Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes cannot afford a third defeat in four fights when he faces Jay Harris at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Friday, in a fight shown live on ESPN+.
Barnes (6-2, 1 KO), 32, was knocked out by Cristofer Rosales for the WBC world title last year, and was then out-pointed by Oscar Mojica in March this year, a result that prompted the Belfast boxer to consider retirement after being disappointed with his performance.
“To be honest, I don’t know how the judges scored it close, because I thought he won every round,” Barnes said after losing to Mojica in New York.
“I’m too small for bantamweight, but to be honest with you, I’ll probably retire now. Is there any point in boxing on after a fight like that?”
Barnes decided to box on, and hopes victory over British rival Harris in a 12-round flyweight contest will catapult him closer to the division’s elite.
“I have big plans for next year now and I don’t imagine Jay Harris is going to stop me from turning those dreams into reality,” Barnes said.
“I know it’ll be tough, but I also know I need this win to fulfil my aspirations. Jay’s an out and out fighter. That’s my game as well, but what I can do as well is box. I’m a boxer-fighter, whereas he’s more a straightforward fighter. It’s going to be great to watch, because we’re going to clash head on.”
Since suffering back-to-back losses Barnes registered a six-round points win over journeyman Joel Sanchez in August.
“I’m back to winning ways and that’s what was important after back-to-back defeats,” Barnes said.
“I’m ten times better than that so I’ll push on from there.”
Harris (16-0, 8 KOs), 29, from Swansea in Wales, will be a difficult opponent who is in form after he won the Commonwealth flyweight title last November before adding the European belt with a unanimous points win over Spain’s Angel Moreno in June.
Barnes is the more experienced boxer, but Nicaraguan Rosales showed he can be hurt to the body. The Northern Irishman needs to answer whether he still has a future left in professional boxing and a fresh opponent like Harris will provide that. Win, and Barnes will be back in the title hunt, but Harris has the hunger and form to push his own career on and silence Barnes’ home city fans.
Also on the bill, Belfast’s Marco McCullough (22-4, 12 KOs), 29, looks to continue his own good form in a ten-round junior lightweight bout against Romania’s Viorel Simion (22-3, 9 KOs). McCullough has registered five successive wins since Ryan Walsh stopped him for the British title in 2017.