Zelfa Barrett has had to be patient. There are only five miles between the Middleton Arena where Barrett made his professional debut and the AO Arena that so many of Manchester’s best fighters have headlined but ‘The Brown Flash’ has had to wait nine years for his opportunity to top the bill there.

Barrett has had to be patient in the gym, spending countless hours drilling techniques and tactics time and time and time again until his uncle and trainer, Pat, is happy and the 30-year-old has also had to bide his time inside the ring, serving a long apprenticeship on the small hall circuit and then moving through the levels while waiting for a chance to prove himself capable of having a show built around him. 

Last night, Barrett was given his moment but rather than snatching at his opportunity, he chose to be patient. As the middle rounds of his super featherweight fight with Jordan Gill drifted by, Barrett refused to be rushed.

Barrett clearly had the speed, variety and power to hurt Gill to head and body but the tough, determined fighter from Chatteris neatly pressed forward. Gill didn’t work at break neck speed and his punches didn’t appear to have Barrett in any imminent danger but he stayed compact and continued to chip away. Barrett circled the ring, popped out his jab and paused occasionally to fire in his pet uppercuts and left hook but, on the whole, he was content to wait. And wait. 

A slight but definite feeling of tension began to creep around his friends and family at ringside but the Barretts aren’t the type to panic.

Weeks ago – before the fight with Gill was agreed – the uncle and nephew team hung around in their Collyhurst and Moston gym. The day’s training was complete but Zelfa fastened himself to a heavy bag and spent round after round trying to perfect the left hook to head and body while Pat circled him, making tiny adjustments and improvements to his technique but also hammering home how to recognize the perfect time to throw it. 

A minute into 10th round last night, Barrett recognized the moment. He sunk a picture perfect left hook into Gill’s body. Gill got up but was suddenly in survival mode. He was put down by another perfectly placed body shot and although he bravely got up, he was eventually saved after taking a flush right hand. 

“I didn't expect Jordan to be that good,” Barrett said after the fight. “He performed good and I had to think. I was cruising and then he started winning a few rounds but I wasn't tired or anything. I asked my Uncle P, ‘Am I winning?’ he's like, ‘It’s close’ so I thought, ‘You know what, I've been in his position before, you’ve got to push the pace.’”

Now Barrett has to wait again. He won’t need to keep checking his phone, hoping for a message from his promoters, Matchroom. The Mancunian can relax, safe in the knowledge that his phone will ring with good news.

Barrett has had the call once before. Two years ago, he got a short-notice opportunity to fight Shavkat Rakhimov for the IBF world title. He performed well and dropped the Tajik fighter before coming apart later on in the fight and getting stopped. This time, he will get plenty of notice and a fair chance.

A fight with WBA champion, Lamont Roach, seems like the most likely option but – provided IBF champion, Joe Cordina, comes through a tricky looking defence against Anthony Cacace next month – momentum will begin to build behind a fight between Barrett and the talented Welshman.

Fighters like Roach, Cordina, or WBC champion, O’Shaquie Foster, won’t allow Barrett to cruise through rounds but the years of patience have got him into position to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a champion. When the next opportunity presents itself, he will be ready to seize it. The waiting is almost over. 

“Hopefully it’s a world title fight next. We’ll see what Eddie [Hearn] comes with. I’m ready. I had a good fight with Jordan and he was coming off a good win. He had a good, long distance to get ready to fight me and he had a good camp so I beat a good fighter. I believe I’m a world class fighter,” Barrett said.

“Of course,” he said when asked if a Cordina fight would top his wishlist. “We’re both Matchroom fighters. He’s a good fighter, I’m a good fighter. We’ve got similar styles. That would be a serious fight but I understand the situation. He’s a world champion and he wants to look after his family now. I get it. He’s worked all his life to get to where he is now and wants to get paid. I’m just ready for anything. If Eddie says this guy, then it’s this guy, Eddie says that guy then it’s that guy.

“Whoever’s got the belt, I’ll fight. It doesn’t matter what style it is, we’ll just adapt to it.”