In a fight he absolutely needed to win, Paddy Barnes couldn't have asked for a worse result.
The two-time Olympic Bronze medalist and former title challenger has a tough choice to make in his young pro career as he was stopped in four rounds by Wales' Jay Harris in their flyweight heat Friday evening at Ulster Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Harris scored knockdowns in rounds three and four, the latter producing the end as Barnes was counted out at 2:42 of round four.
Harris was oblivious to the partisan crowd, immediately taking the fight to the local favorite. Right hand shots repeatedly hurt Barnes, a three-time Irish Olympian and two-time Olympic Bronze medalist whose incredible amateur career just hasn't translated into success in the pro ranks. It was never more evident than midway through the opening round, clipping Barnes with a classic one-two, with the tail end of the combo driving the former title challenger into a corner and forced to cover up.
Barnes rallied towards the end of the round, offering enough of a shoeshine to draw a rise out of the crowd. Harris was calm in riding out the brief storm, connecting with another punishing right hand upstairs just before the bell.
Harris continued his attack in round two, though evidently not enough to convince his diminutive foe to wilt. Barnes dug deep to stand and trade with the visiting unbeaten in a round three that will garner consideration come year-end awards season. A give-and-take affair for most of the first two minutes of the frame endured a dramatic shift when Harris scored with a perfectly placed left hook to the body which forced Barnes to the canvas.
Barnes managed to beat the count, but the sequence was clearly the beginning of the end. He braved one last stand, fighting through a bloodied mask to trade with Harris until the bell to end the frame.
It would be his last hurrah.
Harris sensed a beaten fighter in front of him, finishing the job in round four. It was another body shot which did the trick, with Barnes on all fours wincing in pain as referee Phil Edwards issued a full ten count.
Whether or not he continues is Barnes' choice to make, although it's clear that his days as a flyweight threat have already long ago vanished. There was a chance that his knockout loss to Cristofer Rosales was simply too much too soon in his attempted title bid last August. The writing was clearly on the wall this past St. Patrick's Day in New York City, landing on the wrong end of an upset split decision to Oscar Mojica. A tune-up in at home this past August put Barnes back in the win column, although the record-padding matchup didn't at all fool the masses.
It certainly didn't fool Harris (17-0, 9KOs), who has now registered his two most impressive victories in back-to-back fights. The unbeaten Welshman entered on the heels of a near shutout win over former title challenger Angel Moreno this past June, and will undoubtedly advance in competition once 2020 rolls around.
The same cannot be said for Barnes, who falls to 6-3 (2KOs), with all three losses coming in his last four starts.
The bout aired live on ESPN+ in the United States and globally on IFL TV.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @Jake Donovan