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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Louis Evans

Fighter of the Year Natasha Jonas eyeing huge 2023 after success of last year

Natasha Jonas has eyed a ‘bigger’ 2023 after winning the British Boxing Board of Control’s coveted 2022 ‘Fighter of the Year’ prize earlier this month.

The Toxteth Trooper trumped fellow Brits Joe Joyce, Chantelle Cameron, Joe Cordina, Sunny Edwards, and Leigh Wood en route to becoming the award’s first female beneficiary.

In an exclusive interview with the ECHO, the mother of one expressed immense pride in being held among such rich boxing lineage.

“I didn’t realise I was the first female to win it until after I’d come off the stage," she said.

“Yeah, it was a bit of a shock because I was looking in the programme before the announcement was made and I had seen the likes of Lloyd Honeyghan, Carl Froch, Barry McGuigan, Lennox Lewis.

“People who I look up to as my British boxing heroes (have won it) - Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe.

“I was just thinking, ‘Wow, next year, someone’s gonna be sitting where my name’s gonna be!’

“When you look at the list, it was just humbling to think that, when you’re looking at British boxing greats and legends, my name will be among some of them.”

After two failed world title challenges - including a 2020 split draw to WBC super featherweight Terri Harper and 2021 unanimous decision defeat to unified lightweight Katie Taylor - Jonas, now 38, became doubtful her crowning moment would come.

However, in February, some well-placed faith from promoter Ben Shalom and a bold move up to super-welterweight (70kg) saw ‘Miss GB’ Natasha clinch the vacant WBO strap in a career-best display - finishing towering Uruguayan Chris Namus via second-round TKO on Amir Khan vs Kell Brook’s box office undercard.

Thirsty for more title success, the slick southpaw seized the accompanying WBC and IBF World Titles in 2022’s tail end, outpointing Sweden’s Patricia Berghult and Canada’s Marie Eve Dicaire in unanimous decision schoolings.

For a contender who briefly hung up the gloves between 2015 and 2017, Jonas’ 12-month takeover proved worthy of British boxing’s most prestigious accolade.

But as we live out a ‘golden era’ of women’s boxing, the 2012 Olympian still sees a number of fine future fixtures in her firing line.

“After 2022 and the ride that it’s been, it’s gonna be hard to duplicate it," concedes the 5’7” technician.

“No disrespect to anyone who’s not a world champion but fighting a mandatory feels like a step down.

“But unfortunately, fights couldn’t be made that we wanted. We did want to make it (2023) bigger; we did want that Claressa (Shields) fight.

“The only way to make it bigger is to put yourself forward for them big fights. Whether it’s Claressa, whether it’s Chantelle Cameron - we need to make the big fights happen.

“It’s no secret that I do want to fight Katie Taylor again.

“I never honestly intended to stay at 145lb, I thought I’d have dropped back down. It’s just where the opportunities came. Sometimes in boxing, all you need is good timing and a bit of luck, and I got that last year.”

Now, seemingly with more fire than ever, the spritely Jonas remains enthusiastic there’s room for even loftier ambitions.

“For any athlete or competitor, once you set yourself a target and you reach it, you know you’ve still got improvements to make”, affirms the headstrong Jonas.

“If your body can still make it mentally and physically, you’re always gonna try and set the bar that little bit higher; if you’ve reached the goal, then it wasn’t set high enough, if that makes sense?

“At the time, one world title was huge for me. But I reached that, so maybe it wasn’t big enough? I set my sights on another one, and another one, and I got that.

“When I feel I can’t physically do it anymore, or mentally do it anymore, I’ll have to call it a day. Who knows when that’ll be?

“I do feel like I’m improving with every fight still, I’m adding bits to my game every time. My time is improving on runs, my strength is improving in strength and conditioning. I’d be doing myself an injustice to call it a day there.

“So yeah, I’ll keep going until that day. Even if I don’t recognise the day, I’ve got a team around me that will recognise it for me and let me know.”

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