Terri Harper is set for a fresh start at an old fighting weight.
The former WBC/IBO junior lightweight titlist returns to the ring for her first fight following the end of her title reign, moving back up to lightweight to next face former featherweight titleholder Heather Hardy. The scheduled 10-round fight will land on the undercard of the already announced Leigh Wood-Michael Conlan WBA featherweight title fight on a March 12 DAZN show from Nottingham Arena in Nottingham.
“Straight back into the fire,” Eddie Hearn, Harper’s promoter and head of Matchroom Boxing announced Monday. “Terri Harper’s first fight at lightweight will be against former world champ Heather Hardy on the big Wood-Conlan card March 12 in Nottingham live on DAZN.”
The fight marks the first fight at lightweight for Harper (11-1-1, 6KOs) since 2019, preceding her first career title fight. The 25-year-old Harper claimed the IBO belt in July 2019, making four successful defenses including a ten-round win over Eva Wahlstrom to also earn the more widely recognized WBC strap in their February 2020 title fight at Utilita Arena in Sheffield, minutes from her hometown of Denaby Main, England.
The same venue saw Harper’s reign come to a crashing halt in her most recent bout, a devastating fourth-round knockout at the heavy hands of Alycia Baumgardner (11-1, 7KOs). The November 13 title fight saw Baumgardner land a crushing right hand that left Harper out on her feet, prompting an immediate stoppage in what was recognized by BoxingScene.com as the 2021 Female Knockout of the Year.
Harper has since decided to take her 5’8 ½” frame back up to lightweight, in hopes of eventually becoming a two-division titlist.
“Back to work, straight back into a big fight,” noted Harper, who weighed 138 pounds for her November 2017 pro debut. “Thank you, Eddie Hearn [and] Matchroom Boxing for getting me back out so quickly. It’s an honour to be fighting Heather Hardy, an icon and former world champion.”
Brooklyn’s Hardy (22-2, 4KOs) previously held the WBO featherweight title, losing the belt to seven-division champ Amanda Serrano (42-1-1, 30KOs) in September 2019. The bout was followed by a lengthy 20-month ring absence before returning last May 14, only to suffer a stunning eight-round defeat to Jessica Camara in her own lightweight debut. Hardy had never previously fought heavier than featherweight but will remain in the 135-pound division.
A win by Harper could come right on time in her pursuit of becoming a two-division titlist. Irish superstar Katie Taylor (20-0, 6KOs) is the current undisputed lightweight queen and is in advanced stages of finalizing a superlight with Serrano eyed for April 30 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Taylor and Harper are both promoted by Hearn, while Serrano is a promotional free agent and currently signed with content creator Jake Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions in a managerial capacity. Taylor has already satisfied mandatory title defense obligations with the WBC, IBF and WBA all since the pandemic, leaving room for the Taylor-Serrano winner to pursue the next challenge at their leisure and relatively free of the sport’s politics.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox