Terri Harper retained her WBC women’s world super-featherweight title in a thrilling and controversial draw with fellow Briton Natasha Jonas.
In a bout that showed women’s boxing at its finest, Jonas was cut early on but quickly found her composure.
In the eighth round Jonas hurt her rival with a left-right combination and looked on the brink of winning a first world title at the age of 36.
But the judges scored it 96-94 for Harper, 96-95 for Jonas and 95-95.
“I’m gutted I’m not coming home with the belts,” said Liverpool’s Jonas. “A million percent I’ll do that again.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “We have to do that again. It was absolutely incredible. We are trying to push the women’s game but you can’t do it without the product. Women’s boxing is right up there and what a fight.”
‘She’s holding on, turn the screw’
Hearn’s words of praise were echoed by many in the sport on social media, with Atletico Madrid winger Toni Duggan saying the contest was a superb “advert for women’s sport”.
Harper and Jonas topped the bill at the second of four behind-closed-door events staged in Hearn’s childhood garden in order to safeguard against the spread of Covid-19.
Never before had two British women competed for a major world title and the fight lived up to the lasers and flames that illuminated their ring walks.
Just 12 months ago Doncaster’s Harper was working in a chip shop, and her capture of the title in February transformed her standing in the sport.
She quickly applied pressure in this gripping tussle, drawing blood from above Jonas’ eye early on.
But Jonas was accurate with her work and by the fifth round – when both fighters landed heavily and refused to wilt – there was little to split them.
It was the eighth when Jonas looked to have made some daylight on the cards, with her left hand from range followed by a short right hook.
“She’s holding for dear life – turn the screw,” shouted Jonas’ trainer Joe Gallagher.
But a closely fought final round left a seed of doubt and, while several pundits and former fighters on social media gave Jonas the edge, Harper appeared relieved to have come through her first defence of the title.
“I’m disappointed with my boxing but I’m 23 years old and that’s just my 11th fight,” she said.
“I want to thank Tasha for an excellent fight. Tasha has always been someone I have looked up to and I could tell the class she had.”
Fowler overcomes gutsy Harper
Elsewhere on the bill Rio 2016 Olympian Anthony Fowler put on an impressive display of power punching, flooring British compatriot Adam Harper heavily in the fourth.
Harper, who had not fought in 23 months and sent Hearn 36 unanswered text messages for the chance to fight, repeatedly asked his trainer for “one more round” and was eventually stopped in the seventh.
Fowler had been told he was on his final warning by the referee for punching too low but could now face Ted Cheeseman, who won at the top of the bill in week one of Hearn’s garden shows.