This is the level that Natasha Jonas always wanted to be at from the moment she was ready to contend for a title.

It’s also the moment at which she plans to spend what’s left of her storied career.

The aptly nicknamed “Miss GB” survived a gut check to retain her IBF welterweight title via split decision over pound-for-pound entrant and former junior lightweight titlist Mikaela Mayer. Their Sky Sports/ESPN+ headliner from M&S Bank Arena in Jonas’s hometown of Liverpool saw Mayer (19-2, 5KOs) win 97-93 on one card, overruled by scores of 96-94 and 96-95 for Jonas.  

By her own admission, Jonas viewed Mayer as among the best she’s ever faced in her career. That level of motivation was needed to enter Saturday’s bout at her absolute best.

“That little bit of fear factor brings out the best of me,” Jonas told Sky Sports’ Andy Scott after her first successful title defense. “I need opponents like her to tango.”

That kind of threat wasn’t necessarily there for much of Jonas’ two-division title run. If anything, it existed more at the lower weights.

Jonas was unlucky to leave with a draw versus then-unbeaten WBC junior lightweight titlist Terri Harper in their August 2020 thriller that garnered heavy consideration for Fight of the Year. A similarly entertaining battle came of Jonas’ narrow defeat to undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor in their May 2021 clash in Manchester, England. Both fights were performed at a supremely high skill level, and with Jonas still viewed as a force at those weights for as long as she could still make it.

She instead moved up in weight, a three-division leap, in fact, to claim her first title.

Jonas tore through overmatched Chris Namus in a second-round knockout to win the WBO junior middleweight title and ignite her 2022 Fighter of the Year-worthy campaign. Unbeaten WBC titlist Patricia Berghult posed a legitimate challenge ultimately conquered by Jonas via lopsided unanimous decision in their September 2022 unification bout at this very venue. The same came of her IBF title-lifting effort over Marie Eve DiCaire in a ten-round shutout later that November in Manchester.

A drop back down to welterweight saw just one fight in 2023, a one-sided eighth-round knockout of journeywoman Kandi Wyatt who was somehow eligible to compete for the vacant IBF welterweight title. Jonas knew bigger challenges were ahead and did not waste a moment when the opportunity was offered to face a far more notable boxer in Mayer.

“With no disrespect to the likes of Kandi Wyatt, I kind of knew that I was going to be dominating, that I was supposed to win,” admitted Jonas. “We’ve seen how close the odds were for this fight. That was for a reason.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox