Jay Harris: Anything is Possible Now
By: Oliver McManus
Tucked away in the corner of Cardiff, Gary Lockett is building an impressive stable of fighters. Away from the bright lights of London his proteges set to work in an unassuming manner; their hard work and patience now rewarded with opportunities aplenty. MTK Global have invested time and money into Welsh boxing, staging two title shows this year. Yet even for Jay Harris, who works in Swansea’ Amazon warehouse, their delivery is ahead of schedule.
12 months ago the flyweight said he felt ‘forgotten’ by the world of boxing with few opportunities emerging for the Commonwealth champion. His dedication to the sport, and Lockett’s dedication to his charge, has been met with ambition from MTK. Three fights this year have seen Harris pick up the European and IBF Inter-Continental titles – the latter in a pulsating clash with Paddy Barnes.
“The first round was alright, weren’t it?”, he remarked in humorous fashion, “but I think the fire was too big for Paddy. I was too big , too strong and he was throwing everything he had at me. He’s a tough guy and I expected it (the hard pace) because of how our spars were in the past. I was expecting to go to war – the first minute was a bit quiet and then it was just abuse, really. Bombs flying everywhere.”
The 29 year old is arguably used to more subdued affairs with his best wins – against Thomas Essomba and Angel Moreno self-described as “learners”. This more gung-ho style against Barnes may have caught onlookers by surprise but in truth it was closer to home for the Welshman.
“I’m a pretty come forward fighter myself so I reacted instinctively. Obviously if I felt he was coming on too strong I’d have taken a backwards step but I was feeling it. I was feeling physically stronger and that I could push him off so I knew I could stay toe-to-toe with him.
I felt so relaxed after the first round so that’s where the training pays off. Once I landed a couple of punches I was able to relax that little bit more because I was confident in winning; then the shots just rolled off that little bit easier.”
The fight itself ended in the fourth round after a sustained assault from the youthful looking Harris. For its brief duration it was an electric encounter that had the Barnes-infatuated Belfast crowd roaring with every punch. Even away from home and in ‘enemy territory’, the Swansea-man was able to enjoy the raptures of the crowd.
“It is the best place I’ve fought at. It used to be York Hall but this was incredible; sold out, the noise was ridiculous and everyone was enjoying themselves. Everyone got behind us, they appreciate a good scrap, and the people were so welcoming to me: even after the fight!”
“I knew Paddy was their number one when I signed up for the fight” he continued, “so I knew I wasn’t going to be popular. I was expecting to get booed when I went to the ring but I never got any of that. The crowd were brilliant; they support their own but afterwards they were so respectful to me. I 100% want to fight in Ireland again it was just so great.”
His spiteful performance said everything for a fighter who’s talent has been slept on for far too long. If this was considered a ‘breakthrough’ fight then it’s fair to say Harris is here to stay. 2018 was a torrid year for the, then Frank Warren fighter. A bout with Dexter Marquez was cancelled due the Guyanese fighter failing a brain scan. Then the phone went cold. Mo Prior kept Harris busy and, in December 2018, the Welshman was able to defend his Commonwealth title for the first time; 21 months after winning it.
The turnaround in just a matter of months is something that even the optimist in Harris struggles to comprehend.
“I couldn’t have imagined life being like this. The last nine months where I’ve been signed with MTK has been like a dream. Everything has just worked perfectly from the Brett Fidoe I was in full knowledge of the direction I was going – we’ve continually taken upwards steps. I don’t want to be in crappy little six rounders because I want to put on a show and I want to be in more title fights.”
Direction is exactly what was missing for the 2012 GB Amatuer Champion – “I was training for the possibility of a fight”, he said in reflection. Six years on from a debut that pocketed him £250, a long six years, it was genuinely refreshing to hear Harris say “I’m happy now.” And who can begrudge his happiness after such a slog to get there. His efforts in the ring – at long last, some would say – are now handsomely recognised.
“I’m ranked in all four governing bodies – five with the IBF, seventh with WBC, 11 with the WBO and 13 with the WBA – but that’s not happened overnight. I’m just glad I didn’t wrap it up when I was thinking because I look at those rankings and it brings a smile to my face. A world title fight isn’t a dream anymore, it looks as though it could be happening on the horizon.
My mandatory for the European, Mohammed Obbadi, is ranked with the IBF so why not get that on as an eliminator. I’m going to have to fight him either way but if we can get that as an eliminator it’ll be great and then who knows what will happen next year.”
