Terri Harper should have been preparing for a world title unification this weekend in Manchester. Another big opportunity for Denaby’s WBC and IBO super-featherweight world champion to shine and add to her ever-growing resume as a headline fighter on Sky Sports. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of for someone who was working in a chip shop not too long ago.
But this is boxing. And dreams will often turn into nightmares. For Harper, she’s in one right now, as she will now be forced to watch the bill from the comfort of her own sofa after another injury to her previously, surgically repaired hand and a further spell on the sidelines for ‘Belter’.
It’s a cruel turn of events for the 24-year-old Harper (11-0-1, 6 KOs), who originally injured her hand in her last fight against Katharina Thanderz back in November in the last defence of her titles. And, as manager Stefy Bull told Boxing Social, it’s a story that you couldn’t have made up.
“It’s heartbreaking for Terri. Anyone who follows her on social media can see how hard she works and her work ethic,” said Bull. “It’s been one of the major driving forces behind her success and to have an opportunity taken away so late is cruel.
“Since she had the operation after she broke her hand in November, we have followed the advice to the letter. She’s not had her hand gloved up for three months, so we worked the lead hand and not the back hand until we got the go ahead, so actually it was probably four months in all.
“She was all signed off and has been in the gym since Christmas, as I can’t keep her out. She’s got herself [ready] and was in great form. She was breaking all her previous records in S&C training with Danny Wilson and then it happened.
“You couldn’t make it up. It was an eight-round spar and it went with the last punch. She caught Raven Chapman on the temple and we knew there was an issue. We got her straight in for a scan and the plate was in half, so it was our worst nightmare come true.”
It is a tough pill to swallow for the Harper team, who saw the young star become one of British boxing’s brightest prospects in a very short space of time and the hype was building steadily. She captured the IBO title close to home against Nozipho Bell in July 2019, before adding the WBC belt with an excellent performance over Eva Wahlstrom in February 2020.
Then there was the summer draw with Natasha Jonas, which was widely acknowledged as one of the best fights anywhere in 2020. After a quick return against Thanderz, the Yorkshire woman seemed set for more glory nights. She picked up the victory yet also the hand injury. But Harper had seemingly recovered and was poised for a unification this weekend with WBA champion Hyun Mi Choi (18-0-1, 4 KOs).
All of the Korean’s fights, bar one, have been for a world title belt either at featherweight or super-feather. It would have been another step towards Harper emulating one of her heroes in Katie Taylor and becoming an undisputed champion. Sadly, this time it’s not to be, but Bull is confident that his star will be back firing on all cylinders soon.
“It was a huge chance for Terri. She was in a unification fight in the main event on a Sky Sports, Saturday night card. She had done all the hard graft and it’s bad enough having the actual pain, but the mental pain will be as tough. I’ll be honest, I’m going to have concerns for her,” Bull told Boxing Social.
“She’ll be in for an operation [today] to have two plates put in, as well as some bone from her hip into her hand. It’s honestly devastating but we’ll look at the positives that are still there. She’s the IBO and WBC world champion and still number one at her weight in the world and no one can take that away from her.
“But this is boxing. She’ll bounce back, I’m sure of it. I feel for her but also for her opponent, who will have put the same work in as Terri. She’s left her home in Korea to train in Los Angeles and now her chance has gone through no fault of her own.
“It’s gutting for them both. But for Terri, it’s been a real kick to the momentum she had. When she gets back, it’ll be around a year since she fought and there are no easy fights when you’re the world champion. But that’s the true test and I’m confident she has what it takes.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.