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Jay Harris fights for a shot at Sunny Edwards

Jay Harris
A major title shot beckons for Jay Harris if he is victorious in Bolton, writes Matt Bozeat

SWANSEA’S Jay Harris could soon be fighting for another major sanctioning body title when he takes on Ricardo Sandoval in a final eliminator for the IBF flyweight title, held by Sunny Edwards.

The fight was originally set for six weeks ago before being postponed. It is now set for Bolton Whites Hotel on Friday night (June 25) and is promoted by Lee Eaton of MTK Global.

Harris’ fist shot at a major belt came last February, when he challenged Mexican puncher Julio Cesar Martinez for the WBC strap in Texas. The fear was the Welshman would be out of his depth, but though cut early and down in the 10th from body shots, he never let the champion dominate and was spirited until the final bell.

Harris won four, five and two rounds on the scorecards without ever putting a dent in Martinez with his crisp combination punching. As the boxing saying goes, Harris “lost well.” He had the satisfaction of becoming the first to take Martinez the full 12 rounds.

The 30-year-old has boxed once since, outpointing Liverpool’s Marcel Braithwaite over 10 rounds last October.

Next is Sandoval, a 22-year-old from California who’s had five straight stoppages. He has won all nine since Alonso Ceja, then 4-0, outpointed him on a majority over four rounds, but hasn’t had things all his own way.

Brent Venegas, 3-0, dropped ‘El Nino’ and pushed him to a split over six, while Sandoval had to rally from two knockdowns to stop the 12-1-1 Marco Sustaita in five. Sandoval is in the midst of a learning curve, it seems.

He showed a cooler head during the seventh-round stoppage of Filipino gatekeeper Raymond Tabugon (22-11-1), considered a step up, in his most recent outing last February. Sandoval dropped him in the second with a fast left hook counter and went on to dish out a beating. That was the furthest Sandoval has been in his pro career. It also means he’s been out of the ring for 16 months.

He is solid, heavy-handed and looks for eye-catching singles, particularly with his lead hand.

No question, Sandoval is an exciting prospect, but is he ready for Harris? We don’t think so. The Welshman can win either by late stoppage or on points.

Had results gone their way, Hosea Burton (25-2) and Liam Conroy (18-6-1) would have met in the final of the Golden Contract. Instead, they meet on Friday night in a real crossroads clash at 175lbs that has the makings of a good fight.

The 6ft 4ins Burton, British champion for 10 months in 2016 and now 32 years old, had a lengthy amateur apprenticeship, winning the ABAs in 2009, and is a disciplined long-range boxer who does his best work early.

By contrast, Conroy is a heart-on-his-sleeve fighter with heavy hands who’s been vulnerable early and strong late.

In the Golden Contract last September, Cumbria’s Conroy was well beaten in four rounds by 2016 Olympian Serge Michel (10-1), four days after Burton was outpointed by Ricards Bolotniks (16-5-1) in Latvia.

The scorecards were ludicrous, two judges scoring 98-90 and the third a shut out 100-90. For me, Bolotniks shaded it after handing Burton two standing counts in the ninth.

We see Burton overcoming a wobble or two to win this British title eliminator on points over 10 rounds.

Also on the bill in Bolton Joe Gallagher-trained Paul Butler goes in with Willibaldo Garcia Perez over 10 rounds.

The Verdict A couple of quality matchups top this busy card.

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