Natasha Jonas relates to Elliot Foster a story that will resonate with many of the people out there suffering from fear and uncertainty right now
“I’m not looking forward to playing teacher for the next three months.”
That was the opening admission from Natasha Jonas when we had a chat at the back end of last month.
The 35-year-old boxer and mother had just received the news that her WBC title challenge against Terri Harper would be postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Four-year-old daughter Mela is Jonas’ priority while there is no gym access allowed under government guidelines around Coronavirus, and home-schooling is proving more difficult than was first expected.
“Physically, I’m ready for it, but probably not mentally,” Jonas continues. “She was going to the gym with me before we were put on lockdown but you’ve just got to be ready, got to be professional and you’ve got to abide by the rules, so we’re going to get through this together.
“On another note, it’s going to be the most frustrating job in the world to actually keep her still and to try and teach her stuff, but I have been given a pack from her school to get me going.”
Getting going will not be difficult for Jonas when she eventually gets a call from her promoter, Eddie Hearn, with a confirmed rescheduled date for her fight with Doncaster’s Harper. The pair had been set to meet on April 24 at the Dome in the champion’s hometown, prior to the coronavirus sweeping through the globe and forcing the cancellation of virtually all mass gatherings and sporting events. Natasha insists that when the time is right, she will be more than ready to lace up the gloves and go into battle.
“It is what it is in terms of boxing,” she philosophises. “I must have seen about 20 million conspiracy theories and I probably believe a few of them, but there’s nothing we can do, we can’t change it and we just have to go with what everybody else is doing and be ready for when a date does pop up.
“For now, I think Matchroom has stated that it will be rescheduled for June but that obviously depends on the ongoing information that they get from the Board and the Government. Bars, pubs, restaurants and pretty much everywhere is shut and public events are included in that, so I’ve just got to train as normal, be professional about it and when the call comes, I’ve got to be ready for a date, regardless of what date that is.”
The British Boxing Board of Control confirmed recently that all boxing events in the UK have now been suspended until the end of May and that said guidelines will be reviewed upon advice from the Government and experts.
“With Terri holding the world title and me being the challenger, I think it’s only fair that she’s allowed to box in front of her home crowd or somewhere on her terms because if I was the champion I’d want it on my terms, in a less hostile environment,” Jonas concedes. “To be fair, though, I just want to box –– I don’t care where it is.
“I’m not bothered. Whatever it is, whenever it is, I’ll be ready to compete when the phone goes.”
Jonas is reliant on sponsors and other income, aside from boxing, during the time in which all the sporting events are suspended –– and though she’s coping, she knows not everyone is in the same boat and some are struggling more than others.
“People have this illusion that boxers are these millionaire-type people when really and truly we’re just in the same boat as most other working people and definitely the same boat as those who are self-employed because that’s what we are,” she summarises.
“It’s only the likes of those who earn millions of pounds per fight that can sit and rest easy. But even then it affects everybody and if you’re not backed by sponsors you’re arguably in an even worse position.
“I’m lucky to be supported by good sponsors in the most part but there are people on small-hall shows and just boxers in general who are not at the sell-out-stadium level and they are feeling it. If we don’t box, we don’t get paid and it’s the same for most self-employed; if they don’t work, they don’t get paid and at the moment we’re in limbo as to when the next time we will be paid is.
“It’s not just us as fighters, though. It passes down and rips through everyone and the only saving grace, hopefully, is that there will be an influx of shows, football and sports in general when it is over and hopefully subscription customers will get value for money.
“We might have a different job but we’re in the same boat as most other people.”
Harper, 23, outpointed Eva Wahlstrom to win the WBC title back in February and Jonas stepped up to the plate immediately to take a crack at the former chip shop worker –– but she’s under no illusions that the task at hand will be a tough one.
“She’s fit, she’s fast, she’s hungry, but if I’m honest, I just think I’m better, that’s all,” Natasha opines. “This is a world title fight, it’s not just any normal fight and it’s definitely my biggest fight to date, so I’m not going to be going into it half-heartedly.
“I’m in a different space now, mentally, physically and emotionally, and I’m not going to take her lightly at all. I’m going to go out there to prove a point, to prove I am what I believe I am and that’s better than her.
“I’ll be approaching it properly, I’ll be in there for the long haul and I’ll be the fittest that I’ve ever been. It’s without a doubt my toughest test to date. I’m getting older, I haven’t got the time on my side that she has and I know that people have questioned why I deserve a shot but I got my shot because I was the only one prepared to take the fight there and then when the phone rang.
“Everyone else was saying they wanted a warm-up fight or they wanted this or that, but I just took it because I believe that I’m better.
“No disrespect to her, by the way, because I rate her, I rate the story and I rate what she’s done for women’s boxing but I have to prove that I’m better on the night, I can’t just say it.
“We always want to fight the best and we always want to prove that we’re the best. We have to fight the best in order to do that and we’d be lying to ourselves if we were to say we didn’t want the biggest fights but at the same time, you have to focus on the task at hand.
“I’ve fallen into the trap of looking ahead before and I just want to concentrate on what I’ve got to do first. That’s winning those titles from Terri first and, from that, hopefully, the opportunities will come.”
Jonas, training alongside the likes of Callum Smith, Liam and Stephen Smith, and fighters like Hosea Burton, Sam Hyde, Paul Butler and Callum Johnson, all under the watchful eye of Joe Gallagher, is determined to make the most of the time she has left in the squared circle.
“I think she thinks I’m going to box a certain way or she’s seen the [Viviane] Obenauf fight [Jonas’ only loss to date in a 10-fight professional career] and thinks, ‘This is what she’s going to do,’ but it’s not going to be that Tasha that turns up on the night," she concludes. "We’re going to see a completely different Tasha and that’s all I’m going to say.
“‘You think you know how to beat me? Okay. We’ll see.’”