A week out from the biggest female boxing card ever to be held in the UK the current WBO super-welterweight champion Natasha Jonas took centre stage in Liverpool, England on Saturday 3rd.
Local heroine, ‘Miss GB’ Jonas, unified the WBO and WBC versions of the 154lb/10st title by outpointing Sweden’s Patricia Berghult by unanimous decision (99-91, 100-90, 100-90). Despite the margin of victory Jonas was made to work for it as Berghult showed a lot of heart throughout and had periods of success. In the end the always self-critical Jonas did enough to keep her opponent at bay and despite looking close to knocking Berghult down in the late rounds didn’t quite manage it. The Swede, despite losing her title, came out of the contest with a lot of credit and is young enough to challenge again.
The win marked the peak of Jonas professional career which has been built on an excellent amateur one. Clearly ecstatic on gaining the two belts she talked of further challenges post-fight and maybe a rematch with current pound-for-pound queen Katie Taylor is in the offering further down the line. Natasha improved to 12-2-1 (8 KO’s).
The Liverpool card which was justifiably criticised for its lack of competitive action down the bill, especially the one round blow outs from heavyweight Frazer Clarke and lightweight prospect Adam Azim did though feature a quality match up in a British light-heavyweight title fight. London’s Dan Azeez successfully made the first defence of his title against Shakan Pitters by hard fought unanimous decision (117-111, 117-112, 115-113).
In victory, Azeez re-staked his claim to be considered the best 175lbs (12st,7lbs) fighter in the country. In British boxing’s toughest division there are a lot of other contenders for that title, including Anthony Yarde, Joshua Buatsi and Callum’s Johnson and Smith among others. Azeez’ (17-0, 11 KO’s) come forward style is a throwback to the days of British title challengers and comparisons have been made with the Philadelphia fighters of yesteryear, high praise indeed. The ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler shorts may have something to do with that.
Top of the bill was the return of Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith in a contest made at light-middleweight but with the former WBO 154lbs champion checking in closer to the middleweight limit. The heavier division is where the money lies with potential match-ups with the winner of Chris Eubank Jr.-Conor Benn or Demetrius Andrade.
Smith (32-3-1, 19 KO’s) came through easily with a fourth round stoppage after his opponent Hassan Mwakinyou repeatedly complained of ankle problems and took a knee twice in the fourth before the referee waved it off after 1:46 of the round. The Liverpudlian is highly ranked by most sanctioning bodies and will be looking to secure a marquee fight next.
Main news from the US was the long overdue return of The Ring magazine and WBC junior-bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada (43-3, 28 KO’s) who retained his titles by unanimous decision against Argi Cortes. Promoters Matchroom announced straight after the holding of a trilogy fight for Estrada with old adversary Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KO’s) on 3rd December. This is a mouthwatering prospect as the record is 1-1 between the two in victories, both being excellent fights.
Finally, we saw the successful return of former unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. (35-2, 22 KO’s) who defeated perennial contender Luis Ortiz (33-3, 28 KO’s) by unanimous decision, dropping the Cuban three times en-route to become the #1 contender for the WBA title. This further adds to the intriguing heavyweight mix as we await confirmation of Usyk, Fury and Joshua’s next moves.
More to follow this week in the build up to the big female boxing event at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday 10th.