Opportunity knocks for Terri Harper
‘I’m just enjoying it all and rolling with everything that is coming.’
If Terri Harper is at all nervous for the fight of her life, you would not know it.
Next Friday night in Barnsley, the Denaby Main fighter will face the unbeaten Nina Bradley for the vacant WBC International lightweight title - an opportunity which has come much earlier than anyone expected or planned for.
Harper became South Yorkshire's first female professional fighter just 15 months ago.
The plan then, and for much of her first year, for the 22-year-old was a slow build, picking up the experience she missed out on after walking away from a promising amateur career while still a junior.
But rapid progress in her first five fights plus a certain degree of circumstance has presented her with the opportunity to face Bradley and a chance to accelerate a highly promising career.
Though much earlier than planned, Harper insists she is more than ready for her big chance.
“Andrew [Stefy Bull, manager] thought it would be around ten fights before we started looking at the big fights but this opportunity has come up," she said.
“So why not?
“You're only young once so you’ve got to take these chances.
"I’m very excited for this one. I’m, really itching to get into the ring now and put all the hard work to good use.”
Harper is used to unexpected opportunities.
She was anticipating an exciting outing early on the undercard of Kell Brook’s return to action at Sheffield Arena in December.
But a few short hours before the first bell was due to ring, Harper found herself unexpectedly pushed into an eight round contest – and the first fight of the night televised on Sky Sports.
Some would have crumbled under the pressure but Harper thrived - stopping Feriche Mashauri to announce herself to a wider audience.
“That experience on Sky Sports was the sort of thing people dream of,” she said.
“To have it only in my fifth fight, it was crazy.
“It took a while for it to sink in, seeing all the big fighters at the weigh-in.
“Before we were setting off to Sheffield, Andrew rang me and askied if I would go onto live TV. I said yeastraight away.
“And stepping up to eight rounds which I' not done before. It was an amazing experience.
"I treated it the same. I felt a lot more calm, to say how big a show it was and how many people were seeing it.
"I guess it was the experience and the team I've got around me.”
Harper credits gym mate Lee Appleyard – Rotherham’s former English champion, who will also be on Friday night's bill – with bringing about an improvement in her mental approach during her latest training camp.
And she feels she will be a much improved fighter when she steps into the ring next.
“Mentally I've been pushed,” she said.
“I've been out every Sunday running with Lee Appleyard and he's pushed me beyond where I thought my limit was.
“He's pushed me hard mentally and I feel stronger.
"There's so much experience of stuff like this in the gym and they've been passing that all on.
“I’m very confident.
“Each camp can see how much I'm improving.
“I don't think we're rushing too quickly.
“I feel like I've learned a lot over the last year and this will be a great test.”