Without much fanfare, the 32-year-old traveled to Scotland last Saturday to defend the BBBoC Celtic title and his crown of the light middleweight champion of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland
It’s a much sought after strap that promoters love as a ticket-selling weapon, a bargaining chip for bigger fights, and as a genuine stepping stone to British title shot on a par with the English title.
Not quite a strap fighters can dine out on winning for life, but it’s one that can secure you a few free drinks along the way and is a title many – including Carl Frampton – point out was the first step on the road to bigger and better things.
Yet Byrne hasn’t received the kind of adulation or respect that usually comes with both claiming the strap and defending in Scotland against two Scottish fighters.
Some might argue the lack of excitement surrounds the fact it can’t be used as a British title stepping stone for the Dub and if he was from Belfast there may be more fanfare, but Byrne’s ‘oul novice or journeyman’ quip suggests he believes the fact he came late to the pro ranks and his unique against the script approach make it hard for people to praise him.
Although, in fairness, the fighter himself didn’t quite see the significance of the win until pushed on it.
Byrne told Irish-Boxing.com that “I’m back to work today [Monday] after a nice day with the wife and kids Sunday. I only said to the missus earlier that it aint really kicked in. I genuinely haven’t thought about how big it actually is.”
“To be honest, if it is that big, it ain’t getting that much coverage,” he added minutes after receiving an x-ray on what turned out to be a right hand with two fractures.
2 fractures in the right hand.. I said to my corner after the 2nd round it was gone but didn’t think would be that bad..
Rest and heal up before making another little charge.. pic.twitter.com/HRcTNQ87lI
— Jay Byrne (@JayByrneKO) March 4, 2019
When asked to sport his manager’s hat, it becomes clear why promoter Sam Kynoch was desperate to get the title within his Scottish stable.
Byrne noted how “if I managing a kid that had won this title and then defended it realistically I would go after a British title. Once you win this title it almost gets you a British title, nevermind winning it away from home and then defending it away from home.
“Defending against an unbeaten guy away from home I reckon that would put you close to a title shot so possibly the next step would be a British or European title shot.”
Byrne doesn’t see a European title shot in his immediate future and seems to be working on this fight by fight basis.
No doubt a good offer will come in and ‘The Negotiator’, who was labelled a journey man by some after his Matchroom jaunts, will defend the strap but he seems content with what he has achieved.
Byrne described how “after the BUI Celtic title fight, that was to me an unreal achievement considering the experience and the journey I had been on that year. Then to bow out winning the BBBofC Celtic title in November was just really a reward to me for all I had done and things I tried throughout the couple of years.”
“I did say, if a fight came to me that I felt I could win or a style that suited me and the money was right, then I would come back and that’s what I done. We are in the exact same position again now.”
With that in mind, a rematch with another Scot, Paul Kean, was mooted before Saturday’s fight but the veteran of six title fights isn’t too keen.
Byrne reasoned that “I have a lot of respect for Paul, his dad and his team but he’s a slippery southpaw that likes to box on the back foot. Is a fight I would look forward to or would it suit me? Not really so it wouldn’t be the top choice for me if I had to choose.”
Reflecting on scoring his second successive Scottish scalp by beating the previously undefeated Stefan Saunders, Byrne revealed he damaged his hand as early as the second round of the fight and admits he has to apply some rough house tactics at times.
“I felt I was the better boxer on Saturday but with Stefan being tired early, holding, grabbing he messed things up.”
“I hurt my hand in round two which really hampered me and the three or four headbutts didn’t make it any easier.”
“However, I just played him at his own game and done what I had to do to win the scruffy fight. When I went on my boxing I outboxed him, I used my jab a lot at time not throwing the right hand but the oul left arm was tiring and he was walking forward so I had to throw it at times.”