It’s not just the Commonwealth, European and IBF Inter-continental title making splashes out of Wales. Gary Lockett, for a long time, has been spearheading the next generation of Welsh talent. A stable of talent personified in the quartet of Harris, Alex Hughes, Rhys Edwards and Chris Jenkins; speak to any of them and they’ll wax lyrical about the 42 year old.
It’s telling of Harris’ character that, when speaking about his trainer, he was keen to heap praise not only on their relationship but the work he’s done for other fighters. In particular, British welterweight champion, Chris Jenkins.
“He’s doing wonders with Chris – he’s got better and better with each fight and he’s one of the most underrated fighters in Britain at the moment. The gym atmosphere is brilliant and we’re all able to look at each other’s success. Gary is so much more than a trainer; he’s invested in all of us and he’s a credit to the sport. Even guys like Richie Garner and Mo Prior – they’re all really nice. They go out of their way to help you. It’s nice to have people around you that you can trust, that’s all it is.”
A year can be a funny old time in any walk of life – a fact only magnified by the twisting politics of boxing. Jay Harris been on the unfortunate end of that stick but how quickly the chaser becomes the chased. No longer ‘nagging Gary for a fight’ instead given the luxury of choice nowadays. His ambition, drive and desire remain the same but what a difference happiness can make.
“I’ve got loads of different options and I don’t have to chase fights anymore. I’ve got people chasing me which feels a little weird but I’m not going to complain. Anything’s possible now.”
The Revolution may not be Televised: Leading the way and breaking past old customs
By: Kirk Jackson
Jay Chaudhry promises to break the barrier between fans, prize fighters and beyond.
“The system’s completely broken. The industry needs a real sports agency to change the way we not only present our athletes, but approach brands. I say this all the time, Deontay Wilder is the heavyweight champ of the world and isn’t even in a Juicy Fruit ad. Talk about disconnect.” – Jay Chaudhry
He has a point. Times are different, popular culture comparatively, from various decades, is relatively different now – especially with the advent of technology and the emergence and interaction between countless platforms across the scope of social media.
With the ever changing climate of pop culture, quite naturally, the celebrity of an athlete changes along with the times. The measure of recognition, access and overall celebrity is different from what it was in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and so forth.
Looking at world champion fighters of years past compared to today, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard were thought of and marketed differently compared to today’s athlete.
We rarely if ever, see commercials featuring boxers in today’s era. At least across North American soil.
Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KO’s) for instance, is the long-reigning, WBC heavyweight champion of the world, with nine title defenses and counting.
His knockout-to-win ratio stands at 97.5%, with 20 knockouts in the first round. Wilder also stakes claim as the 12th longest reigning world heavyweight champion of all-time, and has the 8th longest combined and individual title streaks in modern heavyweight boxing history.
You would think this laundry list of accolades would warrant a prominent, primetime commercial or two right?
Boxers, athletes in general, need creative ways to generate greater impact and interaction with their audience of fans and followers. They need a vessel to attract, connect and inspire supporters.
The Toronto based Jay Chaudhry, is a three-time internationally acclaimed and award winning, film-maker, producer, artist and storyteller. Simply put, Chaudhry is valiant visionary and is leading the way assisting athletes, while guiding them to reach that next level.
“Majority of the times, these boxer’s managers man, it’s the fighters ‘homeboy’ you know? Wtf does this guy know about modern day digitization and monetization?” said Chaudhry speaking with Boxing Insider. “Now you want to send this fella to go crack your sponsorship deals?”
“Now you want to send this idiot to go crack your sponsorship deals? American fighters are celebrities. Treat them like one, present them as such and tell me in two years how many people say ‘Boxing’s dead?’”
People marvel at athletes for a myriad of reasons. Something special existing between the athlete and person of the observing audience, is relatability and the emotional aspect or connection with another athlete – however that bond is generated.
Emotion inspires and attracts. Fan interaction drives sports.
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Co-Founder @producer_jayc recently sat down with some of Toronto's top creative professionals to share his thoughts on digital media trends. Here's what he had to say about what it's like working with professional athletes. #sportsbiz #sportsmarketing #sportsproducer #sportfilms #sportvideos #boxingtalk #athletemarketing #muhammadali #fightgame #fightnight #nflathletes
Enter Jay Chaudhry, recent recipient of the 2019 Cynopsis Media Sports Award and the brain trust behind this innovative, athlete representation agency, the Break Media Group. This company focuses on building and guiding the athlete’s career through the art of custom-crafted, content creation and successful social media circulation.
