It has taken Natasha Jonas eight years to get to this point after she came up short against Katie Taylor in the Olympic Games quarterfinal in front of a raucous crowd at the ExCeL, London.
On Friday, Jonas finally boxes on the big stage again when she challenges Terri Harper for the WBC world junior lightweight title.
The environment will be very different to the Olympics, but Jonas (9-1, 7 KOs), 36, from Liverpool, hopes her experience will prove decisive over 23-year-old English rival Harper (10-0, 5 KOs).
“You will not know how it will affect you until the night and I don’t think it will [affect me],” Jonas said at a news conference.
“I’ve boxed in front of 10 people, I’ve boxed in front of more than 10,000, it doesn’t make a difference.
“I just think experience overall helps. She hasn’t got the depth of knowledge or depth of experience I have. Whatever fight she brings I have an answer for.”
After losing to Irishwoman Taylor, which effectively ended her amateur career, Jonas gave birth to daughter Mela in 2015 and turned professional two years later.
Taylor, who went on to win gold in 2012, entered the paid ranks a year earlier than Jonas and is one of women’s boxing’s biggest stars as a two-weight world champion.
But the professional game has been a hard slog for Jonas, who has had to recover from a stoppage defeat two years ago to challenge Harper.
“It was a long road, I got into the sport to be the best, and I haven’t proved myself at times when I need to, but this time I will,” Jonas said.
In contrast, Harper has travelled quickly to the top.
Harper won the title in just her 10th professional fight with a unanimous points decision to end Eva Wahlstrom’s five-year reign in February.
It was not so long ago that Harper, from Doncaster, was working in a fish and chip shop after giving up boxing aged 16.
“Natasha is well schooled, I think she’s strongest when you allow her to set the pace so I’m going to do my best to set the pace and make it my fight,” Harper said at a news conference.
“It [victory] will open 100 more doors. I want to fight the other champions at super featherweight, I want unification fights. Every day I have to pinch myself, it’s like I have come out of nowhere. I’ve come from working in a chip shop and now here I am boxing on the bigger stage in boxing. It’s gone a lot quicker than we all thought. I’m on too much of a good roll at the moment.”
A future rematch with Taylor, the undisputed world lightweight champion, would be a dream come true for Jonas.
Taylor (15-0, 6 KOs), 34, puts her four belts on the line against Belgium’s Delfine Persoon at the same temporary venue on Aug. 22.
As well as a rival, Taylor is also an inspiration and trailblazer for Jonas and Harper.
“It’s a great time to be in women’s boxing at the moment, and it’s led by Katie especially on this side of the Atlantic,” Jonas said.
“Women’s boxing needs these nights, the big nights, the domestic rivalries. Anything is possible in women’s boxing and one win puts me back in the mix with anyone. We’re lucky enough to have likes of Taylor and Cecilia Braekhus within reach and with the same promoter.”
Hearn has said it is easier to make bigger match-ups in women’s boxing.
“People like Katie Taylor have pushed the boundaries but without people like Natasha Jonas, Terri Harper, then there’s nothing to follow those doors being opened,” Hearn added.
“This is a major moment because this is a big domestic fight. There isn’t the parity with but we have come a long way with world title fights and what people are earning at the top end. When people can see a future it is better for the sport.
“It’s also easier for me to plan fights. I’m looking at if Natasha wins there is a unification fight with Ewa Brodnicka, or a big fight in America with Mikaela Mayer. Chantelle Cameron is fighting for a world title and if she wins she can fight the winner of Taylor-Persoon. You could do Savannah Marshall against Claressa Shields. These aren’t pipe dreams. In men’s boxing some things never materialize.”