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Dublin: 21°C Sunday 13 June 2021

'If it wasn't for Katie, there's no way I'd be pro' - England's Harper moving closer to fighting her idol

‘If somebody told me a couple of years ago I’d be boxing on a Katie Taylor bill, I’d never have believed them.’

English standout prospect Terri Harper [8-0, 5KOs].
English standout prospect Terri Harper [8-0, 5KOs].
Image: Bradley Collyer

PUBLIC WORKOUTS DURING fight week are essentially box-ticking exercises for their protagonists. Hop into a makeshift ring, do what essentially amounts to a warm-up on the pads, maybe skip rope for a bit, and hop out. Applause. One or two interviews. Out the gap.

At Manchester’s Edwardian hotel on Wednesday evening, however, young English standout Terri Harper — already world-ranked and boasting an 8-0 (5KOs) record at the age of 22 — was seen watching on from the fringes over an hour after she had worked up a sweat in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Harper, whose ring moniker is ‘Belter’, has a career-biggest fight at the 20,000-capacity Manchester Arena on Saturday, which happens to be her 23rd birthday. An outstanding amateur in her youth, the Yorkshire woman is expected to scale even greater heights in the punch-for-pay ranks, in which she’s signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing promotional stable.

But the ninth contest of her professional career is one of special significance for other reasons.

IMG_0853 Terri Harper watches on as Katie Taylor completes her public workout.

“It’s a bit surreal for me,” Harper told The42 before taking centre-stage for her own workout. “If somebody told me a couple of years ago I’d be boxing on a Katie Taylor bill, I’d never have believed them.

Katie is my idol. To get to box on the same night as her, on the night she’s headlining a show like this, is a dream come true, really.

“I just need to not let all of that get on top of me,” added the Denaby-native puncher, wide-eyed. “I might let it sink in after fight night.”

Stood opposite her in four nights’ time will be a woman familiar to Irish and British boxing connoisseurs. Brazilian-born Swiss resident Viviane Obenauf [14-5, 7KOs] shook the female game in August of last year when she punctured a hole through the career of another British star, Natasha Jonas, all but ending the prospect of a potential London 2012 rematch between Taylor and the Liverpudlian in the process.

Obenauf also fought Taylor in the latter’s second fight, taking her the six-round distance in December 2016.

And so Harper is following in her hero’s footsteps almost literally as well as figuratively. Add to the equation the fact that she currently operates at super-featherweight, just five pounds south of Taylor’s natural weight, and she could well become a household name on Sky Sports in her own right over the next year or two, and it certainly begs the obvious question.

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“People do keep saying it to me… The thought that I could be fighting, in my opinion, the best female out there, which is Katie… It would be a dream come true again! But that’s why I want to fight the best: you’ve got to fight the best to be the best. It would be an honour if I ever got that opportunity, and the longer I’m in this game the more realistic it’s becoming.

“Katie has done big things for females in the sport — as an amateur, but now as a professional.

Like, if it wasn’t for Katie, there’s no way I’d be boxing professionally now. She’s the reason why Andrew [Bullcroft, trainer] messaged me in the first place. He’s obviously seen Katie Taylor boxing as a professional, and that’s when he dropped me the message. And now, a couple of years later, I’m on Katie’s undercard, so… Dreams come true!

“I’ve only had eight fights but after every fight, I can see my improvement. Hopefully in a couple of years, I’ll be in my prime, and I’ll be able to give Katie a good fight,” she says, keen not to overstep the mark just yet.

“I’ve never met her before. Hopefully I’ll meet her sometime this week,” Harper adds.

An hour or so later, a sweat-drenched Taylor — who has several journalists and video bloggers queuing to interview her following a workout — is approached by one of the hotel security staff. Politely, he whispers, ‘Would it be possible for you to go and take a picture with Terri Harper when you have a sec? She’s just over there in the corner. She’s too shy to ask.”

EIJhh2xXYAE0Erp Until they meet again...

About the author:

Gavan Casey  / Reporting from Manchester

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