Terri Harper says she has been shocked by the speed of her through the boxing ranks as she prepares to challenge Eva Wahlstrom for the WBC super-featherweight title in Sheffield on Saturday.
The 23-year-old has had only nine professional fights, having giving up the sport after failing to win either of her two senior amateur bouts.
But she has progressed through the levels at a startling pace and faces a world champion of five years who is more than 16 years her senior.
“The plan was to take it nice and steady, but the last two years has felt like a whirlwind,” Harper said. “It’s crazy to think I went from working in a chip shop to now full-time boxing.
“Every Monday I have to pinch myself, driving to the gym, when everyone else is driving to a 9-5 job.”
Harper first boxed in her early teens and was good enough to claim a silver medal at the European Youth Championships in Poland soon after her 16th birthday. She first played soccer, but became disillusioned when she was prevented on playing with the boys’ team
But it was watching Jack Osbourne’s show Adrenaline Junkie, where the son of heavy metal rocker Ozzy, tried out Muay Thai boxing.
“I thought I would give that a go, so I went along to a boxing club,” she said. “And that was it, I fell in love with it.”
She made quick progress, but after turning 16 she walked away from the sport, first for a short time then permanently, or so she thought, after losing both her senior amateur bouts.
“I started being like everyone else, eating what you want, going out, partying,” she said. But after one boozy weekend in Blackpool, she turned on TV and was shocked to see Chantelle Cameron was boxing. “That’s when it hit me, what am I doing with my life?”
So when she received a text from Stefy Bull, who comes from the next-door village in South Yorkshire, she was ready to listen.
“He was telling me about what Katie Taylor had been doing and saying ‘how about giving it a second chance’,” she said. “He sold me a dream and that dream is happening.”
Now the pair are each other’s biggest fans.
“He pushes me very hard, but he does that for everyone, I’m no different from any of the boys,” Harper said. “But he has given me great self-belief.
“I always feel pressure whatever fight it is, because I always feel I have something to prove, being a female in boxing.”
Having sold 701 tickets herself, not bad considering her own village of Denaby Main has a population of 326, with many more sold through Bull’s gym, Harper, who studied sports coaching at Sheffield Hallam University, is sure to have plenty of support at the FlyDSA Arena.
“I don’t feel the pressure to stop her, I feel the pressure to win,” she said. “This is life changing if it is done correctly.
“There is excitement mainly, excitement for what doors it can open.”