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This is make-or-break: Paddy Barnes has fire in belly for Jay Harris bout in Belfast

 

Belters: Jay Harris and Paddy Barnes at the weign-in for tonight’s fight in the Ulster Hall
Belters: Jay Harris and Paddy Barnes at the weign-in for tonight’s fight in the Ulster Hall

By Robert Jones

The sold-out signs are up for tonight's crunch IBF Inter-Continental flyweight title fight as Paddy Barnes takes on Jay Harris in what could be a crossroads fight in the north Belfast man's career.

A WBC world title loss to Cristofer Rosales last year was followed by another reverse at Madison Square Garden against Oscar Mojica, but he returned to winning ways against Joel Sanchez at the Falls Park in August.

That fight was back down at a more familiar weight having seen a gamble to face bantamweight Mojica come unstuck and the plan was to get back to light-flyweight for next year, but the chance to take on European and Commonwealth champion Harris was too good to turn down.

Due to boxing politics, the 16-0 Welshman's European belt will not be on the line, but rankings are and this represents a huge chance to get back into the title mix, but it is not without risk.

"I've lost twice now so this is definitely make-or-break and that's what gives me the fire in my belly," said 32-year-old Barnes.

"I've had eight fights as a pro and five of those were against good opposition and this is another one where I think Jay will bring the best out in me.

"Jay's highly ranked with the governing bodies and if I beat him, I take that ranking."

Harris has arrived in Belfast with his own ambitions and knows that victory over Barnes will represent a major scalp and put him firmly in the frame for world honours.

The 29 year-old from Swansea has risen through the ranks and collected domestic and continental titles, so the world is next on his radar.

While Barnes knows nothing short of victory will do, the same can be said for Harris and both will attempt to set a high pace in a fight that could produce another Ulster Hall classic over the 10 rounds.

Barnes will be hoping the home crowd can spur him onto victory and ensure his decision to remain at flyweight for this high-risk, high-reward outing pays off.

"My plan initially was to make light-flyweight next year, but this opportunity to fight the European and Commonwealth champion in my hometown was too good to turn down," he added.

"This is the third show I've headlined and it's sold out which is great. I think that's because Belfast is a great fight city and people know this is going to be a great fight."

Chief support on the night was due to be Marc McCullough's IBF European featherweight title defence against Viorel Simion, but the popular Shankill man has been forced to withdraw with an injury.

"I'm devastated to say the least," he posted on social media. "I've taken two months off work for camp and will be out of pocket. I have pushed myself and trained day in, day out for this fight and if it was my decision I'd be stepping into that ring. Unfortunately these things happen in boxing and I have to think of my family and put my health first."

Sean McComb is likely to be bumped up to chief support as he continues his impressive start as a pro against former IBO title challenger Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez over eight rounds at light-welterweight.

Lewis Crocker faces an intriguing match-up against London's Ohio Kain Iremiren over six rounds at welterweight, while Conrad Cummings is on the comeback trail following his defeat against Luke Keeler back in March as the Coalisland middleweight takes on Adam Grabiec.

Elsewhere, there are a trio of debutants with Ruairi Dalton, Paddy Donovan and Pierce O'Leary making their professional bows, while former world lightweight champion Terry Flanagan takes on Michael Ansah, with Sean Duffy and Gary Cully also on the undercard.

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