“I’m just a normal girl from Denaby and I want show to people that no matter what walk of life you come from, if you love something that much, if you have enough determination and are willing to make the sacrifices, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.” – Terri Harper
In the space of 2 years, Terri Harper has gone from serving Denaby’s finest fish and chips to becoming IBO and WBC super-featherweight champion. It’s quite extraordinary to have achieved such a feat at 23 years of age, even more so when you take into account the timescale of her achievements. It’s a cliché you hear all too often but for Terri, the world really is her oyster!
Terri showed athletic prowess from very early on and admitted to being a teacher’s pet in PE, her favourite subject. “I was an all-rounder in sport at school; basketball, football, table tennis, rounders, I loved it all. I played for all the school teams and if ever I had the opportunity to do something extra, I would.”
Such was her level of talent; Terri’s PE teacher had already identified sport as the career path she was destined towards “My PE teacher said to me ‘Terri, if you don’t make it into sport when you are older, you’ve done something wrong.’ I was probably one of the most naturally gifted students they taught, I’m pleased that I’ve put what they taught me to good use now.”
Boxing was a stab in the dark for Terri and it came from an unlikely source “I was watching Jack Osborne’s Adrenaline Junkie with my Dad. There was boxing on the programme and my Dad turned round and said ‘Terri, what you do you reckon about giving that a go?’ I found my local amateur club and fell in love with the sport.”
Walking into a new environment is daunting at the best of times, even more so when you add to the fact you are a female, stepping into a male dominated sport. But Terri was unfazed “It’s something I’ve always been used to. In my footballing days I played on the boys teams and I can remember crying when mum said I had to move to a girls’ team. I wasn’t fazed, I just didn’t know what to expect but it turned out I loved it, even getting punched on the nose for the first time, I loved that as well.”
The struggles of being a female fighter came to head early on for Terri “The pool of boxing when I was younger was very shallow, I used to get a lot of byes through to the finals. I only had to fight a couple of times to win a national title.” After becoming a 3x National Champion and a European Youth silver medallist, Terri stepped away from the sport having the lost bug which enticed her in, whilst also feeling a lack of support from her then partner who didn’t support her boxing dreams.
Terri’s 4 year boxing hiatus came to an end after a phone call from her now trainer Stefy Bull. Stefy encouraged Terri to turn professional after seeing the likes of Katie Taylor, Nicola Adams and Chantelle Cameron making waves on the pro scene and held the belief Terri could do the same. Stefy has been an instrumental figure in Terri’s rise to the top. “I’ve known Stefy from when I was 11/12 years old at the amateur club. He was using the gym to train pros at the time so didn’t have much to do with the amateurs. We got to know each other more when we went out for runs together. As a trainer and manager Stefy is amazing. I’m lucky to have come back to the sport and have someone as knowledgeable as Stefy guiding me; I’ve got every trust in him. He has been around the game for a long time and knows all the ins and outs but he’s also fun to be around, you can go to the gym feeling down and he would be there to pick you up. He has that aura about him that makes you feel happy and relaxed.”
Alongside Stefy, Terri had the newfound love and support of her partner Jenna who is her biggest supporter “I met Jenna when I was 19, I’ve never had support like I’ve had from her, she supports me through camp, with tickets and her family and friends are all behind me too. It’s nice that she’s on this journey with me and can share the special moments.” On Jenna’s wild victory celebrations “I don’t think the audience are used to seeing people like Jenna ringside yet but I’m glad Sky Sports are showing that and showing what she is going through just as much as what I am.”
Embarking on life as a professional boxer left Terri having to juggle training with her university studies, personal training and her role as a chippy. Not shy of a hard work ethic, Terri maintained this lifestyle for as long as she could. After gaining a 2:1 in Sports Coaching she eventually left her other commitments behind to push herself 100% into boxing. And it certainly paid off.
Since turning professional, Terri has taken the super-featherweight division by storm, becoming IBO and WBC super-featherweight champion in just 10 fights! A remarkable feat in anyone’s terms.
Terri’s fan base is forever growing and with the prospect of headlining a Matchroom show looming on the horizon, so does the likelihood of featuring on PPV shows.
British Heavyweight Dave Allen is one of many to give props to the Denaby fighter, in an interview with Talksport.com he revealed “I honestly think she will be the woman to beat Katie Taylor, she’s that good. And I’m not just saying that because she’s from down the road, I’ve never seen a stronger person in my life. She’s so strong, athletically she’s so gifted. I back her to beat every super-featherweight in the world; I think she’ll beat every lightweight in the world as well. She’s 23 years old, I think in three or four years’ time she’ll be the pound-for-pound greatest female boxer in the world.”
When asked to compare the differences between her professional debut and her fights now, Terri explains “At first I had a bit of interest from people in the village. My partner Jenna has a big family and a big group of friends. They all got behind me and I probably sold about 50 tickets for my debut. In my last fight for the WBC super-featherweight title I sold over 700 tickets; everyone from the village must have been there that night, it’s so special for me to have all those people believing in me and being part of the journey.”
For an exceptional talent like Terri, you would have expected her to have self-belief in abundance but she admits that only after winning the WBC title did she share the same belief as those around her. “I’ve only just started believing in my talent to be honest, I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders the night I fought Eva [Wahlstrom] and it was such a relief when I won. In the changing rooms after I thought to myself ‘This is the time when I really need to start believing in myself.’ There are girls I’ve been watching and looking up to over the years but I now think ‘Wow I could beat them.’ The self-belief is with me now and that’s what I need to take myself to the next level.” She also admits that it was daunting on the other side of the ropes when it came to speaking in interviews but now boxing has enabled her to build on her confidence and social skills too. “When Stefy used to tell me I had an interview coming up, it used to make me so nervous that I would lose sleep over it. I struggled to look people in the eye and talk to them.”
For someone who appears so incredibly humble and laid back, I was intrigued to find out whether there’s anything that gets under Terri’s skin, “Nothing really gets under my skin, maybe arrogance or disrespect because there’s no need for that in this sport, at the end of the day it’s just a hobby or a job, so there’s no need to disrespect anyone. I’m very laid back, just like my Dad, who’s the most laid back person ever, if he lay back anymore, he’d be asleep!”
There is no limit to Terri’s potential, with further world honours the obvious goal for the future. Whilst continuing to be successful, she also wants to lead by example in remaining humble and inspiring others. “I’m just a normal girl from Denaby and I want show to people that no matter what walk of life you come from, if you love something that much, if you have enough determination and are willing to make the sacrifices, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
Black and White Photo – Credit – @unorthodoxxII
Ring Photos – Credit – @MatchroomBoxing
***INTERVIEW BY BEN WHITE***