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girl power Relentless Taylor must use her head to make most of Jonas showdown

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Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas square off, in the company of promoter Eddie Hearn, ahead of their WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO female lightweight title fight. Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing/Sportsfile

Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas square off, in the company of promoter Eddie Hearn, ahead of their WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO female lightweight title fight. Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing/Sportsfile

Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas square off, in the company of promoter Eddie Hearn, ahead of their WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO female lightweight title fight. Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing/Sportsfile

Nine years ago, when Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas traded leather in the Olympics, the noise level in London’s ExCel Centre was louder than a helicopter landing.

Tonight, it will be eerily quiet in the deserted Manchester Arena when Taylor puts her four world lightweight belts on the line against the Liverpudlian.

The pair know each other for 14 years and Jonas was characteristically gracious after she witnessed her dream of Olympic glory extinguished by Taylor in 2012.

“I could have thrown the kitchen sink at her or driven a bus over her, and it wouldn’t have worked today,” she said.

Their respective careers diverged afterwards. Taylor claimed the gold medal in London and continued to dominate the lightweight division at amateur level until the eve of the Rio Olympics. Jonas retired for a couple of years and had a baby.

Her decision to return in 2017 as a professional was influenced by the prospective of a lucrative clash against Taylor who by then had won the first of her four world lightweight belts.

Jonas’ career hit a speed bump in 2018 when she suffered a TKO loss to Viviane Obenauf, a former Taylor opponent. But she was one of the few boxers to benefit from the prolonged Covid-19 lockdown.

Last summer she was matched against England’s Terri Harper, the newly-crowned WBC and IBF super-featherweight champion, in Matchroom’s Fight Camp series which was staged on Eddie Hearn’s estate in Essex.

Jonas produced arguably the best performance of her career that night. The fight was scored a draw which meant Harper kept her belts, but it put 36-year-old Jonas back in the frame to secure the biggest pay cheque of her career against the undefeated Bray pugilist.

From a business and boxing perspective this fight suits Taylor. With no spectators allowed, big fight card budgets has been cut. It is less expensive to stage a Taylor-Jonas fight than a so-called super-fight against Amanda Serrano or Jessica McCaskill.

Secondly, this is the perfect preparation fight for Taylor ahead of a showdown against nine-weight world champion Serrano later this year as Jonas and Serrano are both southpaw fighters.

Apart from a clash against a limited Nina Meinke earlier in her pro career, Taylor has little experience of fighting ‘lefties’ since she turned professional.

The history of boxing is littered with upsets. But so far in her career the favourite’s tag has never weighed heavily on Taylor’s shoulders.

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Still, there are two disconcerting issues for her ahead of her 18th professional fight.

Orthodox boxers like Taylor don’t like fighting southpaws who don’t engage in the centre of the ring but box on the back foot.

In her own words, Taylor loves a ‘dust-up’ but Jonas will not engage. Instead, she will opt to hit Taylor on the counter, and she does possess a decent punch.

In contrast, the only discernible weakness in Taylor’s armour is the lack of a knock-out punch. She hasn’t stopped on opponent since 2019.

The other issue is whether Taylor’s relentless training and fight schedule is beginning to take its toll on the 35-year-old. Jonas’ trainer Joe Gallagher tried to goad the Taylor camp during a press conference when he stated: “When you sit and study, you see things.

“Katie Taylor against Define Persoon, round three she got busted with a shot. No one picked it up. She got busted in another round against Christina Linardatou.

“Katie has had an awful lot of hard fights, of late-distance fights,” said Gallagher, who suggested Taylor was past her peak.

Taylor never responds to verbal taunts before fights. She does all her talking in the ring. So far, she has shown little sign of burn-out.

Nonetheless, she has been in camp in Connecticut on a near continuous basis since January of last year. She wouldn’t be human if she doesn’t occasionally show signs of weariness.

Few other global sports stars endure such a punishing regime and certainly no other boxer does. But then Taylor is a once-off.

She believes she has an obligation to make the most of their talents and writing a legacy is now her mission statement.

Jonas will have a well-crafted game-plan, but she has never shared a ring in her professional career with somebody who is as relentless as Taylor and who possesses such fast hands.

Taylor need to be mindful of her head movement, particularly in the first half of the fight. But on all known form Taylor should prevail – though the final decision will go to the three ringside judges.

Katie Taylor v Natasha Jonas

Live, Sky Sports Pay-Per-View, from 6.0 (Taylor v Jonas expected at 9.30)

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