The story of Jay Harris: From an Amazon warehouse to dreams of world glory and the huge sacrifices he’s made along the way

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Entering the lions’ den with your unbeaten record on the line and a partisan crowd against you could make even the strongest of boxers crumble.

Chuck a three-time Olympian into the mix and the task suddenly becomes all the more daunting.

But facing such hostility can prove to be an environment in which some prove why they’re a cut above the rest, like the Test match animal that was Sam Warburton or the talisman that is Gareth Bale.

Jay Harris is used to defying the odds.

The Swansea-born flyweight extended his professional record to 17-0 with a swashbuckling fourth round stoppage win over Paddy Barnes in Ulster last month.

To put that into greater context, Barnes has fought at the Olympics on three occasions and took on the Welshman in-front of a riled up crowd in his home country.

Harris was well and truly up against it. But such is his stock at present, you might not have noticed.

“The lead up was all respectful,” said the 29-year-old Welshman.

“People from Belfast came up to me asking for photos and things like that. When I was having food in the night, I’d say I was fighting Paddy and they’d say ‘he’s our golden boy, but may the best man win’.

“Even afterwards, we went around in Belfast, everyone was so nice. It was unbelievable.

“Paddy is a three-time Olympian. He’s fought for a world title. I think I’ve earned a lot of people’s respect now.”

Jay Harris
(Image: Adrian White)

Harris started on the front foot at Ulster Hall, winning an enthralling opening round before putting his opponent on the canvas with a brutal body shot in what was a pulsating third round.

The Welsh supporters in the crowd responded with renditions of Hymns and Arias.

Barnes showed immense courage to get back to his feet and battle on for another round, but Harris’ ruthless instincts had been well and truly triggered, and he emphatically ended the contest with a stinging body shot and then a right hand to the Northern Irishman’s head in round four.

“It was such a dominant performance,” he explained.

“We’ve done sparring in preparation and we thought with the first round, it would just be about working each other out and from there on in the clash of styles would gel.

“But in the fight, it was a completely different story. I just felt like the bigger and stronger fighter.

“I don’t know whether it was the sparring or the training that I was doing, but I just felt better.

“I thought we were going to have a full on 10 round war, but from the first round, I hit him with a right hand and I could see that he was hurt.

“From then on in I seemed to relax into the fight and I just went straight through him. Nothing phased me.”

Jay Harris
(Image: Adrian White)

The boxing world has taken notice.

But for the likeable and unassuming Harris, it’s just another step on the ladder to the dream.

“There’s a mandatory challenger, Mohammed Obbadi,” said the Welshman.

“I think they’re trying to get it for a world-title eliminator. If they can do that in early 2020, February or March and I can win, I could be trying for a world title shot in the summer.

“That’s what we’re all fighting for. If I can have a shot at a world title, I could retire as a happy man.”

Harris’ enthusiasm and sheer belief in his ability leaves you with little choice but to have absolute faith that he can actually achieve even greater things.

It’s a far cry from when the Swansea-born fighter was scrapping to earn a share of £250 from his first professional bout against Brett Fidoe in 2013.

Jay Harris
(Image: Adrian White)

“I think it was less than that once I’d paid medical bills and everything else,” recalled Harris.

“I hardly earned anything. I haven’t got a bad following. It was in Newport and I was selling tickets.

“People don’t understand, you’re constantly pressuring people to buy tickets, you’re on their case all the time. Two weeks before the fight you have people pulling out and you’re out of pocket again. It’s really hard and stressful. But it’s all part of the job.”

The skill and discipline required to juggle a professional career in boxing with a family life is something few can manage.

Throw a job at an Amazon warehouse into the mix, and you begin to wonder how Harris copes.

Jay Harris after his win over Thomas Essomba

“I’ve been doing nights for over four years now.

I’ve been working there for about seven years, and I was full-time when I started,” said Harris, a warehouse operative when the gloves aren’t laced up.

“I had to switch to nights. Before fights I had to put in an exception form and I’d drop down to two days a week.

“I’d train up until the fight, and then afterwards I’d go back to full time, but I realised it wasn’t doing me any good so in the end I said I’d stay part-time and they helped me.

“I work in the inbound dock, so the lorries come in and I take the stuff off and sort the paperwork. It’s a nice job for me.

“Before a fight, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll train twice a day, doing a bit of sparring plus strength and conditioning. Thursday then, I’ll wake up, I’ll run and then go to work, and I’ll train and work on the Friday.

“It is tiring. On the Thursday night after you’ve done sessions, you just want to go to bed! But it’s what I’ve got to do.”

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Harris boasts one of the most hectic schedules of any active professional athlete on the planet.

But he has a vital behind-the-scenes team consisting of mother Allison and father Peter – who is also his coach – along with girlfriend Lesley-Anne that help keep him firmly on course for the ultimate glory.

And it’s another of his passions – following home town club Swansea City – that help Harris to remain grounded, as well as giving him the chance to keep his mind off the gruelling path to the big time.

“I try to get down to as many games as I can,” he explained.

“I went to the Cardiff game and the Brentford one. It’s good to try and go as much as I can, but I watch on TV whenever possible aswell.

“I’ve been a couple of times with my old man and my brother. Me and my two mates did the Cardiff game, it was good fun.

“Me and boxer Chris Jenkins had a photo shoot down there before as well and they’re good with me at the club.

“At the Cardiff game, it was mad having people asking for photos and talking about the Paddy Barnes fight, it’s just nuts. But I’m glad people are taking notice of it and that I’m representing Swansea.”

Run six miles a day (Around 9/10 miles on a Saturday)

One sprint session per week

Two sparring sessions per week

One strength and conditioning session per week

Five gym sessions per week (general fitness and bag work)

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The sacrifices are all worth it. Because if they weren’t, the dream would be just that for Harris, something most have thought of but were never able to complete.

The public are beginning to realise what Harris and his family have known all along. He harbours ambitions that he’ll do anything to realise.

And where better to accomplish the goal you’ve put your heart and soul into achieving than at the home of your beloved Swans.

“The goal would be to have a top fight down here. That would be out of this world,” he admitted.

“A world title fight at the Liberty Stadium. Imagine that? Try and sell the place out, 20,000 fans down there. So fingers crossed.”

Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium

His route to glory is proving to be unorthodox to say the least.

But it’s for that exact reason Harris should have the most ardent of Welsh armies behind him on his quest for the biggest honours in his sport.

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