Jay Harris wasn’t entirely sure of the direction of his boxing career, or how much longer he’d even stick it out at this point one year ago.
The unbeaten flyweight from Swansea, Wales saw his 2019 campaign begin similarly to that of his pro debut six years prior—taking place with little fanfare, and fittingly versus the very same opponent. Little did he know it would be the gateway to the best year of his career to date and leading to his biggest opportunity as a pro.
“The end of last year was amazing,” Harris (17-0, 9KOs) told BoxingScene.com of a 2019 campaign that saw decisive wins over former title challengers Angel Moreno and Paddy Barnes. “Finishing the year as the EBU flyweight champion (the most prestigious regional title in Europe) and beating Paddy Barnes, I couldn’t have asked for a better year.”
One has arrived for the 29-year old, as he prepares for a dangerous challenge of recently crowned flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12KOs; 1NC). The two collide this Saturday at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, as part of a loaded DAZN show (Saturday, 8:00pm ET) which features another major title fight and a clash of unbeaten former multi-division titlists between Mikey Garcia and Jessie Vargas.
The title shot came out of the blue for Harris, whose next move following his win over Barnes was the same as any other day in his life—returning to his overnight shift as a warehouse worker at an Amazon facility in his Swansea hometown. Harris has worked there since 2012 and for a longtime considered making it his full-time gig as his boxing career had stalled.
A repeat win over journeyman Brett Fidoe didn’t give the Welshman any more hope that his 2019 run would be different from any other year in his career, although things would change for the better in the months that followed.
Harris claimed the EBU flyweight title following a 12-round whitewash of Spain’s Angel Moreno, who less than three months prior had challenged then-flyweight titlist Charlie Edwards. It wasn’t until his next fight, however, that would change his career. Harris marched into the Belfast hometown of three-time Olympian and double Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes, whom he stopped in the 4th round of their ESPN+-streamed headliner last October.
“They were both brilliant fights and ones that have propelled me onto full honors,” notes Harris.
The win over Barnes was one which Harris sensed would lead to bigger and better things, but not to where he could abandon his second job which at point threatened to become his primary career.
Then came the phone call to challenge for the world title. In turn, it led to the first such conversation he’s ever had with the brass at his second job.
“Lucky enough for me, Amazon have given me the time off to fully focus on the world title fight,” reveals Harris, whose shift was reduced to two nights per week in order to prepare for his first shot at a major title. “But on previous camps I have worked nearly all the way through them. It’s really hard trying to juggle training and work and can be exhausting because I work nights, but I’ve made it work and I'm glad where I am.
“I train two times a day when in camp and fitting that in with work is hard, but we have made it work since I’ve [reduced] my shifts.”
The obvious goal for Harris this weekend is to emerge victorious. More so than just a win, he looks forward to becoming just the 13th boxer ever from Wales to win a major title, and the first to bring one home since Lee Selby’s featherweight title reign came to a close in 2018.
One promise he’s made to himself in the event he achieves his career-long dream, is to treat the next day as any other. That includes returning to his roots—and to his other night job.
“Yes, I will be working after this fight depending on what sort of state my face or my body is,” promises Harris. “If I'm okay then I'll go back to work.”
His next shift, however, will finally come with a far different look on life, and in particular his boxing career.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox