There was perhaps a silver lining to Terri Harper being forced off last weekend’s show in Dublin.
A dream opportunity to appear on the undercard of Katie Taylor’s long-overdue homecoming event was pulled from Harper on the morning of the fight. The two-division and defending WBA junior middleweight titlist was left without an opponent when her challenger, former undisputed welterweight champ and pound-for-pound queen Cecila Braekhus, was too ill to even get out of bed.
It was a bittersweet ending to a stressful fight week, one that was admittedly more overwhelming than anticipated. A new opponent was secured for the 26-year-old from Denaby Main as she defends versus former welterweight titlist Ivana Habazin this weekend in more familiar surroundings at AO Arena in Manchester, England.
“I feel like the whole occasion kind of got to me,” Harper admitted during Thursday’s final pre-fight press conference. “I’ve been out since September last year. Just the anxiety of being in front of the media and press got to me a little bit.
“Being back in Manchester where I’ve fought a couple of times, I feel a bit more settled and at home. I’ve been in fight mode all week. I’m just ready to get in the ring. All this week has been overtime to do the job that should have been done last week. I’m just ready for a scrap.”
Harper (13-1-1, 6KOs) will attempt the first defense of the WBA junior middleweight title she won in a ten-round, unanimous decision over Hannah Rankin last September 24 at Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham. She made a three-weight jump to 154, only one fight after moving up to lightweight from 130 where she previously held the WBC title.
The eight-month gap between fights isn’t ideal, though perhaps less so than having to make weight twice in a seven-day span and to only have one fight to show for it. Harper did her job at the scales last weekend in Dublin, as she easily made weight for a planned supporting bout on a card where Chantelle Cameron (18-0. 8KOs) successfully defended her undisputed 140-pound crown in a minor upset win over Ireland’s Taylor (22-1, 6KOs).
Ever the professional, Harper maintained her fight weight for another weight and was somehow slightly lighter on Friday than she was one week ago. She was well under the limit at 150.3 pounds and fully back into fight mode.
“The fact they got me out there made it a little easier,” Harper said of the extraordinary effort made by Matchroom to secure Habazin on such short notice. “We were supposed to be in Dublin until Monday. We were back here Sunday and in the gym Sunday night.
“I’ve been in fight mode all week. I’m just going in the ring with mean intentions. I feel like that was missing last week. I feel the spite and I’m going to bring it in there.”
Harper-Habazin is one of two title fights due to take place on DAZN this Saturday from Manchester. Leigh Wood (26-3, 16KOs) is due to face Mauricio Lara (26-2-1, 19KOs), who was grossly overweight and forced to vacate his WBA featherweight title which is only at stake for Wood assuming the fight still moves forward.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox