Jay Harris: Flyweight aims to join the list of Welsh world champions

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Jay Harris: Welshman thriving on boxing's biggest stage

Jay Harris knows he will join some illustrious names this weekend if he can become Wales' latest world champion.

Harris, who works part-time in an Amazon warehouse, is challenging highly regarded Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez for his WBC flyweight title in Frisco, Texas.

Promoter Eddie Hearn is describing the card, headlined by four-weight world champion Mikey Garcia fighting Jessie Vargas, as "the best card, top to bottom, that I have ever produced".

It is a world away from the small hall shows Harris, 29, is used to featuring on, but as a student of the sport, he knows exactly the footsteps he is following in.

The latest Welsh world champion?

From Joe Calzaghe and Enzo Maccarinelli to Gavin Rees, Nathan Cleverly and Lee Selby, Wales has been blessed in the 21st century with some world-class operators and some glory nights of boxing.

However, go back even further and there is a proud flyweight tradition, from Percy Jones and Jimmy Wilde to Dai Dower and Robbie Regan.

Wilde and Jones both conquered the world stage and Harris is certain he can do so too.

He is considered a big underdog against Martinez, a fighter his promoter Hearn describes as "one of my favourite fighters, he is a Mexican legend in waiting… an absolute animal in the ring", yet Harris remains entirely undaunted by the prospect.

The Swansea boxer seems completely at home on the bigger stage - after all, everything is bigger in Texas - and feels now is his time.

Eddie Hearn watches on as Jay Harris comes face to face with Julio Cesar Martinez
Eddie Hearn watches on as Jay Harris (right) comes face to face with Julio Cesar Martinez

"I feel really good out here. It is surreal being with some of these huge names, I'm enjoying myself," Harris told BBC Sport Wales.

"It is fantastic, if you think of the Welsh names who have boxed in America, it is pretty much every British fighter's dream to follow in their footsteps.

"I have been sparring much bigger guys than Martinez and I think I might be as strong as him.

"We have a gameplan all ready to go. I need to execute it and come back a world champion.

"It is a fight that will change my life, definitely. I am proud to have made it here; there are boxers who would kill to be in my position now.

"I am confident I am going to come back world champion, but whatever happens, I am here fighting for a WBC world title - no-one can take that away from me.

"I am following in the footsteps of some great Welsh fighters and I am very proud of that."

Jay Harris in action against Paddy Barnes
Harris (right) added the IBF inter-continental flyweight title to his European belt by beating Paddy Barnes in October 2019

A proud father in his corner

As well as delivering world champions in recent times, Welsh boxing has a habit of producing fighters who seem to have unbreakable bonds with their fathers.

Joe and Enzo Calzaghe were a dream partnership, with Nathan Cleverly also winning world title honours with his father in his corner.

Selby and Maccarinelli are also boxers whose fathers guided their careers, but none of the aforementioned mentors has the experience of Peter Harris.

A former British title contender who fought several world-class operators in a long professional career, Harris has been training his son for 17 years.

Harris senior says he gets more pleasure out of his son's achievements than he ever got from his own in a pro career that spanned 13 years.

"Jay has done it the right way - he's built up, it has been hard, but here we are now in Texas fighting for a world title," he explained.

"It doesn't get any better does it? It is my son fighting at the pinnacle of his sport and I think he is going to do it.

"His successes give me more pleasure than the ones in my own career, without a shadow of a doubt.

"This is the most nervous I have ever been, I almost can't stand it.

"But it is enjoyable at the same time."

Julio Cesar Martinez and Jay Harris
Julio Cesar Martinez will defend his WBC flyweight title for the first time when he fights Jay Harris in Texas this weekend

A manager who has been there and done it

Harris' manager Gary Lockett is no stranger to a huge opportunity in the US, with his final professional fight headlining a bill in Atlantic City where he was defeated in a world title fight by Kelly Pavlik in 2008.

Lockett feels Harris is better equipped to take his chance at a shot at glory.

"Go around the boxing gyms and people will say about a big fight 'no-one deserves it more'. It gets overstated. But with Jay Harris it is the truth. I am immensely proud to be involved with Jay," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"It is a tough fight, but it's not the fight I had against Kelly Pavlik.

"At the time I fought him he was 33-0 and second on the pound-for-pound list.

"I keep hearing that for Jay to win it is going to take a gargantuan effort - no it isn't, it is not that big an ask. It isn't some impossible task.

"We know Jay is the underdog, but he's been the underdog before and proved everyone wrong and there is no reason he can't do that again.

"The Americans give him no chance. But to me, he's got as good a chance as anybody, Jay believes he can win and so do I. He's the technically better fighter, but he doesn't hit as hard.

"Jay has got as good a chance as anyone in the flyweight division and I am really looking forward to it."

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