Break Media Group has already worked with the likes of boxing stand-outs Phil Lo Greco, Samuel Vargas, Badou Jack and J’Leon Love. While not limited to just boxers specifically, Break Media Group has an upcoming project entitled “Making America,” featuring NFL Linebacker Joshua Martin, set for release this summer in conjunction with Vayner Sports. You might recognize the name, as its founders are the tyrants of social media themselves, Gary & AJ Vaynerchuk.
“We’re producing a full out travel and food series for NFL linebacker Josh Martin. Josh is what I consider to be a prime example of a top athlete who understands how important it is to invest in his career outside of the sport. Fans make you relevant, not your record or statistics.”
Establishing the athlete-to-fan connection is a task some of the prominent, long-established sports network programs struggle with. Even the newly formed subscription video streaming service DAZN, is not quite hitting the mark.
“I’ve been very vocal about that. Especially with the team over at DAZN, who I’m in touch with frequently,” said Chaudhry.
“You guys are creating the platform for the future yet I don’t see much movement in the space of series. I think fans would go absolutely bonkers if they knew Ryan Garcia has his own version of ‘A day in the life of a teenage superstar,’ vlog every Tuesday. How many sports and fitness enthusiasts would be all over a weekly cooking show starring Chris Algieri every Thursday?”
Chaudhry continued, “You want subscriptions?? Give the audience what they want. No offense, but there’s no one out there just waiting for the next episode of ‘AK and Barak.’”
“All this money to splurge. If you’re going to call yourselves the Netflix of sports my friends, catch up to speed. The subscription model is amazing, fights are amazing, the roster is amazing, but the content is nothing close to what Netflix or YouTube Premium offers.”
One of the great aspects of storytelling, is it comes in many forms. A great story connects and resonates with the audience; crafting life-long memories and emotional connections. Developing that interaction/connection between athlete and fan as Chaudhry eloquently states is his goal.
This type of versatility and innovative thinking is key to the continued growth and development of athletes, as they transcend across other ventures while still active in their respective sport, and as they successfully transition into the next phase of life after their athletic competitive days are over.
“I’ll get there, it’s a marathon not a race mentality. I just can’t continue to bump heads with old network execs and promoters, they don’t see the value in investing in their fighters. I’ll take this step myself and my intuition will unfold before their eyes. Once they start seeing the bigger picture, I believe fighters will come to agencies like mine on their own.”
For more information regarding The Break Media Group and Jay Chaudhry, check the links listed below:
Harris & Evans Aiming For European Double
By: Ste Rowen
This Saturday, one of the great cities of the western world plays host to a packed card of boxing, no, I’m not talking about New York’s and Joshua vs. Ruiz Jr; instead this weekend, in the great city of Cardiff, a battle for the vacant EBU European flyweight title between Jay Harris and Angel Moreno of Spain headlines a bout sheet that also includes a fight between Craig Evans and Stephen Ormond for the WBO European strap currently held by Evans.
Welshman, Harris , 15-0 (8KOs), has earned his stripes for the right to challenge for the vacant European belt. In his 10th fight he scored a unanimous decision over then Commonwealth champion, Thomas Essomba in 2017, but had to wait over eighteen months before defending it for the first time. But the layoff between the two big bouts didn’t seem to have taken any sheen of Harris as he overcame a cut to score a third round TKO of then 8-1, Ross Murray.
But the current Commonwealth flyweight champion was well aware of the step up he was making this weekend as he spoke at this weeks press conference,
‘‘This is the biggest step up I’ve had…He’s been in with two world champions and a European champion so he’s no pushover.
Anything can happen on the night and we’ll take each rounds as it comes…The future looks bright it’s only one fight at a time. This is the new generation of Welsh boxing and it’s booming at the moment.’’
His opponent on Saturday is just one fight removed from one of those aforementioned world champion opponents. Just over two months ago the Spaniard, 19-3-2 (6KOs), was dominated over twelve rounds by WBC champion, Charlie Edwards, losing 120-107 on all three judge’s scorecards. The other world champion Moreno fought and lost to was the much feared Ukrainian and current WBA flyweight titlist, Artem Dalakian. Once again Angel was dominated over twelve rounds and once again lost on three identical scorecards of 118-110.
However, despite his ominous record in title fights, the Spaniard seemed confident of returning to winning ways,
‘‘I hope he’s (Harris) had a good camp and is ready because we’re ready for whatever he brings to the table.
I’m very lucky an blessed that everyone in Spain gets behind me and hopefully I can take the belt back to Spain.’’
It’ll be big scalp for either boxer who takes the victory, but with the likes of Andrew Selby sat in number three of the EBU’s April rankings, the big fights for the winner will not be getting easier.
Also on Saturday’s show at the Vale Sports Arena is WBO European lightweight champion, Craig Evans of Newport coming up against Ireland’s Stephen Ormond in a rematch of their 2017 bout in Ormond’s home city of Belfast, for the very same belt. It was a bout that saw Evans score a very convincing points victory on enemy territory and Craig, 19-2-2 (3KOs) made no bones about mentioning that at the press conference,
‘‘I fought him in his hometown last time but there’s only two of us in the ring, so let’s get it on…If I turn up and give 100% I know the title will be staying in Wales.
I obviously know Ormond well. He’s a tough fighter who comes to win… Hopefully a win pushes me to world level.’’
Stephen Ormond heads into the weekend with a professional record of 27-5 (13KOs) and aiming for vengeance. 36-year-old, Ormond followed his defeat to Evans in 2017 with another loss, this time to Paul Hyland Jr but has since gone on a fight 3-fight winning streak but only one of those was against an opponent with a winning record.
But although the Belfast man was magnanimous in defeat to Evans, he aims to put right the wrongs and promised the fans he’s more than ready for Saturday,
‘‘I’m enjoying boxing again. Craig beat me the last time we met, and this is a great opportunity now I’ve got the rematch, so I’m looking forward to it.
I got beat fair and square in the first fight…I’m not looking past this and I’m fully focused on getting the job done.’’
Five UK Based Fighters Who Need a Big 2019
By: Oliver McManus
12 months can be a long time in the sport of boxing – it can see you go from the cusp of retirement to the brink of a world title and for these next boxers, they’ll be hoping that 2019 is the year for them because these are five fighters in need of a BIG 12 months.
Photo of Jay Harris and Kristian Touze
Andrew Selby – Flyweight
There was a time, not so long ago, that we thought we had seen the last of Andrew Selby when he announced “I’m not fighting anymore”, quite understandably this prompted confusion because for a long time he had been scheduled to fight for the European title – indeed a clash with Vincent Legrand was postponed back in June – and Selby was deemed, by many, far good a talent to be allowed to go to waste.
Last month, at last, there was some good news as Jamie Sanigar won the purse bids for his challenge to, Frenchman, Legrand and set a firm date for the Welshman’s return – October 27th at the Newport Centre. Since then there has been mixed signals about the fight with no official confirmation save for the European Boxing Union website who, incidentally, have assigned officials for the contest but the good news is that Selby is back in the gym with fire in his belly, once more.
Further to that, consider the former Team GB member has been mandated to fight Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar in a world title eliminator with the winner set to face, WBC Champion, Cristofer Rosales – a man who Selby comfortably outpointed last May – and you start to see the makings of a sensational 2019 where, if all goes well, we could see the crowning of a new British world champion.
Anthony Yarde – Light Heavyweight
With one sharp intake of breath we get reminded that Yarde is the number 2 ranked challenger with the World Boxing Organization and, swiftly after, it is explained to us that he’s still not ready for a world title because he’s learning the trade.
Now there’s nothing wrong with either of those statements but the constant juxtaposition of the two leave me crying out for Yarde to have a monumental 2019 and this is nothing to do with Anthony Yarde, not at all, because he is a genuinely nice guy and rather this frustration is born out of a desire for him to do well and prove critics wrong – at least, attempt to prove them wrong.
Since fighting Nikola Sjekloca on December 9th, Yarde has seen his stock fall with the 27 year old facing, less than inspiring, Tony Averlant and Dariusz Sek in the meantime; that performance against Sjekloca was a top quality, high energy, explosive performance against a respectable opponent whilst against Averlant and Sek it is almost as though he’s dropped down to their level.
Next out on October 20th Yarde, now 16 and 0, will face the Argentine national champion Walter Gabriel Sequeira who steps up to the plate after, it is believed, Sean Monaghan priced himself out after initially accepting the fight – regardless, the whole boxing world wants to see Yarde get in the ring with an opponent will provide him with a solid test and there are plenty of British light-heavies that would be gunning for the fight.
Hopefully, for him and us, 2019 will see Anthony Yarde start to really make his mark on the 175lb scene.
