Paddy Barnes ready to return to world stage with big Ulster Hall win
While light-flyweight is the destination for Paddy Barnes in 2020, the opportunity to face European flyweight champion Jay Harris at the Ulster Hall tomorrow was impossible to resist.
Barnes put a world title reverse against Cristofer Rosales and a follow-up defeat against bantamweight Oscar Mojica behind him back in August when he got back on the winning trail against Joel Sanchez and while he vowed to drop back to 108 lbs, he decided the lure of a meeting with Harris and the likelihood that victory will open the door to another world title shot is a chance worth taking.
While boxing politics means the Swansea man's European title is not on the line, the IBF Inter-Continental strap is and with that, a high ranking with the governing body.
But fringe titles are not on the mind of Barnes who is determined to get back into the world mix and he knows a win at a sold-out Ulster Hall will do just that.
"I don't really care about the title because it means nothing, but winning this fight can give me a straight world title shot and I'm sure Jay feels the same," he said at yesterday's press conference at the Europa Hotel.
"I got a phone call and was asked to fight Jay. I had to think about it for a while, but I spoke to my team and just thought this is something of a free one against a European champion in my home town.
"The winner will probably get the world title shot, so it was a bit of a no-brainer."
Harris arrived in Belfast boasting a perfect professional record of 16 wins from as many contests and has his own title ambitions.
Like Barnes, he is taking little from past sparring sessions between the pair and admits a win will trump anything he has achieved so far in his career. "Paddy and I sparred together and we have massive respect for each other, so there's no bad blood," said the 29-year-old.
"One of us is going to go on to world honours, so it's a great fight for everybody.
"This is probably the biggest fight I've had because he's a three-time Olympian and to have him on my record is massive."
Victory would also be huge for Barnes who is getting ready for just his ninth professional outing.
Things were looking a little bleak after that defeat in New York back on St Patrick's Day and while he felt his performance was below par in the comeback win over Sanchez at the Falls Park, the fact he got over the line has instilled new confidence and he hopes to carry that momentum on into tomorrow.
"It did my confidence a lot of good," he agreed.
"I performed terrible, but I was more concerned in getting my hand raised after two defeats rather than a great performance.
"I was just so happy to get that win and even though it was only one fight, I feel like I'm on a bit of a roll back to winning ways.
"Our styles will definitely gel, so it will be a great fight for people to watch."
It will also be a huge night for Sean McComb, unbeaten since turning professional last year.
The west Belfast man takes on Argentina's Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez at super-lightweight as he attempts to make it nine wins from nine ahead of what he hopes to be a huge 2020.
"I'm ready now (for titles), but I'm not sure these super-lightweights have the b**** to fight me," he said.
"I don't blame them, but it's only a matter of time before I become mandatory and they have to take the challenge."