Jay Harris: Embracing world level

“It’s mad.”

In Boxing Social’s current World Flyweight rankings Jay Harris sits at number five and deservedly so. In early 2019, it was unlikely that the Welshman would have had held such a lofty position. That March, Harris, then the Commonwealth champion, was about to fight Brett Fidoe in a six-rounder at the Vale Sports Arena.

But after that 59-57 victory in Cardiff, the 30-year-old went on to pick up the vacant European title, widely outpointing Angel Moreno in June, before knocking out Olympic star Paddy Barnes in four rounds six months later. Then came the leap to world championship level.

On February 29 this year, Harris (17-1, 9 KOs) was a huge outsider in a two-horse race when he fought the WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez. What Harris achieved, albeit in defeat, was to give Martinez his hardest fight to date at world level, throwing a big ‘I told you so’ at the critics and proving to everyone – doubters or not – that he was, indeed, world class.

Harris may have been dropped by a crisp left hand to the body in round 10 but the scorecard of 118-109 from judge Herb Santos was downright disrespectful to his efforts. The two, other scores were a more balanced 116-111 and 115-112.

“I was thinking what was he watching,” Harris told Boxing Social looking back at that night in Frisco, Texas. “Me being in there and fighting you know how well you’re doing. You can tell by the reaction of the crowd as to how well you’re doing because they go quiet. Then when the cards were read and they said they basically gave him every round bar two, I think, I just thought it was shocking and not what happened. I can watch it back now and still say it was a closer than it was scored.

“I showed a lot of people and I proved a lot of people wrong, especially those who thought it was going to be a whitewash and [I would] get battered. I proved a lot of people wrong and performed brilliantly.”

Harris (left) posed a number of problems for WBC champ Martinez (right).
Photo: World Boxing Council.

Harris gave the impression that he is still getting used to being recognised as one of the best in the world at his weight and a legitimate top ten contender. Boxing Social reminded him of it again because of his showing against Martinez.

“It’s mad,” he said. A reaction he gave often during the interview. “It feels good to be called one of the best in the world at the minute. Three fights before that I was fighting Brett Fidoe at a sports centre in Cardiff. It just seems mad. Three fights, there was Fidoe and then Moreno, Paddy Barnes and then boom a world title shot. It’s just unbelievable how far I’d come in the space of a year. To say and to prove that I am one of the best in the world is an unbelievable thought. Other people are thinking it as well.”

Harris returns to the ring for the first time this Sunday since fighting in the Lone Star State. This time Harris is the big favourite, making the second defence of his Commonwealth strap against Marcel Braithwaite. Boxing’s situation in 2020 means that fighters have to be taking any opportunity they can get. Harris is fully expected to win against the former English super-flyweight champion and unsuccessful British title challenger who found Sunny Edwards a level too great last December.

“I’m expecting a good fight to be fair,” Harris began when assessing the threat of Braithwaite. “I watched him against Sunny and he did alright against him. That was the last time I watched him. I did not really want a fight that I could just blow over in a couple of rounds. It’s pretty pointless and I don’t think anybody would have respected that decision anyway. I think Marcel is a good opponent. I think it’s a good fight and I believe if I’m not on my game I could mess it up, so I have to be aware and focused and get the job done.”

Sunday’s fight on MTK Global’s show in South Kirby is what Harris believes to be the foundations of a rebuild job after the loss to Martinez. One look at the rankings of the four governing bodies sees Harris sitting at number five with the WBC and number six with the WBA. Not a rebuild, as such. The house has not been completely knocked down. The windows may have been damaged and the interior needs a touch up but other than that…

“I think, maybe, I have this fight and I could be back in contention again,” said Harris. “Someone might call me up. I’m willing to work my way up if I have to but if they say they’ve got another shot [for me] then I’d jump at it.”

Harris would take no persuading if he were offered another crack at Martinez. Should a rematch happen, the show may not feature superstars such as Roman Gonzalez and Mikey Garcia as it did in Texas. “It seemed surreal at the time because I was stood there on fight week, and you’ve got ‘Chocolatito’, Mikey Garcia, Jessie Vargas and Martinez. It was mad that I was standing there, too,” he said.

But now Harris can put all his endeavours into boxing. Standing shoulder to shoulder with star attractions and fighting for a world title is realistic and you could argue is now expected of him. And since leaving his job at Amazon, two months after he fought Martinez, Harris can now concentrate full-time on his boxing after one of his sponsors at AnR Specialists agreed to pay him a weekly wage to box. 

“It’s taken me eight years, since I turned professional, to get to where I am now. I’ve finally got a full-time sponsor. It feels good. It’s mad,” said Harris.

Main image: Team Harris. Photo: MTK Global.