It’s not often that a newly crowned, modern-day world champion makes his first defence just over 2 months after his title-winning performance, but that is what WBC flyweight titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez will be doing when he defends against Swansea’s Jay Harris (17-0-0,9 Ko’s) on Saturday, 29th February at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
The Matchroom Boxing USA promotion includes Mikey Garcia taking on Jessie Vargas in a dangerous second attempt to move up successfully to the welterweight division, Khalid Yafai in a possibly career-defining WBA world super-flyweight title defence against Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, and a heavyweight appearance from former WBO world champion Joseph Parker.
Martinez’s victory over the former IBF flyweight world champion Christofer Rosales in December to win the vacant WBC strap was far from an easy win. Rosales wanted a second taste of being a world champion and came to win. Martinez had to come through a particularly rocky moment in the 2nd round when he was caught by a huge right-hand from his 25-year-old Nicaraguan opponent, but ultimately the heavy-punching Mexican was just too strong and tough for Rosales who succumbed to the relentless pressure in the 9th round when referee Raul Caiz Jr jumped to stop the fight.
On paper, wins over Victor Ruiz, Charlie Edwards, Andrew Selby, and Rosales, set Martinez (15-1-0, 12 Ko’s) aside as the best flyweight on the planet, but, while he is currently looking like the proverbial ‘Wrecking Ball,’ he has some bad technical faults that the right opponent could expose. Easier said than done of course, but, those faults are there.
On first reflection, Jay Harris may not look like a likely conqueror of the teak-tough 24-year-old Mexican, but looks can be deceiving.
The son of 1980s British featherweight champion Peter Harris has had a big advantage over most boxers because his father knows boxing at world level and has tutored his son well using that hard earnt knowledge.
In Jay Harris’s 10th pro bout he faced Thomas Essomba for the Commonwealth flyweight title and impressed with a unanimous decision in a competitive contest.
Three further learning fights followed before he defended his title against the once-beaten Ross Murray. Harris took Murray apart with body shots, stopping the brave Scotsman in 3 rounds. But it was Harris’s vacant European title win over Spaniard Angel Moreno in June 2019 that showed just how far the 29-year-old had progressed.
Moreno is a test for anyone at European level and fringe world-level but, Harris came close to dropping the former EBU titleholder on a few occasions with accurate, hard body shots on his way to a wide points win. It may be Harris’s subsequent 4 round stoppage of the outgunned Paddy Barnes in The Ulster Hall in Belfast that catapulted the Welshman onto the world stage, but it was the Moreno victory that took him to world-class.
Martinez quite rightly will start the fight a big favourite but there is a very real chance of a big upset here. Harris is quite simply a brilliant body puncher. Martinez’s habit of standing square on with a high held guard is an open invitation to a good body puncher. The Mexican also switches to southpaw from an open stance leaving himself open to the right hand.
Harris as previously stated has learnt his trade from a father who fought a who’s who of world featherweight boxing in the 80s, and while Peter’s career ledger contains a near 50/50 win/loss ratio, the names on it and his ability to seriously test them at that level has left him with a wealth of knowledge.
The Cristofer Rosales win showed Martinez to be a true Mexican warrior. If you hurt him he will come straight back at you. If you box him from the outside he will be patient and wait until he manoeuvres you to the ropes and he will somehow land crunching punches in bunches even though they look crude. He will always drag his opponent into a brawl in which no-one to date has managed to survive. His boxing ability looks basic, to say the least, and yet Rosales who is a seasoned campaigner even at 25 years of age could not use his advantages in height, reach, or boxing technique to hold the Mexican at bay.
I do think Harris has a real chance here, but boxing doesn’t always reward its more gifted or well-schooled practitioners when facing an unmovable force.
Prediction: Martinez to stop the Welshman between the 6th and 10th rounds.