And now they wait … now they watch the hours crawl as they go through the dreaded wait.
Jennifer Han and Helen Joseph stepped onto the scales early Friday afternoon at Western Technical College — Han right on the featherweight money at 126 pounds, Joseph at an allowed 121 pounds. It was the final obstacle for the two fighters before Saturday night’s International Boxing Federation world featherweight rumble in the Don Haskins Center.
“This is what I’ve worked for my whole life,” the 32-year-old Han said.
“This is my dream come true,” the 26-year-old Joseph said.
Han will bring a 12-3-1 record to this dance, Joseph a 12-2-1 mark. The IBF title is vacant, waiting for one of these women to claim it. Han is ranked No. 1 in the IBF, Joseph No. 2.
Each of Han’s defeats has been close, either split decision or majority decision setbacks. One of those was for the International Female Boxers Association featherweight crown, a majority decision setback (95-95, 95-96, 93-97) to Ji-Hye Woo in her hometown of Haenam, South Korea.
“Jennifer won every round in that fight,” her trainer Louie Burke said.
Joseph’s two defeats have been by unanimous decision and each for a title — the first to Unayhi Myekeni for the World Boxing Foundation International featherweight title and the second to Dahiana Santana in the Dominican Republic for the IBF featherweight championship.
So, it is understandable why each fighter thinks this is their moment, this is their chance to grasp the brass ring, this is their opportunity to grab a dream and make it a reality.
Han is the classic boxer, relying on a text book left jab and great movement. Joseph is a bit more of a mystery.
“We’ve only been able to see one round of her fights and that was from three years ago,” Han said. “But that’s OK. We will be ready for anything. I know I’m a boxer and I will move and I know she will be going for the knockout and I won’t let that happen.”
Joseph, who is from Nigeria but now lives and fights out of Accra, Ghana, said, “It doesn’t matter about styles. I will do whatever it takes to win; whatever it takes.”
Han is never out of shape and her walking around weight is not far off the featherweight limit of 126. She has fought for national amateur championships (winning six titles), she has fought internationally as an amateur and she has fought for a world title. This is not her first moment in the grand spotlight.
Burke, the veteran trainer who has guided Han throughout her professional career, said, “What I like is Jennifer is very composed, very confident and relaxed. Those are the things I look for in a fighter at the weigh-in. When they are nervous, they burn a lot of energy … without even knowing it. She has been in this situation before and she is handling it well. A lot of fighters get intimidated or get nervous or both. She is not that at all. She’s in her element.”
Han moved around the big room after the weigh-in, greeting people, thanking people, smiling and posing for pictures. Joseph, who seems more combative in press situations, also was talking to people, smiling, being gracious. Soon the two fighters left, headed their separate ways.
And now they wait.
They relax, refuel, rehydrate and wait … watching a clock that seemingly does not move … waiting for that moment of a lifetime when they walk the walk, step center ring and go after a world championship.
Who: Jennifer Han (12-3-1) vs. Helen Joseph (12-2) in a women’s IBF featherweight world championship fight
When: Saturday; undercard starts at 7 p.m., main event at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Where: Don Haskins Center on the UTEP campus
Tickets: $30, $65, $80; available at the UTEP Ticket Center
Credit: El Paso Times