Harper prepared for the best version of legendary veteran Braekhus
Terri Harper meets Cecilia Braekhus at the crossroads in Dublin on Saturday night.
Braekhus is nearer the end than the start of her glittering career but 26-year-old WBA champion Harper, 13-1-1 (6KOs) must win if she is to continue to press for a rematch with domestic rival Natasha Jonas.
Norwegian Braekhus, 41, is someone Harper has long admired. Braekhus has won 37, losing just two and both of those were to Jessica McCaskill. Victory over Harper would catapult her into possibly one last big fight, but she is someone the Doncaster woman has always had on her radar.
“Obviously when you move up the weights you kind of have your eyes on certain people and when she had her six-rounder at the end of last year [against Marisa Portillo] I was watching it and thinking, ‘That would be a great name on my resume,’” Harper said. “It would just be great to share the ring with her, and I know she was offered the [Natasha] Jonas fight also and I’m grateful that she’s stuck to her word – her and her team – and that she’s gone through with the fight with me.”
A rematch with Jonas, whom Harper drew with in a 2020 Fight of the Year contender, remains a priority for Harper, but things do not get much bigger than they are in Dublin this weekend, when Harper and Braekhus appear on the undercard of Katie Taylor-Chantelle Cameron in a bout between two undisputed champions. It will be an occasion almost unmatched in boxing, with Taylor making her long-awaited Irish homecoming as a pro.
“I feel like I just need to remind myself, stripping it back, that it’s all about the fight and not letting the occasion get to me and focus on the job I’ve been working hard to do,” admitted Harper. “I’m expecting the best version of Cecilia on the night. It’s a big occasion for her also, and it’s just going to be a great night of boxing and once I’ve done the job, I can get back out and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the rest of the show.”
Harper lost her WBC super-featherweight crown to Alycia Baumgardner in November 2011, stopped in four rounds in Sheffield. She has rebounded with back-to-back 10-round wins over Yamila Belen Abellaneda and Hannah Rankin, the latter was for the WBA super-welter title. Politics in boxing being what they are, Harper cannot be sure what short-term goals are, but she wants to box again before the end of the year and again early in 2024.
“The main thing for me is to be active,” Harper explained. “I’ve been in the gym since November and I’ve had two fight dates pushed back and it’s just been one slog to get this one over the line so for me… I feel I’m in the position now to push on for the big fights, whether there’s a rematch there with Jonas… or she doesn’t go for that I’ll be looking at going back down and facing the champions at the lower weights.”
Women’s boxing has thrived in recent years. Jonas-Harper II would surely do brisk business, but Saturday’s clash between Taylor and Cameron has the sport buzzing and Harper is grateful to be a part of it.
“Listen, Chantelle’s wanted this fight for a very long time and you can see how hungry she is and this is her opportunity now,” Harper concluded. “But I think it’s Katie’s first time as a pro in Ireland and the Irish fans are on a different level and I know that they’ll bring out an extra level if it does get to be a tough fight. Obviously Katie’s got some confidence in herself to even take the fight after Amanda [Serrano] pulled out, Katie could have gone and chosen an easier fight but she didn’t and massive respect to both ladies putting it all on the line and giving us all a great night of boxing.”