Explosive Swansea flyweight Jay Harris intends to advance the rich prizefighting traditions of both his region and weight class when he makes an audacious challenge for the Commonwealth title at the York Hall, Bethnal Green tomorrow, writes Glynn Evans.
With just 30 pro rounds on his slate, the 26 year old body snatcher confronts Cameroon champion Thomas Essomba in a scheduled 12 rounder that shall be screened live on BoxNation from 7pm.
‘The Swansea region has a good history for boxing since the war,’ states the 9-0 Gary Lockett managed starlet who is coached by his father Peter, a former British featherweight champion.
‘You had the Curvis brothers’ (Cliff and Brian) during the 1960s, Colin Jones and my dad in the 1980s, Floyd Havard in the 1990s, Enzo Maccarinelli during the ‘noughties’. We seem to deliver one top champion every decade. Perhaps it could be me for this one!
‘My dad was British featherweight champion in 1988 and my uncle Mike, dad’s brother, won two Welsh titles in the 80s. My dad regularly sparred Floyd and Colin Jones coached the Welsh squad when I was amateur so I’ve been brought up around our best boxers.’
The Principality, of course, has a fine heritage in the 112lb division which joltin’ Jay has chosen to make his championship bow. Rhondda’s Percy Jones and the incomparable ‘Tylorstown Terror’ Jimmy Wilde both ruled the globe in the second decade of the last century whilst Blackwood’s Robbie Regan boasted an IBF ‘interim’ world title in 1995.
Dancing Dai Dower from Abercynon jetted to Buenos Aires to unsuccessfully challenge Pascual Perez forthe undisputed world title in 1957, while multi-medalled amateur star Andrew Selby from Barry is presently nestled on the British throne.
‘Obviously, like all Welshman, I’m aware of the legend of Jimmy Wilde,’ acknowledges the shy, softly spoken and humble Welsh atom, who has wiped out his last six with some astonishingly savage body shots.
‘In time, I’d love to win the British title so myself against Andrew would be a good fight for the Welsh fans. But I leave all that to Gary and my dad. Maybe sometime in future. Let’s get this one out of the way first.’
This week Team Harris will navigate the M4 to mount their challenge at the hallowed East End fight hall where Jay previously sparkled – albeit for just 95 seconds – when ironing out Hungary’s Tibor Nadori in his sixth paid gig 19 months ago.
‘The York Hall is a famous boxing place and I really enjoyed fighting there,’ he recalls.
‘All the fans are very close to the ring so it’s very loud and there’s a real echo around the hall. We’re bringing up a bus load from Swansea and I guarantee they’ll make some noise. They always do.’
And come Saturday morning he intends to depart the capital with a welcome addition to this fabulous fighting family’s already extensive bounty.
He concludes: ‘Dad won the British and fought for the European and Uncle Mike won the Welsh and challenged unsuccessfully for the Commonwealth title in Australia (stopped in eight by Troy Waters in 1989) so, fingers crossed, this will be a new belt for the family cabinet.’
JAY HARRIS: “THERE’S NOT MUCH MEAT FOR PROTECTION ON THE FLYWEIGHTS!”
Mighty Welsh atom Jay Harris is banking on his brutal body attack bulldozing him to the Commonwealth flyweight title at the York Hall tonight, writes Glynn Evans.
After kick starting his pro career with three four round points wins in 2013-14, the 26 year old Swansea slayer has rubbed out his last six rivals in 18 rounds combined, with lung popping left hooks to the liver the key cause behind the carnage.
The former British amateur champion shall be required to boil beneath 112lbs for the first time in his nine fight, three and a half year pro career when he confronts Cameroon hard case Thomas Essomba live on BoxNation. Nevertheless, the 5ft 5in Gary Lockett-managed West Walian is adamant that this shall not diminish his fabled firepower.
‘My shots seem to carry the same weight in sparring but, with me, it’s always been more about picking the right shots and the placement; those hooks just behind the elbow,’ says Harris who is coached by his father Peter, a former British featherweight champion who fought five world champions in the 1980s.
‘Not many Europeans throw the body shots at the lighter weights which is strange given there’s not much meat there for protection on us flyweights!’
Hooker Harris’s advance to championship contention is all the more meritworthy given his isolation in west Wales plus preparation that is routinely compromised from working full-time night shifts as a forklift truck driver.
‘I can’t risk giving up my job yet so I worked nights on Thursday and Friday of last week but had this week off. Most of my prep has taken place with my Dad in Swansea but twice a week I come up to Gary (Lockett)’s gym in Cardiff,’ says the Swansea City fan who has fought as high as super-bantam, four divisions north of tonight’s cut-off.
‘I’ve had six weeks’ notice and only weighed a pound over for each of my last two fights so making eight stone really won’t be a problem.
‘When I turned pro my diet was wrong but I’ve since sorted it and the weight just dropped off, nice and gradual, without starving myself. I still eat three good meals a day but the right foods at the right times; chicken breasts, potatoes and salads, all of which I enjoy.’
Remarkably, Harris enters the 12 round championship arena for the first time with just 30 rounds on his pro CV and without having ventured beyond round four.
‘I have prepared for longer fights,’ assures Jay.
‘Five of my last six where scheduled for six rounds and my fight with Ramesh Ahmadi was billed for eight but I won them all by stoppage inside four rounds. Still, I’ve been getting the rounds in, in the gym, against good boys.
‘I’ve had some decent sparring at the Everton Red Triangle gym in Liverpool, with (Midland Area flyweight king) Jamie Williams in Birmingham and with a local lad called Josh John, who’s the current British amateur champion at 56 kilos. I’ve sparred 10 rounds no problem. It’s about mindset as much as physical.’
Conversely, the African champion, three years his senior, passed through round ten for both his title win over Sheffield’s Waleed Din (rsc11) and his most recent gig against Scotland’s ex British and Commonwealth challenger Iain Butcher (lpts10). In nine starts (seven wins), Essomba is yet to be stopped. For once, it could be a long shift for Harris. No problem, he says.
‘We’ve only been able to locate one video of Essomba, his last fight against Butcher in Edinburgh. He looked decent; a strong, come forward fighter who likes to fight on the inside.
‘But we know his background. Apparently he went to two Olympic Games for Cameroon. We expect he’ll be very fit and looking to put the pressure on. He can be a bit wild and dangerous with the right hand so we’ll definitely need to be mindful of that. We expect that he’ll be there for the full 12 rounds so we’ll be looking to be sharp and (out) box him from range, just like Butcher did.’
And this quiet, gentle, unimposing soul – who morphs into a feared assassin once the gloves are laced – is confident that he shall be coronated provided he executes the strategy devised by his experienced back-up staff.
‘I expect a good tough fight for the fans,’ he concludes.
‘Essomba will probably come out firing but that should suit me. I’ll feel him out early rounds and take it from there. I certainly won’t be disappointed if I don’t stop him. I’ll just do my best and hopefully win the title in impressive style.’