Jay Harris has been chomping at the bit to return to the title stage after a strong showing in his lone appearance at that level.
An avenue has been provided for that second chance.
The highly-regarded flyweight contender from Swansea, Wales has been ordered by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) to enter talks with California’s Ricardo Sandoval for a final eliminator bout. The ruling came down on Tuesday, providing a tight window to work out terms before being subject to a purse bid hearing,
“Be advised that #5 Ricardo Sandoval and #6 Jay Harris are the [two] highest ranked available contenders in the IBF flyweight division and have indicated, in writing, a willingness to participate in this eliminator,” Carlos Ortiz Jr., championships chairman of the IBF stated in a letter submitted to representatives for both boxers, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “In an effort to determine who the mandatory challenger will be, the IBF is ordering an elimination bout between Ricardo Sandoval and Jay Harris for the number one position.
“Negotiations should be concluded by February 26, 2021.”
Harris is represented by MTK Global, while Sandoval works with Golden Boy Promotions.
The winner for the fight will become the mandatory challenger to long-reigning flyweight titlist Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26KOs), who will be free to make a voluntary defense in the interim.
It’s been easier said than done for the 38-year old from South Africa, who hasn’t fought since a 9th round knockout of Akira Yaegashi. A planned title defense versus Jayson Mama—scheduled for last December—fell through due to an inability by the local promoter to provide proof of funds, leaving Mthalane more than a year out of the ring at present time.
Sandoval (18-1, 13KOs) has won his last 14 starts, though he has not fought in more than a year. The 22-year old from Rialto, California has greatly improved since entering a working relationship with Golden Boy Promotions in 2017, having been regularly featured on the company’s prospect-based shows. The last such appearance came in a 9th round knockout of Raymond Tabugon last February at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
Harris (18-1, 9KOs) was competitive in his WBC title bid versus Julio Cesar Martinez, dropping a 12-round decision last February just prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 30-year old Welshman earned the title fight on the heels of a breakout campaign in 2019. Harris scored a dominant points win over former title challenger Angel Moreno before sending Belfast’s Paddy Barnes into retirement, scoring a 4th round knockout in the hometown of the three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic Bronze medalist in their Nov. 2019 clash.
Following his lone career defeat to Martinez, Harris returned from the pandemic to soundly outpoint Marcel Braithwaite over 10 rounds last October in South Kirkby, England. The win left the top-rated flyweight contender longing for more, with Tuesday’s news along the lines of what he had in mind.
“Boom,” exclaimed Harris on social media upon hearing the news. “Mandated for a final eliminator. [L]et’s get this done.”
His team will have until Friday to do just that.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox