A long history waged through centuries of friendly, sometimes intense competition between the neighbouring countries of Wales and Ireland will once more be prevalent on Friday night with Celtic bragging rights the order of the day, featuring two of the flyweight divisions premier fighters in European king Jay Harris and world title challenger Paddy Barnes.
Their Contrasting Amateur careers have taken an entirely different path than the one you see them walk today, albeit synonymously posses a wealth of experience to call upon, winning multiple titles along the way it was Barnes, not Harris who was the one being groomed for greatness in the lower weight classes.
After all, It was an easy assessment to make, Barnes’ long apprenticeship had witnessed him capture bronze medals in two of the three Olympic Games, accompanied by the two gold medals at the Commonwealth.
Harris on the flip side walked a slightly different path, favouring a move into the paid ranks as soon as he had realised his goals of winning the Welsh and British amateur titles, but whereas Barnes’ career coming into Friday’s bout seems to represent a case of last chance saloon as far as major titles are concerned, Harris’ career goes from strength to strength winning the European title against Angel Moreno in his last encounter to follow on from his Commonwealth victory last year in taking his career to 16-0.
Barnes needs a change in fortunes, he is coming into the contest riding the wave of a victory, winning a decision over Joel Sanchez, but it was a mere confidence booster than a statement to confirm his return to the pinnacle of the flyweight division. the win got him back in the win column at least following back to back losses in his World title bid against Cristofer Rosales whilst Oscar Mojica added further misery by outpointing Barnes via split decision at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York.
Both fighters enter the bout full of confidence hoping to put on a spectacle for those in attendance at the Ulster Hall venue in Belfast, with bragging rights on offer for the victor.
“I’m really excited to be fighting Paddy Barnes. I think our styles will make one hell of a fight’ said Harris ‘I’m especially really looking forward to it after seeing the last Belfast show because the atmosphere was amazing and I can’t wait for it’.
These are the types of fights I want to be In and to show what I’m about. It’s great to be live on a brilliant platform like ESPN+ again as well because it’s another chance to build a fan base in the USA and showcase my ability.”
Sentiments shared by the challenger (Barnes), “I can’t wait for this fight. It will be a great exciting bout because Harris is an aggressive fighter like myself so I already know he will be in my face and I won’t have to go looking for him which suits me.
“It is good it’s in Belfast as the fans won’t have to travel far, but we are both experienced fighters so it doesn’t matter where it is. It’s going to be a brilliant fight.
“After I fought on ESPN+ in New York, even though I lost, I gained a few thousand American fans as they loved watching me fight. They would message me asking me when I’m fighting next, so I’m sure they will tune in again.”
Elsewhere on the card, rising star Sean McComb (8-0, 4 KOs) looks to take the next step in his career when he takes on former IBO world title challenger Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez (23-5, 9 KOs). McComb weighed 10st 1lb, with Rodriguez weighing 9st 13lbs 2oz.
Ex-lightweight world champion Terry Flanagan (34-2, 14 KOs) is in action too, going up against hard-hitting Ghanaian champion Michael Ansah (17-9-2, 11 KOs). Flanagan weighed 9st 13lbs, and Ansah weighed 9st 7lbs.
Friday’s include also includes elite Irish debutants Paddy Donovan and Pierce O’Leary, the returning Conrad Cummings, the always-exciting Lewis Crocker, and many more.