Report from Matchroom’s female triple-header featuring Katie Taylor vs Miriam Gutierrez, Terri Harper vs Katharina Thanderz and Rachel Ball vs Jorgelina Guanini
Tonight saw the first female triple-header in UK boxing history. That is, so far as I know, my historian credentials not being up to the standard of a Bob Mee, for example. Critics suggest the recent surge in prominence for women’s boxing is due as much to Covid-related budget constraints popularising the cheaper labour females offer, but there can be no question the fairer gender have enjoyed a ‘good pandemic’. Matchroom, who staged tonight’s show at Wembley Arena and made women’s bouts a focal point of their Fight Camp content, deserve the lion’s share of the credit for this, alongside broadcast partner Sky Sports.
Sky also merit praise for making this show, top three contests over 10-twos and headlined by Katie Taylor’s undisputed lightweight title defence against WBA mandatory challenger Miriam Gutierrez, available to non-subscribers via their website and social media. If women’s boxing is ever to gain ground on the men in terms of compensation, its top-level protagonists must be exposed to the largest possible audience. Shows of this stature can also demonstrate to young girls that boxing at the highest level is a credible career option.
Taylor, the biggest female boxing star perhaps globally and certainly this side of the Atlantic, did her part, outclassing a less experienced though older Spanish opponent with typically impressive handspeed, variety and movement. Taylor was dazzling throughout against admittedly a significantly inferior opponent and dished out a beating and a knockdown en route to a wide unanimous verdict, 100-89, 100-90 and 99-91.
Gutierrez was unbeaten coming in, 13-0, and the European and WBA Interim titlist, but this marked the 37-year-old’s first foray outside Spain and she had fought no one even close to the Irish superstar’s level. An amateur legend entering this fight at 16-0 and having also picked up a 140lb belt, Taylor simply seemed to be marking time ahead of future marquee showdowns.
A quality technician, Taylor came out like a puncher against the stiff-looking Madrid lady. Muscular but flat-footed, the former World Championships competitor was mostly outmanoeuvred by Taylor, who started aggressively and did not neglect her body attack.
A big left hook to the head, off the same blow downstairs, stunned Gutierrez in the third and Taylor swiftly followed up with fast, high-volume combinations. She landed a notable right hand with the Spaniard pinned against the ropes. The stoppage looked imminent in what was presumably a welcome easy night for Taylor after two wars with the dogged Delfine Persoon sandwiched a competitive win over Chrstine Linardatou.. Gutierrez was decked again, by a right hand, as the bell rang to end the fourth but she once again survived.
Poor Miriam proceeded to take a beating. She was immensely brave but vastly overmatched and outgunned. I had seen enough by round five and Taylor invariably appeared one big shot away from victory, but Gutierrez has a sturdy chin and fought back whenever she could. She won widespread respect if not a single round on Seconda Out’s card.
Denaby’s Terri Harper was back out pretty soon after her contentious draw with Natasha Jonas in Fight Camp, defending her WBC super-featherweight title against the Interim champ and fellow unbeaten, Katharina Thanderz of Norway, who was competing for the first time in a year. Perhaps influenced by the gruelling dispute with Jonas, Harper seemed determined to wage this battle on her terms.
Thanderz had inflicted the only pro defeat on Rachel Ball but Harper, looking a division bigger, came out strong from the opening bell, behind an excellent jab. Terri’s movement was deft, too. Thanderz appeared apprehensive early and struggled to move into range.
Harper performed the fundamentals excellently. It was jab, right, roll or double jab, move laterally. Thanderz became reactive rather than proactive and this is a more significant error over two-minute rounds. She attempted to close the gap more quickly from the fifth but, for the most part, moved more rapidly into punishment. Harper’s concentration was unerring. Thanderz used feints and agility but when she did move inside the stiff jab, was met instead with a short left hook. The Norwegian did land some accurate body shots but looked increasingly disheartened.
A nasty clash of heads in round nine did not help Thanderz’s cause just before a brutal left to the body from Harper made her wince. Harper followed up with sustained pressure and, as Thanderz’s nose bled profusely, she was rescued after taking a clean left hook.
Ahead of the biggest fight of her career, Aldridge’s ex-kickboxer Rachel Ball had endured a tumultuous build-up. Fresh from upsetting Shannon Courtenay at Fight Camp, Ball was rewarded with a surprise vacant WBA bantam title shot versus high-profile Aussie Ebanie Bridges. An injury to Bridges then saw Jorgelina Guanini step in at short notice but, despite shaving her head during fight week, the Argentine was not even close to making weight. The promoters scrambled to find an alternative belt and the WBC kindly obliged with an Interim strap at super-bantam. Guanini ultimately weighed in closer to featherweight so the championship was only at stake for the tall West Midlander, who had prepared to make bantam for the first time ever, in vain as it transpired.
She started tentatively against the aggressive Guanini but settled in the second, establishing her jab and commanding the centre of the ring. The South American was mobile and displayed good head movement.
She began to time Ball in the third, bobbing and weaving as the Brit threw more shots then unleashing arcing left hooks and rights over the top. When she opened up, Guanino appeared dangerous but often found herself preoccupied with defence. Ball increased the pressure in the second half of the fight, landing more fast combinations and switching down to the body. Rachel seemed to have the mentality that she had to flurry back after shipping a solid blow, when her physical advantages meant she could afford to use the ring a bit more and pace herself. When Ball drew the lead and countered, as she did frequently in round eight, it was an easier task.
Guanini had not fought for 17 months and it showed in a comparative lack of sharpness and productivity. She appeared to lose some impetus in the latter stages. After an entertaining fight, the unanimous decision in Ball’s favour – scores of 99-91 (twice) and 99-92 - was well deserved.