For Natasha Jonas the point has been proven. She has been a key part of the generation that blazed a path for women’s boxing to break through at the highest level of international sport.
Jonas’ own role in the exponential growth of the sport is not done yet. On Saturday, live on Sky Sports, she goes into her second consecutive world title unification fight.
The Liverpudlian was the first female British boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games and at London 2012 she was the first woman to box for Team GB.
Now she is the unified WBO and WBC world champion and fights IBF super-welter titlist Marie-Eve Dicaire on Saturday to headline BOXXER: Manchester.
Ten years on from her Olympics, Jonas and other London 2012 participants have been leading the way in women’s professional boxing.
“We set a standard I think in 2012,” Jonas said. “A bit of a chip on our shoulder, the first time we’ve been included and we wanted to set the standard and every time the Olympics has come round since it’s been bettered, the last [GB] team being the best of the bunch.”
Jonas’ unification bout this weekend follows on from the record-breaking Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall event last month. 2022 has been a breakthrough year for professional women’s boxing. It is the kind of progress that will not be reversed.
“We always knew how good it [women’s boxing] was. We just needed the world to see it. Now we’ve got the platform to do it and once the depth gets more and people keep turning over and turning over, getting them athletes across [it’ll continue to grow],” Jonas said.
“I’ll be out of the mix by then. It’ll be good to see them push on and press on. We’re slowly breaking down all those barriers and they’re helping to do that. We just needed the athletes to do that and we’ve got that.”
The next generation in women’s boxing is looking up to Jonas. The unified champion, for instance is an inspiration for Charley Davison. A GB boxer, Davison came back to boxing after a seven-year break remarkably to qualify for the last Olympic Games. Davison, a mother of three, has in Jonas the example of a mother excelling at the highest level of boxing.
“These women that are professional boxers and they’re doing it [it shows] there’s no reason why, as long as there’s child care out there, or there’s support out there for the children, there’s no reason why women shouldn’t be able to do the same as the men,” Davison said.
Davison had to seriously consider whether she wanted to continue boxing after the last Olympics.
“They [her children] are a little bit more understanding. They know I do it as part of my living. That’s what I do, they understand and they are really supportive but I’m having to explain to them it’s not going to be forever, this is going to be my last shot [the next Olympics], Paris, two years at the most,” Davison told Sky Sports.
“The dream’s still alive, still there, I’ve still got the opportunity to box for GB,” she continued.
“There’s so many people out there that would love to box for GB. I thought I can’t just throw it away and I would regret it in future if I didn’t give it my last shot. That’s what I’m hoping to do – get a medal at this one.”
Jonas has also played a direct role in the development of the young boxers she has sparred with. When Caroline Dubois, now a rising force in the professional sport, was just a teenager she sparred with Jonas.
“I must have been 15. I think she had just come back, from retiring after the Olympics,” Dubois recalled. “I just remember [thinking] wow so happy to get in the ring with Natasha Jonas. It was her fighting Katie Taylor that really blew my mind and made me think I want to go to the Olympics. So getting in with one of them was good for me. I was so happy to get in the ring with her.”
Not that her admiration prevented Dubois from going for Jonas even at that young age. “I don’t have respect for anyone I step in the ring with,” she laughed.
Hannah Robinson is an amateur who has sparred Jonas more recently. That kind of experience helped Robinson improve and win a place on GB’s elite Podium squad.
“I went away, worked on things, went around a lot of gyms sparring world champions, like Chantelle Cameron, Tasha Jonas,” Robinson told Sky Sports. “Developed my boxing so much and worked really hard. So when I did go back to GB they could see there were improvements.
“It’s opened my eyes, that time away from GB. I’m pleased the journey’s gone the way it has.”
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Robinson has experienced first hand just what makes Jonas so effective, even three divisions above her natural weight class.
“She’s got very good fundamentals and I think that does come from her amateur pedigree. She’s kept her speed as well, moving up the weight. She does the basics really well,” Robinson said.
“She’s experienced now, she’s been through a journey herself. She’s an inspiration for me as well.”
The next step of Jonas’ journey comes against Dicaire on Saturday. Watch their world title unification from 7pm live on Sky Sports Arena.