Swans fan Jay out to shock the world
Jay Harris will be Swansea City's special guest at Saturday's game against Wigan Athletic, as the Townhill boxer prepares to carry the club crest into his world title bout at the end of February.
Jay Harris will be aiming to become champion of the world next month – while proudly wearing the Swansea City logo in the ring.
The Swansea-born Swans fan has earned the opportunity to fight for the WBC World Flyweight title against holder Julio Cesar Martinez in a huge Matchroom USA event in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, February 29.
And the Swans are getting fully behind the 29-year-old by providing the club crest for him to wear on a star billing beamed live on DAZN in the States and Sky Sports in the UK.
Jay, who already holds the Commonwealth, EBU and IBF Intercontinental Flyweight titles, earned his big shot at the world crown by extending his professional record to 17-0 (nine KOs) with a convincing victory inside four rounds over three-time Olympian Paddy Barnes in Belfast in October.
It will be Martinez’s first defence of the WBC title which the talented Mexican, 24, claimed in December with a ninth-round victory over Cristofer Rosales.
Despite the fact that Martinez will start as favourite, Harris will go into the fight in buoyant mood and feeling in the form of his life, declaring: “I can’t wait.
“It’s going to be a tough fight, but I am more than capable of winning it. I have an opportunity to shock the world and bring it home to Swansea.’’
Hailing from the city by the sea, Swansea will always hold a special place in Jay's heart, including its football club.
A Swans fan from a young age, Harris will sport the Swans logo on his shorts during the fight and be announced to the crowd before Saturday’s clash with Wigan at the Liberty Stadium.
“My father started taking me to the Vetch Field when I was eight, probably younger,’’ added Harris. “I was too young to go on the North Bank, so it was the family stand for me. I loved it from the very first time I stepped foot inside the ground.
“For a young boy, the atmosphere was amazing. I can still see Lee Trundle doing his famous shoulder roll with the ball today. It’s my favourite footballing memory from the Vetch.
“I still go to the Liberty on a regular basis. The Premier League years were great, but I love the Championship. It’s such a tight league that we’ve still got a chance of going up again.
“I like watching Mike van der Hoorn, Bersant Celina and I hope we can hold on to Andre Ayew. Rhian Brewster looks a good signing coming from Liverpool and I’m looking forward to seeing how he does.’’
Harris tinkered with football himself growing up, playing at local club West End, although he admits it was never ever going to be a sporting career.
And as for rugby, forget it.
“I tried a lot of sports as a kid. I enjoyed football, but there was no way I was ever going to play rugby. I tried once or twice for Bonymaen, but being so small it was frightening. They put me on the wing, you know the little new kid with new boots, and when the ball came to me it was like a bomb – I couldn’t chuck it away quick enough,’’ he joked.
It probably came as no surprise though when Harris eventually found himself in the gym and hitting the punch bag. After all, his father Peter was well known and respected in boxing circles having lifted the British featherweight crown in 1988.
“My father always encouraged me to take an interest in sport, but he never pushed me into boxing,’’ added Harris Jnr. “I used to punch my father’s hands as a kid, but that was as far as it went.
“It was a mate who actually got me into boxing when I was 12. He was already going to the gym and I just went along with him one day. I was hooked and eventually my father agreed to train me.’’
The rest, as they say, is history. Harris turned professional in 2013 and what followed was six years of hard graft to reach his current peak and a crack at a world title.
It hasn’t been an easy path to follow though. He came close to walking away from the sport less than three years ago after winning the Commonwealth crown and still supports his career financially by working part-time at the city’s Amazon warehouse.
“Everything just went dead for nine months after the Commonwealth title and I ended up fighting in small halls around the country. I wasn’t making any money and had to work 10-hour night shifts in Amazon just to live and train during the day," says Harris.
“It was really tough, and I was on the verge of quitting. People don’t see that side of boxing; they only see big fights and big money.’’
But Harris, who is still coached by father Peter, managed by Gary Lockett and supported by fight preparation team AJM Boxing, teamed up with MTK Management and everything changed.
“They say timing is everything in boxing and the last year has been fantastic. MTK delivered everything they said they would. They changed my life and now I have a crack at a world title. I’m so happy.’’
In what promoter Eddie Hearn describes as a “huge night of boxing”, Harris will climb into the Texas ring “proud to represent Swansea’’ and determined to bring home the belt to show the Jack Army at another Liberty appearance.
*Pictures by @sashshots; https://sashshots.photography