Natasha Jonas’s fight with Katie Taylor was, in many ways, nine years in the making. But when they step in the ring in Manchester on Saturday night, Jonas knows not to expect many favors. 

Much of the coverage in the build-up to this weekend has been thrown back to the London Olympics in 2012, when Taylor and Jonas clashed in the quarter-finals. When Jonas turned professional in 2017, she was following Taylor into the paid ranks. But Jonas’s career has been stop-start and it has taken a draw last summer with Terri Harper for Matchroom to justify the match for Taylor’s undisputed world lightweight title. 

So, when rumors began to spread that Jonas was to finally get the rematch, she was completely in the dark. 

“The first I heard about it was when someone tagged me on a post that the Irish Post had put out saying there was a rumor that I was Katie’s next opponent,” Jonas said.

“People were saying ‘you must know’ and I said ‘no’. I was being genuine, I hadn’t had a phone call. About two weeks later I got a call asking ‘would I take the fight?’ And I just said ‘of course I would’. But it wasn’t until the Monday of the week it was announced that I signed for it. 

“I don’t know if, on the Matchroom side, they felt under pressure to offer me something after the Terri fight, or maybe they just think they are feeding me to the lions. We’ll see.” 

Jonas was originally signed by Matchroom when she turned professional with the carrot of the Taylor fight. By the time she got her fight with Harper, for the WBC super-featherweight title, she had moved into the role of opponent against the rising star. 

“I definitely think that when they made the fight with Terri, they saw me as a good name to have on her record,” Jonas said. “I genuinely believe that they thought she would blow me away. I get that, because she had beaten people I hadn’t and had performances beyond what they thought I could do. But all along they were saying these things, like she’s young, she’s strong, you struggle to make the weight, you haven’t done ten rounds and I just though ‘OK, we’ll see’. 

“That was my attitude. They were making out she was something I didn’t believe she was and I thought I would beat her.” 

What Harper lacked was experience, an accusation that certainly couldn’t be levelled at Taylor, who has been the driver of the rise in popularity of women’s boxing. The 36-year-old Liverpudlian knows few expect her to win but that does not intimidate her 

“She is a legend and, yes, she deserves that title for everything she has done, but she is not invincible,” Jonas said. “She has been such a standout fighter. People have been playing catch-up for a very long time.  

“The problem for Katie is that when you are the bar that everyone is measured by, it is difficult to raise it more while everyone is working hard to get to your level. Whether it is against [Estelle] Mossely, Mira Potkonen (who beat Taylor in her final two amateur bouts) or [Delfine] Persoon, she has shown that she has flaws.” 

Jonas and Taylor met twice as amateurs, Taylor winning both, the first in Bulgaria, the second at the London Olympics. It is an oft-repeated fact that the noise in the ExCeL that afternoon was the most created by a crowd at those Games. 

“I’ve only got fond memories of it,” Jonas said. “Obviously, I didn’t want to lose. But that was the best version of me and you can’t do better than your best. That day she was better, I gave everything I had and, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. But the atmosphere, the noise, I’ve nothing but fond memories. I remember the curtains going back and just the roar - wow. I thought this is for me. 

“I was sitting my stool at the end of round two getting my instructions and I was losing by a few points. I was thinking ‘most people get beat by Katie by eight points, so I can either be happy that I am only losing by three, or I can go for it and whatever happens, happens’. I decided to go for it and the gap ended up being a lot bigger, but at least I knew I had given it everything.” 

Injuries forced Jonas to retire after a disappointing Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow, but when Taylor turned professional two years later. Jonas saw the potential of building a career as a professional boxer for the first time.  

“I’m a totally different boxer now,” she said. “You are not chasing points and, if you lose a round, you have got another nine to catch it up, which helps.  

“One of my biggest assets, even as an amateur, was that I had power. When you knock someone down as an amateur, it is only worth a point, but as a pro, if you knock them down you have won, essentially, two rounds. 

My boxing IQ has got better, you pick something up off everyone in the gym, whether it is Callum Smith’s body shots, or Paul Butler’s energy. Not everything works for me, but you will find things that do. Every single version of Katie we are prepared for. 

“Her greatest asset has always been her hand speed. You have to spar male boxers to replicate that because no woman I have ever sparred has had that hand speed. That is the only thing I can’t match her for, but everything else I believe I can.” 

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.