Jay Harris has revealed his dream is to win a world title this month and then defend it at the home of his beloved Swansea City.
The Welsh boxer will bid to cause a huge upset in Dallas on February 29 when he takes on Mexican Cesar Martinez, the current WBC flyweight champion.
Should Harris pull off his long odds mission, then his plan is to show off his belt in a first defence much closer to home – at the Liberty Stadium, where the extended Harris family are regular attenders.
Harris is from Swansea’s Townhill area, the same part of the city that produced former Wales footballer and manager Chris Coleman and if he becomes a shock world champion then he could well follow favourite son Coleman by becoming a freeman of the city.
“It would be amazing to fight at the Liberty Stadium,” Harris said.
“I’ve been watching Swansea since the Vetch days when I was a kid, my dad used to take me and my brother to the Family Stand.
“The dream is to sell out the Liberty. Who knows? If I can win this fight maybe it can happen.”
It would be a modern-day Cinderella story if Harris does indeed go to the Texan ball and upset all odds and expectations. The bright lights await at The Star in Frisco – training base of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys – where Harris will complete his journey from small-hall shows to main event.
The 29-year-old has earned his world title shot the hard way, spending as many hours on the phone selling tickets as training in the gym, and admitting he almost quit the sport when the fights dried up.
“People see the big fights but they don’t really see that side of it,” said Harris, who works at Swansea’s Amazon warehouse when he is away from the ring.
“The small-hall shows are hard graft. You’re out every day, training twice a day and then you have to get on the phone to Tom, Dick and Harry to get them to buy tickets.
“It’s so stressful, you feel like you’re pestering people to buy tickets, and then someone always pulls out. But you need to be a good ticket seller to get on the best shows.
“I wasn’t doing that at one stage and it was driving me mad. I was on the verge of quitting.
“It’s a bit surreal to be fighting for the most prestigious belt in boxing, the WBC belt, but now I’ve got this chance I’m going to take it.
“I know I’m the underdog but I’ve been an underdog near enough all my life and I’ve come out the winner. All the pressure is on Martinez to keep his belt.”
Harris comes from proud boxing stock – his uncle Mike won Welsh titles and dad Peter was British featherweight champion in the 1980s – and he joined Gwent ABC in Swansea at the age of 12.
He won several Welsh titles as an amateur, as well as gold and silver medals at the British Championships, before turning professional at 21.
Harris claimed the Commonwealth flyweight title in February 2017, but real progress eluded him until he outpointed hardy Spanish veteran Angel Moreno for the European title last June.
The now double champion followed that up in October with a four-round demolition of Paddy Barnes in the Northern Irishman’s Belfast backyard to secure his world title shot against the Mexican Martinez.
“Both Moreno and Barnes fought for world titles so I know I’m at that level,” said Harris, who has prospered under the guidance of skilled trainer Gary Lockett.
“Martinez is a good champion who has boxed (Wales’) Andrew Selby and Charlie Edwards.
“He’s a small man and works the body well, but I’ve stopped a lot of boys with body shots.
“It’s going to be an exciting fight because I think we’ll gel.”
Harris is unbeaten in 17 fights and beating Martinez would see him emulate fellow Welshmen Jimmy Wilde and Robbie Regan, who both won European and world flyweight belts.