Jennifer Han feels she can confound the odds and topple undisputed lightweight queen Katie Taylor in their 135lbs title clash at the Emerald Headingley Stadium in Leeds on Saturday.
El Paso’s Han is considered a long shot for victory, with Betfred pegging the Texan as a wide 16-1 outsider. But after giving birth to her second son earlier in 2021, Han (18-3-1, 1 KO) says she is in fighting shape and angling for an upset against Irish star Taylor.
The 38-year-old brings pedigree as a former IBF featherweight champion, making four successful defences before taking her first break to start a family and then returning for a successful comeback bout in February 2020. This will be Han’s second fight outside American following a majority decision loss to Ji Hye Woo in South Korea in March 2013.
“I’ve been a road warrior, I know how it is, the odds are stacked against me, she’s the hometown girl – I get it,” said Han. “When I went to Korea, I felt I dominated the fight and the decision was taken away from me, so this time I have to not only dominate but be in command of every single round or go for the KO.
“This is huge, it’s the biggest fight of my life and you can’t get bigger than Katie Taylor. I’m going to be fighting for all her belts, this is the greatest opportunity that God has blessed me with, I’ve worked my whole life for this, and I am ready.
“After I fought last year, I was meant to defend my title again versus the interim champion, but she lost, and the new champion wasn’t ready to fight yet. The IBF granted me the opportunity to fight Jeri [Sitzes, W10], and then they made me the number one contender at lightweight so I could fight Katie – but then Covid got in the way and crushed those dreams.
“Americans weren’t allowed to go over to the UK, so the fight was shelved, there was nothing out there for me, so I had baby number two. I kept my number one spot which I did, I didn’t think that the opportunity would come around so soon, but it has, you must be prepared for this, and I am, it’s great and I have trained so hard for this and it’s going to be so worth it.
“I was IBF champion for five years, but I was only fighting once a year because I couldn’t get the big fights. I can’t pause my life, I don’t have that luxury, so I had my baby, I’m very lucky and happy. I am in great shape, and I want to fight the best of the best, and that’s what I am doing on Saturday.
“She has amazing strengths, an Olympic gold medallist, undisputed world champion, she’s beaten a lot of talented fighters, but they are not the same as me, and I think what I bring to the table she hasn’t seen before so I hope that I surprise her with my technique.
“I hope she underestimates me and takes into consideration all the things that are stacked up against me. I hope she hasn’t trained hard; she’s taken me for granted, that’d be sweeter for me.
“I was hoping to just be on TV and become a two-weight world champion, but this is the biggest platform possible for me. I’m not going to take anything away from her, but she’s beatable. Believe me, my camp and I are studying her inside and out. We have plenty of strategies.”
Main image: Top Rank.