Mayer calls for rematch after thrilling split-decision loss to Jonas

Natasha Jonas successfully defended her IBF welterweight title in a flowing and bruising affair against Mikaela Mayer at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

They kicked off the Sky Sports programme for 2024 with a Fight of the Year contender. 

In the lead-up to the contest, Jonas (14-2-1, 9KOs) admitted she needed an opponent who would give her the fear factor to bring out her best. Challenger Mayer (19-1, 5KOs) demonstrated why, producing a bold showing against the hometown welterweight queen.

In a quiet opening round, Jonas started with a fast-handed flurry to the body that saw the Englishwoman use her feet to make Mayer fall short in the opening half. The second half of the round saw Mayer land a jab and followed with a left hook.

Mayer started the second confidently, taking the lead and establishing her jab. She was able to punch through the champion’s guard, forcing her to take refuge on the ropes. Jonas moved off, but Mayer threw the jab back at her, not allowing Jonas to reset.

Jonas slipped and fired to the body early in the third round, attempting to stop Mayer from marching forward. Mayer was still able to land her jab and attempted following through with the right hand, but Jonas used her footwork to move away and counter. 

The action ebbed and flowed in the fourth, with Mayer landing her trademark one-twos heavily, although Jonas upped the tempo at the halfway stage of the round. 

Jonas showed blistering hand speed to land back-to-back left hooks in the fifth, stopping Mayer in her tracks and targeting the exposed frame of the American, who was guilty of losing her shape. But Mayer got back on track and was able to tag Jonas with a number of hooks.

Mayer, in the sixth, fell short with her bludgeoning come-forward tactics. Jonas was able to counter regularly with her southpaw left hand, which caused Mayer’s eye to swell. However, Mayer continued with her front-foot tactics and her jab was becoming more telling.

The champion tried to open the seventh aggressively, with notable success, and they traded with one another. Jonas looked uncomfortable under pressure. However, she dug in and arguably landed the crisper and cleaner punches at close quarters while Mayer opted for heavy straight shots.

The eighth was telling for Jonas as she produced her best work for several rounds but the ninth was slower until the final 60 seconds with Mayer landing hurtful shots on Jonas, and Jonas looking more fatigued with every exchange. The Liverpudlian, who was bruised, walked flush onto a left hook at the sound of the bell.

Mayer pressed and pressed in the final session of a thrilling encounter. The American landed a thunderous straight right hand and left hook from the southpaw stance, which stunned Jonas. However, Mayer could not capitalise and they slugged out the final 10 seconds with Jonas exhausted and Mayer still going with the crowd erupting in a huge applause. 

In front of her own fans, Jonas was subdued after the final bell, knowing Mayer had pushed her all the way, but ultimately Jonas had done just enough to claim a split decision victory by scores of 96-94 and 96-95 against Mayer’s total of 97-93. 

Post-fight, Jonas praised Mayer for her efforts, insisting she would become a world champion.

“It takes two to tango,” said Jonas. “I know this girl here is going to be absolutely devastated with that result because I’ve been there, and it feels like the world is over.”

“She is in my top two people I’ve fought, she’s a very skilled operator, her time will come again. She beats a lot of the champions that are already here.

Mayer, on the other hand, called for a rematch, believing she had done more than enough.

“I think you could see at the end, I thought I did enough to win,” said the dejected American. “I would have given her the first round or two, but after that, I feel like I outpunched her and landed the cleaner shots.”

“At the end of the day, I think that fight is worth seeing again, like she said. It was one of the toughest fights she’s had. I think the fans really enjoyed it. I didn’t have a rematch clause on my side, but I’m hoping we can get this fight done again for the fans if they want it.”