Natasha Jonas landed a title unification bout and a homecoming in one fell swoop.
The 38-year-old Liverpool native will remain at junior middleweight, where she puts her WBO title on the line against WBC titlist Patricia Berghult. The two-belt clash will land on an already confirmed September 3 Sky Sports broadcast from M&S Bank Arena in her Liverpool hometown, BOXXER announced Friday.
“Tasha is one of British boxing’s trailblazers,” said Ben Shalom, CEO and founder of BOXXER. “She was our first world champion signing at BOXXER and she fully deserves this great opportunity on home soil. And it is a great fight against the WBC champion Berghult, who is unbeaten and will be looking to upset the home fans.”
As previously confirmed, the show will include local hero and former WBO junior middleweight titlist Liam Smith (31-3-1, 18KOs), who faces Tanzania’s Hassan Mwakinyo (20-2, 14KOs).
Jonas (11-2-1, 8KOs) will make the first defense of the WBO title she claimed in a second-round knockout of Chris Namus on February 19 in Manchester. The title win came less than a year after having challenged famed Irish superstar Katie Taylor for the undisputed lightweight championship in a memorable slugfest last May, nearly nine years after their equally terrific clash in the 2012 London Olympics.
The narrow loss to Taylor further validated Jonas’ credentials, having raised her stock in a highly entertaining ten-round draw with then-unbeaten WBC junior lightweight titlist Terri Harper in August 2020. Jonas hoped to remain at either weight but didn’t bother to stick around once it was clear that another title fight wasn’t on the horizon. She has won two straight since then, both coming after signing with first-year promotional outfit BOXXER upon its launch last fall.
Following her win over Namus, the focus shifted towards collecting a second belt at junior middleweight. Jonas was eager to face WBA/IBO champ Hannah Rankin (12-5, 3KOs), though a deal couldn’t be reached. Rankin made the first defense in a tenth-round stoppage of Alejandra Ayala this past May, the fight sadly becoming best known for its horrific aftermath. Ayala suffered a subdural hematoma, for which she was placed in a medically-induced coma to perform emergency surgery and has since recovered.
Rankin has not fought since then, with Jonas eventually moving on and setting her sights on another divisional rival. The search led to Sweden’s Berghult (15-0, 3KOs), who was in the right place at the right time after losing out on a lucrative opportunity.
Berghult was previously scheduled to face legendary former welterweight champ and pound-for-pound queen Cecilia Braekhus on August 13 in Cali, Colombia. The event—which was to have been headlined by WBC bridgerweight titlist Oscar Rivas—was postponed due to logistical issues, leaving everyone on the show in limbo.
It worked out well for the 28-year Berghult, who immediately agreed to terms. The bout marks her first title defense, also serving as the division’s first unification bout in the wake of former undisputed 154-pound queen Claressa Shields returning to middleweight where she will face longtime bitter rival Savannah Marshall one week later in London.
Meanwhile, Jonas will aim to help bring clarity to the wide-open junior middleweight title picture. The occasion comes in her first fight in her hometown since November 2019.
“Tasha is a hugely popular figure on Merseyside and she will be backed by thousands on the night,” noted Shalom. “The atmosphere at the M&S Bank Arena will be electric – and just what Tasha needs as she bids to become the unified world champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox