By: Ste Rowen
The world of soccer spent Saturday fixated on Madrid and which team would claim European glory, and it was the same in Cardiff, and the Vale Sports Arena as, back in the boxing universe, fans in attendance focused on whether Welsh favourites, Jay Harris and Craig Evans would claim and, or keep hold of their respective European belts.
In the case of the main event; the home fans were treated to a masterclass performance from Swansea native, Jay Harris against former world title challenger, Angel Moreno.
Both Harris and Moreno went all guns flying in the first round, and somewhat surprisingly, it was Moreno that made the initial impact, forcing the home fighter back early. But the Welshman rallied towards the end of the opening round to force his Spanish counterpart on to the ropes and that’s where he stayed for the rest of the 1st. With just over two minutes gone of the second round, Harris sustained a cut to his left eye via a head clash as Morena attempted to manoeuvre off the ropes. But the unbeaten fighter, Jay Harris, maintained his early dominance throughout the 3rd.
The two men went tit-for-tat through the 4th and both looked tired before the round had come to an end. Moreno seemed a little more clinical, but Jay was much more the boxer forcing his opponent back. Into the 6th, the fight appeared to be tipping towards Harris, as Morena began to swing wildly; taking three to swing and ultimately miss one. The home fighter was looking confident and in charge, a changed man from the struggles of the opening round.
The bout was schedule for twelve rounds, but Harris continued to fight as if he was ready to lay down the finisher. The Brit continuously dominated off his 1-2 shots, and kept Moreno wanting for a clear, landing shot which never seemed available. Angel’s last bout saw him fall to a whitewash defeat to Charlie Edwards in a match-up for the WBC flyweight strap, and by the 10th, as Harris almost began to showboat with his movement, it seemed that, that was on the cards again.
Credit must go to Angel Moreno, 19-3-2 heading into tonight, as the Spaniard seemed up for the fight throughout the full twelve rounds, but passion doesn’t always match ability and as Harris’ trainer said between the 11th and 12th rounds,
‘‘You’re the European champion, don’t be stupid now.’’
Harris was indeed the champion, but he was clearly eager for a fight, with the crowd fully behind him. But both men made it to the final bell, and it seemed clear that hometown favourite, Jay Harris had overcome the European contender. The judge’s final scorecards came back as, 117-111, 119-109, 120-108. And post-fight, the new EBU European flyweight champion, now 16-0 (8KOs), spoke after the fight,
‘‘It’s all down to the sparring really. I wanna give a shout out to Kal Yafai, he’s been absolutely superb with me…The past eighteen months has been mega difficult. After winning the Commonwealth title I seemed to be forgotten about and I was on the verge of giving up.
I promised my girlfriend a Chinese on Sunday, and I promised my stepdaughter we’ll have a chippy Tuesday.’’
Craig Evans completed the Welsh double as he scored a rough and tumble ten round decision in his rematch with Irishman, Stephen Ormond, and keep hold of the lightweight WBO European strap. Still the European 135lb champion, spoke post-fight,
‘‘I boxed well, started to slow down a bit in the middle rounds; I weren’t listening to my trainer…He wanted me to move more and I started to play his (Ormond’s) game plan a bit more. ’’
Southpaw, Evans’ face was marked up well by the end of the bout, but the Welshman, now 20-2-2 (3KOs), maintained a pace that kept up with his Irish counterpart who seemed intent on vicious revenge. But the Belfast fighter was unable to catch the eye of the judges as the final scorecards returned as, 98-92, 97-92, 95-94 all for Craig; and the Welshman, post-fight, also let his prospective rivals, including fellow countryman Joe Cordina, know that he wasn’t afraid of any challenge,
‘‘I thought I was fighting him (Cordina) before I don’t really know, it fell through…Who wouldn’t want to fight for the British title, but if they move me on through a European title it doesn’t matter.’’