Women’s boxing is currently riding the crest of a wave. We’ve seen Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields unifying multiple world titles on huge shows.
Last weekend, in the UK, we witnessed Hannah Rankin win the IBO 154lbs world title live on BBC Scotland in front of a sold-out crowd.
On July 19th, Yorkshire’s Terri Harper (7-0) contests the vacant IBO super-featherweight world title as she looks to add her name to the list of top female talents.
Her opponent on July 19th at the Magna Centre in Rotherham is South African, Nozipho Bell (9-2-1). Harper has seen little of the challenge that lies ahead. “I think it were two rounds from one of her fights,” she explained that she’d watched of Bell. “So I’ve not seen much footage, but from what I saw she looks like she’s game and a come-forward fighter. It’s nowt that I’ve not dealt with before. Obviously, fighting against Nina Bradley (an impressive stoppage win earlier this year), someone else who’s a strong come-forward fighter – I feel like I’ll be able to use that experience that I gained from Nina against Bell on July 19th.”
The twenty-two year-old has been garnering a lot of success at lightweight, but herself and her team decided to move to 130lbs to open up new opportunities. “Andrew’s (Stefy Bull) seen that everything’s wrapped up at the minute by Katie Taylor and I’ve already managed to get down to 131lbs in my fourth fight. So, I’ve shown that I can make super-feather and Andrew said that for the championship fights we’ll look at doing super-featherweight while I can make that weight while I’m younger. Obviously, when I start to struggle making weight, that’s when I’ll move back up to lightweight for championship fights.”
Following a stellar amateur career compromising of three National junior championships and a silver medal at the European youth championships, Harper walked away from the sport until her interest was piqued by seeing how much the women’s game had grown. A chance text from Stefy Bull helped rekindle her interests even more. “I got to sixteen doing exams and stuff and I kind of fizzled away from the sport,” she said. “I started to see Chantelle Cameron and Katie Taylor on TV boxing professionally and that caught my eye seeing that these girls are doing it now. I were thinking about getting back into my amateur club and then I had a random message off Stefy one day saying: what would I reckon to going pro? Straight away, I messaged him back saying it’s strange because I were just thinking about coming back to boxing as an amateur. I do believe Stefy has given me a second chance at the sport.”
Her promoter and manager, Stefy, is one of the good guys helping keep the small-hall boxing scene alive beneath the bright lights and glamour of huge shows at Wembley Stadium and The O2. He’s one of those who truly adores the sweet science. “He’s taken big risks with me and I appreciate everything that he’s doing really. I feel like I have to continue to make these performances and do well with (sell) my tickets as a thank you really to him. He really does look after his fighters. He’s got their best interests and they’re top of his priority. It’s good to be under Stefy and his guidance.”
The July 19th world title bout will be Harper’s fourth fight so far in 2019. It looks likely that it won’t even be her last! “I think I’m looking to be back out in September/October time and then rest until New Year.” It will undoubtedly be a rest well earned.
If she does defeat Bell and claim the IBO world title, Harper will not only become Yorkshire’s first female world champion; I understand she’ll also reign as the youngest female world champion. At just twenty-two years of age, the world will be at her feet.
Ian Aldous is a staff writer for World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @ian7685