaz (5-0, KO5) takes on Birmingham’s Kane Baker (13-6, KO0).
Rounding off the card is Ivan ‘Hopey’ Price (2-0, KO1), who takes part in a Featherweight attraction.