Natasha Jonas claimed the best win of her career Saturday, beating Mikaela Mayer by split decision in the first defense of her IBF welterweight world title.
After a close fight with some ferocious exchanges, Jonas received scores of 96-94 and 96-95 at M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England. The other judge scored it 97-93 for Mayer.
The 39-year-old Jonas (15-2-1, 9 KOs), who turned professional in 2017 after competing as an amateur at the 2012 Olympics and giving birth to a daughter in 2015, will consider a rematch, as well as fights against the likes of Katie Taylor, Chantelle Cameron and Lauren Price as she closes in on retirement by the end of 2024.
“She is in the top-two fighters I have faced and she will be devastated with this defeat, but she should use it as motivation to become a two-weight world champion,” Jonas said of Mayer, the former unified junior lightweight champion. “The only person I fought who is better is Katie (Taylor, who beat Jonas on points in May 2021).
“I had a good start, harder, cleaner shots, and I came on strong at the end. I gave away some of the middle rounds. This is probably my last year in boxing, and we want to make it the best chapter in the book.”
The 33-year-old Mayer (19-2, 5 KOs), an Olympian who fights out of Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, felt she deserved the victory and hopes for the rematch.
“I thought I did enough to win, I outpunched her and outworked her, landing clean shots and having her backed up against the ropes,” Mayer said. “I think that fight is worth seeing again. I didn’t have a rematch clause on my side, but I hope we can get it on again. It’s disappointing, but what am I going to do? I hope Natasha is going to be the standup champion and give me a rematch. I believe I warranted the rematch. I knew from first 10 seconds it was going to be a battle and halfway through I thought this is fight of the year.”
Mayer, who reigned as unified junior lightweight champion for two years until fellow American Alycia Baumgardner beat her on points in October 2022, stepped up in weight to take on Jonas in front of the Englishwoman’s home city fans, and it never looked like too much for her.
After fighting at lightweight and catchweight (in between junior welterweight and welterweight) last year, the American looked strong on her welterweight debut.
Southpaw Jonas, who stopped Kandi Wyatt in July to win the vacant IBF belt, landed some sharp shots on the counter in the first two rounds, as Mayer pressed forward. An entertaining fourth round began with Mayer landing two slick combinations, before Jonas responded with a volley of punches. Jonas had a great spell early in the fifth round, and she registered a flurry of quick punches as she grew in confidence. But in the second half of the fifth round, Mayer unloaded some heavier punches, and she dropped a chopping right hand on the champion.
Mayer was more powerful, which was impressive considering this was her first fight at welterweight, but in a brilliant seventh round Jonas went on the attack. Both landed some good shots in the seventh, and it was hard to separate them, but in the eighth, Jonas — perhaps fatigued after her exertions in the seventh — was caught and her head was jolted back by a left hook at close range.
Jonas made another good start in the ninth round, catching Mayer with a left hand, and then landed a right hook to the jaw later in the round as the American left some openings. Jonas continued to finish strong in the 10th and final round, but it was difficult to convincingly argue who should have won such a close, high-quality contest.