- Written by Kal Sajjad
- BBC Sport at Liverpool's M&S Bank Arena
Natasha Jonas defended her IBF welterweight title with a close decision win over Michaela Mayer at Liverpool's M&S Bank Arena.
Both men achieved success in a fierce back-and-forth matchup, but the results will likely divide opinion.
The scorecards were 96-94 and 96-95 for Jonas, and one judge had it 97-93 for Mayer.
Perhaps it was home advantage that ultimately proved the difference.
“It takes two to tango, and I know Michaela Mayer is going to get boned,” Jonas said.
“She is one of the top two fighters I have ever fought against. Use this as motivation to win the title she deserves and become a two-division world champion.”
In front of his home Liverpool crowd, Jonas continued the golden age of the twilight of his career.
After his victory, the 39-year-old two-division world champion improved his record to 15 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw, and said this year would be his last year in boxing.
Mayer, a 33-year-old American, suffered a point loss for the second time in his 21-fight career. She felt she had done enough to win and requested her rematch.
“I'm sorry, but what can I do?'' she said.
“I just hope Tasha becomes a stand-up champion like she is and gives me another chance.”
Jonas comes out on top in an all-action fight
In the build-up, Mayer's coach likened the fight to the classic 1985 match between Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns.
It will take some effort to come even remotely close to matching the most infamous Hagler vs. Hearns match of all time, but Jonas and Mayer definitely provided their own memorable night of boxing.
Although the arena was far from full, Jonas received an ear-splitting welcome from Liverpool fans as he made his ring walk. Former world champion Callum Smith, just a week after his disastrous defeat in Canada, was among the city's boxing stars in attendance.
Jonas got off to a sharp start, landing a left hook to the stomach and a deft counter in the opening round. “She's too slow, Natasha,” her trainer Joe Gallagher yelled after just a minute of action.
Mayer came out with more urgency in the second fight, as both fighters traded punches. The away fighter was leading the pace, but Jonas was landing counters.
Fighting in England for four consecutive fights, Mayer grew in confidence and began to have more success, trapping Jonas in the corner in the final seconds of the fifth and landing two powerful shots to the body.
“Be obedient on the ropes,” a slightly worried Gallagher told his fighter in a change of tone.
Jonas crouched down and Mayer landed a right hand with a thud in the seventh inning. Jonas responded with a flush left straight.
The normally calculating Mayer boxed aggressively, keeping his pre-fight promise of an all-out war.
In the 9th inning, Mayer's powerful left shot cut Jonas above his left eye. She fought back bravely, but her expression was deflated as she returned to her chair.
When the fight entered the 10th inning, there was little separating the two men. Jonas gave it her all until the final seconds as the home fans screamed her name.
“This year will be my last year of boxing.”
In a moving tribute to the pioneers of the sport, Jonas entered the ring alongside Hall of Fame star Jane Couch, who paved the way for British women's boxing. Fittingly, they appeared on Beyoncé's “Run The World (Girls).”
Couch famously won a landmark case against the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), which allowed women to box professionally in the UK.
But Jonas, who made history, is also a pioneer in her own right. She competed at the 2012 London Games, becoming Britain's first Olympic female boxer.
Jonas overcame setbacks in the ring to win the world title at the age of 37 and went on to win three more titles over the next 22 months.
The Toxteth fighter was proud to headline his home town, just a 10-minute drive from where he was born and raised.
“Everyone on this card tonight, we appreciate you coming out and spending your money,” she told the crowd.
Jonas has expressed a desire to pursue a traditional bout and may target a unification bout at welterweight in the future. British Sandy Ryan is the WBO champion, while American Jessica McCaskill holds the IBF, WBC and WBA belts.
An all-British showdown with Welsh Olympic gold medalist Lauren Price, who is also promoted by the boxer, could also be an option.
Asked what's next, Jonas didn't name names, but gushed: “Unfortunately, I can't be here forever and this will probably be my last year in boxing.” told the fans.