With an undisputed clash off the table, Terri Harper has once again landed the next best opportunity.
Matchroom Boxing has resurrected Harper’s previously postponed WBA junior middleweight title defense versus former undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus. The bout will take place October 7 on the undercard of the recently announced Leigh Wood-Josh Warrington WBA featherweight title fight at Utliita Arena in Sheffield, England.
Harper-Braekhus was previously due to take place May 20 on the Chantelle Cameron-Katie Taylor undercard in Dublin, Ireland. Braekhus woke up to flu-like symptoms on the morning of the fight and was forced to withdraw.
The rescheduled date now provides a home game for Harper (13-1-1, 6KOs), a two-division titlist who hails from nearby Denaby Main.
"It feels good to be back in front of my home crowd,” noted Harper, who will attempt the second defense of her junior middleweight title reign. “From the beginning of my career I’ve had a great following and come fight night I’ll have thousands in there showing their support.
“Last time out in Sheffield didn’t go the way I planned but I'm excited to back to winning ways on home soil. I won my first World Title at Sheffield Arena and then lost them there, now it’s time to become unified World Champion at that same arena. It's a huge night of boxing with a massive domestic fight headlining. Not to jinx it but every time I’ve fought on Leigh’s undercard we’ve both had the desired outcome.”
The venue carries both fond and grim moments for the defending titlist.
Harper previously held the WBC junior lightweight title, which she claimed in a February 2020 win over Eva Wahlstrom. The same location saw her 21-month reign come to a crashing halt, when she was knocked out by Alycia Baumgardner in the fourth round of their November 2021 meeting.
Baumgardner (15-1, 7KOs) has since emerged as the undisputed junior lightweight queen and high-ranking pound-for-pound entrant.
Meanwhile, Harper found new glory at a much higher weight. She initially moved up to lightweight for her comeback fight last March before another three-division leap to dethrone Hannah Rankin in their WBA 154-pound title fight last September in Nottingham, England.
One defense followed, even in the aftermath of Braekhus’ forced withdrawal in May. Matchroom secured former welterweight titlist Ivana Habazin as an emergency replacement, whom Harper outpointed over ten rounds on the May 27 undercard of Wood’s revenge fueled win over Mauricio Lara at AO Arena in Manchester, England.
The hope was for a full unification bout with WBC, IBF and WBO junior middleweight titlist Natasha Jonas in what would be a rematch to their terrific August 2020 ten-round draw at junior lightweight.
Jonas and her team have shown little interest in the fight or conducting business with Matchroom, her former promoter before she signed with Sky Sports. Her three-title win 2022 campaign was followed with a vacant IBF welterweight title win over Kandi Wyatt on July 1 in Manchester.
Harper and her team instead returned to another piece of old business.
Braekhus (37-2, 9KOs) long served as a former pound-for-pound queen and record-breaking welterweight titlist. The legendary 41-year-old boxer from Norway by way of Cartagena, Colombia previously held at least two welterweight titles for more than eleven years, more than four of which were spent as undisputed champion and where she made a record 25 title defenses.
The title reign ended with back-to-back defeats to Jessica McCaskill. Just one fight has followed for Braekhus, an eight-round win last December at junior middleweight in Indio, California. Her name alone aroused genuine interest among fight fans earlier this year and carries the same type of motivation heading into the new fight date.
"The fight went down really well with the fans the first time and it would’ve been a shame for it to have never happened," said Harper. "I'm excited and grateful to everyone for making it happen again and it'll be even more special this time with the opportunity of unifying the division. When the fight fell through last time I sulked for the weekend but thanks to Matchroom and Eddie I was back in the gym the following Monday ready for another fight week.
“Looking back this experience has made me a stronger fighter with even more experience now gained. Cecilia is an icon of the sport and has already done everything I want to achieve. That's why me and my team were so keen to pursue this fight. I see this fight as a passing of the baton and another steppingstone towards my ultimate goal of becoming undisputed at the weight.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox