Updated: Feb 26
Swansea, the South Wales city that is home to one of UK boxing’s rapidly rising stars in Flyweight, Jay Harris. Often considered a sleepy town with little going on, Swansea has also been referred to as the graveyard of ambition but it is clear that no one told Harris this as his ambition leads in hot pursuit of World Title glory this weekend.
Making his first defence of his WBC World Flyweight Title, Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1 12 KO) is likely to be a familiar name to the UK fight fans after a recent bout with Charlie Edwards. The Edwards clash, that looked destined for a Martinez win, was ruled a no-contest following a blow landed on Edwards whilst he was on the floor. Soon after the controversial matchup, Edwards vacated the WBC World Flyweight title allowing Martinez to pick it up soon after in magnificent fashion forcing the referee to save Cristofer Rosales in the ninth round of their meeting.
Following what could be considered a rapid rise through the professional ranks, Harris finds himself on the cusp of World Title glory. When it was pointed out to Harris that only 18 months ago he was fighting a six-rounder in his local sports centre and that cynics may suggest his title shot has come too soon, Harris dismissed the notion quickly;
“It is some people’s opinion, but I don’t care what they think. I’m 17 fights in now and I’ve done a good couple of 12 round fights and I’ve had the experience -
The likes of Essomba, Moreno and Paddy Barnes was the latest one. You see people who have world title shots with a lot less fights than me. So no, I don't think it's too early and as I said, I'm 29 now, I think it could be the right time”.
Heading into this clash Harris will be brimming with confidence having stopped three-time Olympian Paddy Barnes in what was a thrilling encounter to take home the IBF Inter-Continental Fly Title in his last outing. Barnes was touted as a tough test for Harris as he looked to continue his professional ascendancy, but by round three it was apparent that Harris’s precision, strength, and the all-round class was too much for the Irishman.
It was a tough test that Harris passed with flying colours as commentator Alex Steedman neatly summarised during an exhilarating third round;
“He’s busting a gut just to try and stay on level terms, Barnes.”
Having collected Commonwealth, European and IBF Inter-Continental Titles all within his last four outings, Harris is driven by the prospect of becoming Swansea’s second World Champion after Enzo Maccarinelli;
“It would be unbelievable. It would be in the history books forever. It would be surreal! I’ve always said from the start that if I ever fought for a world title then I could retire a happy man and now it is becoming a reality”.
As excited as Harris is at the prospect of challenging for the World Title, you’d be sorely mistaken to think that he is happy just making up the numbers;
“I’m a big flyweight and I’m strong, as you’ve seen in my previous fights. Moreno was meant to be a come forward fighter and I pretty much bullied him, Paddy Barnes was the same and I did the same to him. We’re going to have to take it round by round and see how it goes. I’m not phased about what he (Martinez) has done to other opponents, it doesn’t matter. I’m different compared to everybody else”.
With preparations nearly complete the Welshman begins his journey to the Lone Star State in pursuit of glory with a simple plea to UK fight fans
“Just tune into Sky Sports, follow your own and support me. Without support, we wouldn’t get anywhere, and I wouldn’t be where I am now”.
Martinez vs Harris forms part of stacked Matchroom USA card including the likes Joseph Parker, Murat Gassiev, Kal Yafai and headline attraction Mikey Garcia Vs Jessie Vargas. For Fight Night action tune into Sky Sports or DAZN with live-action scheduled to start 01:00 (GMT) 1st March.