Mayer bout is a step closer to retirement and greatness for Jonas

Natasha Jonas defends her IBF welterweight title in front of her expectant Liverpool fans against Mikaela Mayer on Saturday.

Jonas has won five in a row since losing to Katie Taylor in 2021, and Las Vegas-based Mayer is a dance partner who Jonas selected as a voluntary defence, partly because it makes for a bigger event, given that the 19-1 Mayer is a significant name in her own right.

“So many times I’ve been on the undercard of other great Scouse fighters [at Liverpool’s Echo Arena] and to finally top the bill is special,” Jonas said, of boxing at home.

“It’s a voluntary defence and I think probably the hardest defence in the division, but I’ve said it a million times, if I want to be in the conversation as one of the greats of this era, then I have to start beating people on that top 10 pound-for-pound list, like Chantelle Cameron has, like Katie Taylor has.”

This week, Jonas who has 14 wins against two defeats and a draw, said she felt a sense of relief when she finally won a world crown, having drawn with Terri Harper and lost to Taylor in previous bids.

“Obviously I still want to perform, every fight, but there’s a weight with trying to prove to everybody else how good you are and you belong at that level, that kind of wears you down and adds another stress and another pressure to you,” Jonas said. “Now that burden’s been lifted, a lot of people say, ‘These last few fights have been your best’, and that’s why. It’s because that weight and that stress and strain has gone and now, I’m back to enjoying the boxing, learning and developing and doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Jonas is 39. She admits she is nearer the end of a professional journey that began in 2017 than at the start, and she has an end game in mind. Asked how much longer she might fight for, Jonas said: “Good question, I’ve been retiring since 2012!” 

“This [Boxxer] contract is a three-fight contract and we’ll see what happens. If I could have got the fights I wanted last year, maybe it would have been the end for me last year. But I’ve still got big nights and big fights left in me. If I can get them this year, probably that will be the end for me this year. If not, it might stretch into a longer period, but I have to keep winning to get those fights, so that’s the aim, keep winning and see what opportunities arise when that happens.”

Jonas is trained by Joe Gallagher, who has been working in Saudi Arabia helping set up the new Mike Tyson gym. That means Jonas has been training with her old Gallagher gym-mate Stephen Smith, who has recently embarked on his journey as a professional coach. Smith has a stable that includes former world champion Charlie Edwards, but he helped Jonas while Gallagher was away. 

“Stephen’s always been great, even when I’ve trained alongside him, he talks and guides you through every spar, where your positioning is, he’s been an elite amateur, fought for world titles as a pro, there’s no one in the game who can tell him [anything] in any situation,” Jonas added. “He’s a very good communicator of what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, the situations that arise, and he’s very good at talking and guiding you through. As a young, up and coming coach, it’s going to be hard to beat him for knowledge and experience and the way he guides you through.”

But Gallagher has been back for several weeks and will be for fight night. Jonas said trainer and coach share several similar traits.

“Joe’s a perfectionist and I’m a perfectionist,” Jonas said. “He wants things done a certain way, and if I get them wrong, I get frustrated, because I know how it works and everything that he said is what I need to do, so I 100 per cent trust him in what he says and I try to do it to the best of my ability.”