Paddy Barnes has been knocked out tonight following a war in Belfast.
The Cliftonville flyweight was put down and out by Jay Harris in the fourth round of the headline fight of the latest bill at the Ulster Hall.
The double Olympic bronze medallist fought bravely but the bigger and stronger Welsh fighter would send him down twice in a bloody clash at the atmospheric hall.
For Barnes, this was a last stand. Having lost by stoppage to then-WBC flyweight champ Cristofer Rosales in a record-attempting tilt last Summer before a shock defeat to the unheralded Oscar Mojica in his comeback, there was no margin for error.
A move down to light flyweight had previously been mooted but the lure of a high profile name in Harris could not be resisted and Barnes jumped at the chance to face the reigning European champion.
Harris claimed the continental crown last time out, outpointing another recent world title challenger Angel Moreno in June to add to the Commonwealth belt he won last year. However, the blue belt would not be on the line, with the European Boxing Union refusing to sanction Barnes and instead the vacant IBF Inter-Continental rankings belt would be the prize.
Described as something of a short-cut to a second world title shot, the gamble would not pay off for Barnes who gave everything but it was just not enough.
The size difference in Harris’s favour was apparent from the opening bell but Barnes did start sharply. However, the heavy shots of the Welshman quickly started to do damage, hurting Barnes repeatedly before one straight right looked to have him out on his feet. The European and double Commonwealth champion wouldn’t go quietly, though, and he unloaded an extended flurry of punches and survived the round.
Barnes held on through the second before war broke out in the third. Harris was landing constant shots but Barnes would fight back hard, cutting the visitor but the firefight played into the bigger man’s gloves. A huge bodyshot would send Barnes down, hurt, but the Ulsterman rose and managed to grit it out to the bell.
The end, however, would come the following round as another bodyshot put the brave Barnes down and he would be counted out.
WBA #13, WBO #11, and WBC #10 beforehand, Harris moves to 18(10)-0 and will move up the ladder, most prominently with the IBF where he is #6 and with this Inter-Continental belt he will be boosted towards South African champion Moruti Mthalane.
Barnes now drops to 6(1)-3(2) and the amateur legend’s future in the pro ring looks unclear.
In the chief support Sean McComb survived a fourth-round bodyshot knockdown to outpoint grizzled Argentine Emiliano Rodriguez over eight in a mini-war. Earlier on in the card there were victories for Conrad Cummings, Terry Flanagan, Sean Duffy, and Gary Cully as well as debut wins for Ruairi Dalton, Pierce O’Leary, and Paddy Donovan – the last of whom scoring a huge one-punch first-round stoppage of Arturo Lopez.