Lawrence Okolie – Cruiserweight
British, Commonwealth, WBA Continental Champion with only 10 fights under his belt, things are going pretty well for Okolie from a belts point of view and you certainly can’t criticise Okolie for the guys he’s been willing to face – Isaac Chamberlain, Luke Watkins and Matty Askin in only his eighth, ninth and tenth fights.
That’s all fine and dandy but his much-hyped contests against Chamberlain and Askin, in particular, have failed to live up to the expectations as Okolie imposed a largely physical, holding game-plan much to the irritation of those watching.
Far be it from me to criticise a professional boxer unnecessarily but Okolie himself admits his performances were disappointing and, yes he got the win, but he’s in a situation where he needs to start letting his hands go and relaxing through the bout in order to become a big Box Office attraction.
With strong amateur pedigree, Okolie was always going to take a hastened route to the top but the cruiserweight sensation needs to go back to basics and work the jab to tee up openings that he can exploit in order to look every bit as good as we know he can be.
Plenty of domestic challengers are salivating at a potential fight with the Hackney-man and I like Okolie, I really like him, but time is a friend not an enemy and, having smashed his way through his first 10 fights, he can afford to be patient for 2019 in terms of names but the performances need to be big.
Okolie needs to be seen as adaptive and exciting otherwise people, having seen what they have, will be inclined to switch off – I’ve little doubt as to the quality and desire of the cruiserweight prospect so he should be able to take it in his stride!
Joseph Parker – Heavyweight
Returning to the ring on December 15th having been subjected to back-to-back losses against Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, respectively, Joseph Parker is in danger of becoming the forgotten talent of heavyweight boxing.
Making history by becoming the first New Zealand heavyweight world champion, you’d be hard pressed to suggest that Parker looked impressive in the fight that saw him crowned WBO king – against Andy Ruiz – or indeed in his subsequent defences over Razvan Cojanu and Hughie Fury and, actually, that fight against Dillian Whyte is, arguably, the best we’ve seen Parker.
That sounds weird to say given that he was on the reverse side of a unanimous decision but when Parker really got into his rhythm he was able to control the tempo of the fight, force Whyte into hot water and he looked like a physically imposing roughhouse fighter as opposed to the technical man we’ve got used to seeing.
It raised questions of WHY haven’t we seen this fire and aggression from the Kiwi before and whilst I can’t answer that question, I look forward to seeing how it impacts the 26 year olds fight plans going forward.
Parker gets the benefit of being in a comparatively weak heavyweight pool of talent than in years previous with a distinct gulf in quality even ranging throughout the top 15 and that should, on paper, ensure that Parker gets back into the world title mix sooner rather than later and, certainly, there are relatively few challengers that you wouldn’t tip Duco’s main man to topple.
The rebuild starts on December 15th, the climb back to a world title shot continues into 2019.
Now this is the slightly left field option for this article because who said I was going for the obvious? Jay Harris is a fighter who has had a frustrating year thus far with the Commonwealth flyweight champion scheduled to defend his belt – won via unanimous decision over Thomas Essomba back in February 2017 – against Dexter Marques back the first quarter of the year before visa issues put that fight indefinitely on hold.
He would fight for the first time in nine months when he entered the ring at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport on August 11th and eased his way to a 60-55 points decision over Critisan Narvaez and with those rounds under his belt he quickly set about establishing a date to defend his coveted belt.
That fight, against Ross Murray, was scheduled for this month but pushed back ever so slightly to November 3rd at York Hall; Mo Prior, the man behind British Warriors, has taken the Welsh flyweight under his wing and is already on a mission to provide Harris with regular fight dates for, put simply, the 28 year old is a sumptuous talent.
With one on the winner of Ryan Farrag vs Sunny Edwards – that bout for the WBO European Super Flyweight strap – Harris has already been mandated for the British Super Flyweight belt as well as the EBU-EU title so there are plenty of opportunities available for the Swansea-man, and that’s without even considering the permutations of the CBC!
By no means is this an exhaustive list of fighters who require a big one next year nor, for that matter, is it the five fighters who need it the MOST but they are guys who, in my opinion, should be hoping to leave a mark over the course of the next 12 months.
For guys like Jay Harris it is through no fault of their own that they are in the frustrating situation that they are and, certainly, there are plenty other candidates for this article – Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Liam Walsh, Roman Gonzalez to name just a handful but keep an eye out on these five fellas as they look for a career-best 2019.