Natasha Jonas is ready for another shot at Katie Taylor nine years after their record-breaking Olympic fight

Natasha Jonas was the first woman to box at the Olympics for Great Britain. Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

This article is part of ESPN's coverage of Women's History Month.

When Natasha Jonas met Ireland's Katie Taylor at the 2012 London Olympics, the stadium was quite literally rocking. At 113.7 decibels the noise was as loud as a rock concert, which happens to be four decibels greater than the human pain threshold.

It was a meeting of two boxers who had been at the forefront of developing the women's side of the sport in their home countries; but more specifically, it was the meeting of two sets of fans with a long and storied history -- the Irish and Scousers.

"It was unreal," Jonas tells ESPN. "I think the whole of Ireland hated me for like two days and then after that fight the whole of Ireland loved me. I must have got about 10,000 new followers [on social media]."

A lot has changed for the two women in the nine years which followed the sport's first Olympic fight, including heralding a new era for boxing. Both women are professional boxers and Jonas feels the time is right for a rematch against the sport's superstar.

"I remember thinking to myself in the corner, most people get beaten by Taylor by you know seven, eight, nine points or whatever. I can be happy that I'm three points down and lose by three points or I can go for it and whatever happens, happens and I went for it," she says.

"I watched it back for the first time ever this year thinking: 'If only I had a few more rounds.' Obviously, with professional [boxing], you do get that and like I said you don't have the stress of [thinking]: 'I've got to pull things back.'

"I've just got to win the round. It's not about the points. It's about winning the round so it makes it a lot different."

Taylor most recently defended her four lightweight titles against Miriam Gutierrez in the first ever triple header of women's world title bouts on a bill.

"Every women's sport has their Eureka moment," Jonas says.

"Women's professional boxing has that at the minute. We are riding the crest of a wave. So we've got to govern that positively in the right direction. It's still not where it needs to be. It's still not on par with certain things but we are moving forward."

From football aspirations to Olympic firsts

Jonas, 36, grew up in what she describes as a "rundown area" of Liverpool. Her Mum had her when she was 15 and they lived with her grandmother and a few of her other cousins. With loads of kids in the house they were constantly encouraged to be active outside and it was here that she discovered her love of sport.

"Obviously playing with the boys you do the things that boys do and football was my first love," she says. "I remember starting out and, you know, you're the only girl in a boy's sport and they pick you last because you're a girl and you're a little bit weaker or whatever. Fast forward a year and I was probably better than the lads."

At this stage, boxing was not on her radar at all and instead she was dreaming of becoming a professional footballer. Good football genes run in her family as her sister is Lyon forward and England international Nikita Parris. Jonas showed promise and won a scholarship to go to America to play football.

However, a serious knee injury ended her football career and heralded a dark time for her mentally and physically.

"After I came back home, I had a year of doing nothing. I'd lost a group of friends because I didn't play football anymore. I put on a lot of weight so lost a lot of confidence."

To try and counter the effects of her injury, she started going to her uncle's karate gym. For Jonas, the aim of the training was just to help keep herself occupied but while she was there she was spotted by a local woman who encouraged her to try boxing.

"I didn't say it to her but who wants to be punched in the face I was thinking to myself," she laughs. "But she bugged me that much that I was like right I'm going to do this boxing session that she wants me to and then next time I see her I can say I didn't like it and I'm not going back.

"I did the session and it was so hard and the next day I got up and couldn't move but, you know what, for the first time in a really long time I had pushed myself."

Jonas was hooked. At 21, she was ready for her first fight. She had done the dedicated athlete routine before and it was something she wanted to get back to.

At the time, there wasn't a massive structure for women's boxing and after four or five fights she was entered into the ABH (the Championship in England). Her star continued to rise and talks began about the 2012 Olympics where women were to fight for the first time.

Competition for places was high with 57 fighters from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England vying for nine spots. She was the first to qualify making her the first woman to box for Britain at the Olympics.

"The Olympics is obviously like the pinnacle for amateur athletes in boxing," Jonas says.

"It's hard to put into words because we had never experienced that before."

From retirement to professional

Following the 2012 Olympics, there was an uncharted path for Jonas. At that stage, the women's professional scene wasn't as developed as it is now and sponsors were hard to come by. An untimely operation meant she missed the qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics and didn't want to stay in the amateur cycle until 2020, so she decided to retire.

"There was no real pro stars for women's boxing so I stepped away from boxing and I was happy to go and be a coach, back to my amateur club." During this time, Jonas also became a Mum and was happy juggling the two. Then, Taylor announced her decision to turn professional and Jonas was back in the spotlight again. Two years after she had "retired," she was asked to be on the commentary team for Taylor's debut fight.

"After I had done it, the Team GB captain Tom Stalker -- who I am very close to -- he phoned me up and said: 'I've just seen you on Sky, that was great. Women's boxing is going to be massive now she's in it. Wouldn't you ever think of coming back?'

"At the time, I'm two years out and I'm quite happy with my life and what I'm doing and I'm like: 'Shut up Tom. I haven't punched a bag in two years.'"

Despite her initial reluctance, the seed had been planted in Jonas' head and she started to think about what was actually stopping her from turning professional and giving the sport another go. Still unsure of what she should do, she turned to her family for help who encouraged her to go for it.

The training was rough at the start. Having been in her prime when she stopped, it was an adjustment to not bounce back to that place after two years off and a pregnancy.

"You're always judging yourself for what you could do and what you did do which is hard," she said. "It was more the doubt in myself that I could be the same athlete that I was."

Four years on, in 2021

It has been nearly four years since Jonas decided to re-enter the ring and the Olympian has had her shares of ups and downs. In August 2018, she was stunned by Viviane Obenauf in her seventh professional bout.

In August 2020, she found herself in the middle of a controversial draw with Terri Harper who retained the WBC women's world super-featherweight title in a match they headlined in the first all-British women's title contest.

The Harper fight was unusual in that because of COVID-19 it was held at promoter Eddie Hearn's Fight Camp -- an arena set up in Hearn's garden. Despite the disappointing outcome, Jonas enjoyed the experience.

"In that whole Terri [Harper] camp, I think I can remember about three negative comments about women's boxing. You know, 'Oh no one want to watch that anyways.' So that's three out of 1000s," she says, which perhaps is a sign of better things on the horizon for women's boxing.

Besides the fight with Harper, it has been a bizarre year for Jonas. With her fights postponed, training made difficult by the coronavirus pandemic and her daughter to home school, there was a lot happening. However, eager to give back to her community she set up a lunch club at her local gym.

"Liverpool is a working class city and a lot of people are on zero hour contracts and they're the first people to go when businesses are in trouble," she says.

"Especially the kids that it was aimed at, it was kids that would get free school meals. We offered [boxing] sessions and they come along to the session, which they do for an hour. They get involved in something and maybe they like it... Then we give them a packed lunch to go away with with. So, it killed two birds with one stone."

As 2021 rolls on with no fight in sight, Jonas is concentrating on what she can -- her training, her family, and giving back to the community.