How Doncaster’s Terri Harper sealed transformation from chip shop to world champion

Terri Harper celebrates victory over Eva Wahlstrom at the FlyDSA Arena on Saturday night. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
Terri Harper celebrates victory over Eva Wahlstrom at the FlyDSA Arena on Saturday night. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
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Yorkshire’s newest world champion, and the first woman from the United Kingdom to officially win a global boxing title, was working in a chip shop 12 months ago.

Terri Harper would peel potatoes, serve up a portion of fish and chips, and then head to a training session at her gym in Denaby Main in Doncaster.

Terri Harper (left) and Eva Wahlstrom battle during their WBC & IBO Super-featherweight world title fight at the FlyDSA Arena. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Terri Harper (left) and Eva Wahlstrom battle during their WBC & IBO Super-featherweight world title fight at the FlyDSA Arena. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

“Terri would come in to the gym straight from the chippy, and we’d give her grief for smelling like chips or having grease in her hair, but she’d take it all in good spirits,” laughs her trainer, manager and promoter Stefy Bull.

“She doesn’t need to work in a chippy now.”

Certainly not, after a unanimous points victory over Finland’s Eva Wahlstrom in Sheffield on Saturday night earned the 23-year-old the WBC super featherweight title.

Not bad for someone who gave up a promising amateur career aged 16 to concentrate on her education, and who was only 10 fights into her return to the professional ranks.

Terry would come in to the gym straight from the chippy, and we’d give her grief for smelling like chips or having grease in her hair, but she’d take it all in good spirits

Trainer and promoter Stefy Bull

“Two years ago I was sat watching Katie Taylor fight on television,” continues Bull, “and I just texted Terri saying: ‘women’s boxing is becoming massive, it would be such a shame for you to miss out on this’.

“She texted back saying: ‘that’s crazy, I’ve been thinking exactly the same’.

“So she came back. And two years later she’s world champion. It’s unbelievable now to think her next fight could be in America.

“Terry has not done it the conventional way like Katie Taylor (Ireland’s world champion) or Nicola Adams (who was awarded a world title without actually winning it), going through the Olympic route.

Terri Harper celebrates victory alongside trainer Stefy Bull with her belts after beating Eva Wahlstrom in the WBC & IBO Super-featherweight world title fight at Sheffield's FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Terri Harper celebrates victory alongside trainer Stefy Bull with her belts after beating Eva Wahlstrom in the WBC & IBO Super-featherweight world title fight at Sheffield's FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

“She’s just a regular little girl from a pit village in Doncaster, at least that’s how I still see her, that 11-year-old who first came into the gym.”

Harper was one of the first fighters Bull took under his wing, once his own career that took in 37 fights, a Central Area title and an Inter-continental belt ended.

Jamie McDonnell was his first star pupil, Bull acting as co-trainer when the Doncaster bantamweight won the IBF world title.

But Harper’s maturation from promising amateur to world champion, via a stint at the chippy, is his finest hour.

“I’m 42 and I’ve been in boxing since I was 11. No matter what she goes on to achieve, I don’t think I’ll ever top that feeling,” said Bull.

“It was a big slice of history we made on Saturday. It’s the proudest moment of my career. “Training fighters is something I love doing. I don’t need to set an alarm because I’m up an hour earlier than I need to be, in the gym planning the day’s action.

“And Terri is great. She’s educated, got an honours degree in sports coaching, and she will take all this in her stride.

“She’s grounded, down to earth, and right now she’s on cloud nine.”