Terri Harper is back on course to face a former titleholder.
Matchroom Boxing has confirmed the two-division and reigning WBA junior middleweight titlist will make her first defense versus Croatia’s Ivana Habazin. Their scheduled ten-round contest will land on the undercard of the Mauricio Lara-Leigh Wood WBA featherweight title fight rematch this Saturday from AO Arena in Manchester, England.
The bout was put together on barely 24-hours’ notice, after Harper (13-1-1, 6KOs) left without an opponent this past Saturday on the Chantelle Cameron-Katie Taylor undercard in Dublin, Ireland. Former undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (37-2, 9KOs) was due to challenge the 26-year-old Brit, only to wake up the morning of the fight with flu-like symptoms which forced her unexpected withdrawal.
Promoter Eddie Hearn immediately revealed that Matchroom would get to work in securing a new opponent for Harper to return one week later.
“Slight change of plan, now off to Manchester to complete the job,” Harper confirmed on Sunday. “Speedy recovery to Cecilia Braekhus.”
The team moved quickly to secure the services of Habazin (21-4, 7KOs), a former IBF welterweight title claimant. Her brief reign ended with a September 2014 defeat to Braekhus, who became the first women’s undisputed champion in the four-belt era.
Habazin has won eight of her last ten bouts since then, though she remains best known for a January 2020 defeat to Claressa ‘GWOAT’ Shields for the vacant WBC and WBO junior middleweight titles. She rebounded with a ten-round victory over Diana Prazak last October 22 in Zabok, Croatia. The win came with the WBC Silver welterweight title at stake, which left her poised to challenge lineal and unified welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill.
A February 7 WBC-ordered purse bid to determine rights for the lineal/WBC/WBA welterweight title fight was won by Piranha Promotions, a privately-owned by Charles Muniz—Habazin’s manager. Piranha’s bid of $201,000 was voided after the company surrendered promotional rights to Matchroom on March 2. A date was never announced for the fight, which obviously will no longer take place.
Habazin’s return to junior middleweight further fuels speculation that McCaskill will instead face newly crowned WBO welterweight titlist Sandy Ryan.
Harper (13-1-1, 6KOs) still gets to make the first defense of the WBA junior middleweight title she acquired in a ten-round win over Hannah Rankin last September 24 in Nottingham, England. The bout took place on a card that was originally scheduled to house the first Lara-Wood WBA featherweight title fight. Wood withdrew from the event due to injury, but has since lost his title to Lara who rallied to score a seventh-round knockout on February 18 in Nottingham.
The title claim for Harper extended her current two fight win streak following her lone career defeat, a November 2021 crushing fourth-round knockout to Alycia Baumgardner (14-1, 7KOs; now undisputed 130-pound champion) in Sheffield—near her Denaby Main hometown—to end her WBC junior lightweight title reign. Harper moved up to lightweight and then all the way to junior middleweight to become a two-division titlist.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox