Former world title challenger, Jay Harris makes his return to the ring, defending his Commonwealth Flyweight title against Marcel Braithwaite, as MTK Global return in Wakefield on Sunday.
Harris (17-1, 9 KOs) travelled to Texas in his last fight back in February, and tasted defeat for the first time as a professional in a brave challenge for Julio Cesar Martinez’s WBC title, where he was decked in the tenth before going down on the cards.
Prior to that reverse, Harris had taken some good scalps, winning his Commonwealth crown in February 2017 with a points win over the tough Thomas Essomba.
The 30-year-old has only defended once, a November 2018 third round stoppage of Ross Murray, but added the vacant European belt with an impressive wide win on the cards against Angel Moreno in June last year.
He backed that victory up by winning the vacant IBF Intercontinental strap four months later, proving too big and strong for Paddy Barnes, knocking the Irishman out with body shots in the fourth.
Braithwaite (9-2) has only faced a man with a winning record in his last fight, after coming up against a series of journeymen in his first ten fights.
Six months after winning every round of six, Braithwaite slipped up against the wily Brett Fidoe, losing a decision over the same distance.
‘The Chosen One’ got over the disappointment with two wins on the bounce, including an English Flyweight title win in October 2019 against Craig Derbyshire by majority decision.
That victory lead to a shot at Sunny Edwards for the vacant British title, but despite a spirited effort, and having Edwards on the canvas in the seventh, he was defeated comfortably enough on the cards.
The Liverpool pressure fighter goes straight back in to another tough fight, but his opponent Harris has respect for him, and is plotting a return to world level.
“I’m very excited to get back in the ring. I’m expecting a tough fight as Marcel is going to come to win,” Harris told MTK Global.
“He had a good fight with Sunny Edwards in his last outing, so I’ve trained hard and prepared for any sort of situation that Marcel is going to bring.
“I think the whole experience of the world title fight was unreal. It was the best I’ve had in boxing, during the whole build up, and even the fight, despite it not going my way.
“I’ve taken a lot from the whole experience and I would look forward to doing it again in the future.
“I’m hoping to get another world title shot, but I’m not looking past Marcel. This fight is as important as any other fight, so I’ve just got to focus on the job at hand.”
Prediction: Harris will look to bounce back in style from his world title defeat, and he should be able to diffuse Braithwaite to get back on track. The Welshman should be able to control the action in the main to record a wide points win.
An interesting ten rounder at Welterweight heads the undercard, with Portsmouth’s Michael McKinson taking on Scotland’s Martin Harkin in a battle of unbeatens.
McKinson (18-0, KO2) doesn’t possess knockout power, but has steadily built his reputation, and picked up fringe governing body belts along the way.
He has comfortably beaten Sammy McNess and Ryan Kelly on the cards, and his last fight saw him widely outscore Luis Alberton Veron in November last year.
Harkin (13-0, 5 KOs) has progressed on the dinner show scene in Glasgow, with his best win arguably his most recent one, a fifth round stoppage of the previously unbeaten James Moorcroft in January.
Prediction: McKinson should be able to take a clear points win here.
After a disappointing stint under the Matchroom banner, Paul Butler continues his partnership with MTK with an eight round assignment at Bantamweight against Ryan Walker.
Butler (31-2, 15 KOs) is a former IBF Bantamweight world champion, but vacated to unsuccessfully challenge IBF King, Zolani Tete, at his natural Super Flyweight in 2015.
Following that defeat, Butler was put mainly on the shelf until linking up with Eddie Hearn in late 2017.
He was handed another shot at his old belt, but missed weight, and was knocked down twice in the opening round before falling widely on the cards to Emmanuel Rodriguez in May 2018.
He hasn’t fought near that level since, mainly appearing on World Boxing Super Series cards and small hall shows, where he has racked up five straight wins.
The aim is for a collision in the near future with British and Commonwealth champion Lee McGregor, but first he faces McGregor’s last opponent in Walker (11-2, 2 KOs), who was stopped in five at the back end of August.
Prediction: I expect him to come through on the cards.
Jack Rafferty (12-0, 7 KOs) meets Tom Hill (9-1, 2 KOs) in a Welterweight attraction over eight, while Southampton’s Lewis Edmondson (2-0) takes on Andy Bishop (0-14) over four at Light Heavyweight.
There are two debutants on the bill, with Jordan Reynolds going over six at Middleweight against Scott James (6-6-1) and Paul McCullagh makes his bow over four at Light Heavyweight against Ryan Hibbert (1-7).