Paddy Barnes facing unbeaten Jay Harris in must-win rumble at Ulster Hall

Jay Harris and Paddy Barnes face-off. Picture Mark Marlow.
Andy Watters

Vacant IBF Inter-Continental Flyweight title: Paddy Barnes (6-2) v Jay Harris (16-0) (tonight, Ulster Hall, live on ESPN)

THE time has come for Paddy Barnes to make the statement he needs and give his fans a night to remember with a dominant display in a fight he really has to win against Swansea’s Commonwealth and EBU champion Jay Harris.

Two-time Olympic medallist Barnes’ professional career hasn’t gone like Irish fight fans had hoped it would but it is inconceivable that he will bow out without scoring a memorable victory. That could happen if he loses to Harris at a sold-out Ulster Hall tonight.

With no consistent form behind him, Barnes starts as a slight underdog but that should get his juices flowing, especially since the prize for the winner could be a shot at a flyweight title. For the loser it will be back to the drawing board so 32-year-old Barnes needs a victory against his former sparring partner to bring ambitious plans for next year to fruition.

“It’s a fight neither of us can afford to lose,” said Barnes.

“I’ve only had eight fights (6-2), he’s had 16 (16-0) but I have fought the better calibre of boxers. If he loses this fight it’s like snakes and ladders and he’s way back down to the start again. For me, who knows? It’s not something that I’ve thought of because I don’t think about losing.

“I’ll have massive support. The Ulster Hall is sold-out because people know what kind of fight it’s going to be. They want to see a big win and action. Our styles will clash and it will be fan-friendly.”

Barnes had planned to drop to light-fly next year but beating Harris will open doors to title shot at flyweight.

“If I win this fight I’ll be in line for a world title shot at flyweight, so the others plans can be put on hold,” he said.

Barnes and Harris sparred twice in the build-up to the north Belfast man’s world title challenge against Cristofer Rosales last summer. Harris predicts a “phonebox fight” tonight.

“He definitely needs to win but we both need to win to be honest,” said the Welshman.

“The winner goes straight to world honours or gets an eliminator. He’s been to three Olympics Games but it doesn’t really matter. You see loads of amateurs turning pro with Olympic Games honours and they don’t really do well in the pros. It happens.”

In the chief support, Sean McComb takes a step up in class against Argentina’s Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez. McComb has raced to 8-0 as a pro since his debut in August last year.

“This is another step towards where I want to be in my career and it’s another step up in opponent as well,” said ‘The Public Nuisance’.

“It’s another step up in opponent as well. He was WBC Latino champion and South American champion so he carries that experience but I believe I have all the skill. The confidence and momentum I have will carry me through this fight and push me up the rankings.”

Terry Flanagan, Conrad Cummings and Lewis Crocker also feature and Paddy Donovan is one of three debutants alongside fellow former amateur stand-outs Ruairi ‘Rook’ Dalton and Pierce O’Leary.

Limerick welterweight Donovan is being trained by former middleweight world champion Andy Lee who has tipped him to go to the very top.

“He’s a box-puncher, he’s a southpaw and he’s tricky,” said Lee.

“He has a certain amount of flair and he’s exciting, he’s an exciting fighter to watch and an exciting fighter to train the potential he has… He can go all the way and become a world champion.

“He is a lot more talented than me at this stage of his career.”

Vacant IBF Inter-Continental Flyweight title: Paddy Barnes (6-2) v Jay Harris (16-0)

Super-lightweight: Sean McComb (8-0) v Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez (23-5)

Lightweight: Terry Flanagan (34-2) v Michael Ansah (17-9-2)

Welter: Lewis Crocker (9-0) v Ohio kain Iremiren (4-1-2)

Super-lightweight: Gary Cully (8-0) v Danny Mendoza (6-4)

Welterweight: Paddy Donovan (debut) v Arturo Lopez (5-13-3)

Middleweight: Conrad Cummings (16-3-1) v Adam Grabiec (7-27)

Lightweight: Sean Gerard Duffy (2-0) v Edwin Tellez (12-57-5)

Super-lightweight: Pierce O'Leary (debut) v Oscar Amador (10-22)

Super-featherweight: Ruairi Dalton (debut) v Jose Hernandez

MEANWHILE, Tommy McCarthy will open the door to global opportunities by beating WBC International Cruiserweight champion Fabio Turchi (17-0) in Trento, Italy tonight, live on Sky Sports.

Now trained by canny Pete Taylor, ‘Mac Attack’ travels to the Turchi’s backyard as the underdog and he can expect southpaw ‘Stone Crusher’ to press forward behind his jab and look to set him up for big shots off his back hand.

With 13 stoppage wins in 17 fights, well-schooled Turchi has the power to end the fight if he catches up with the Lenadoon native. McCarthy needs to box on the outside and cannot allow the Italian to dictate the fight but if he is to dethrone the champion on foreign soil he will have to take the initiative at some point. He is capable of doing it but needs to produce the best performance of his career so far.

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