Jay Harris comes back from world title fight against Marcel Braithwaite

Marcel Braithwaite gives Jay Harris plenty to think about, Paul Butler chalks up a win and more, writes Andy Whittle

SOMEONE’S ‘0’ had to go when MTK staged a truncated four-bout offering in the now-familiar surrounds of Production Park Studios on Sunday (October 18). Belfast southpaw Michael McKinson, having won all 18, went head to head in a 10-round welterweight clash with Dumbarton’s Celtic champion Martin Harkin, whose arm had been raised on five fewer occasions. Helped in no small part by being credited with three knockdowns, McKinson emerged a far wider winner than many might have anticipated.

Harkin had a nightmare start, being counted by third
man Phil Edwards late in the opener after going down as much from a push as a
punch. But there was no doubting the validity of the right hand at the top of
the second that saw him reacquainted with the canvas.

Boosted by his early success, the Portsmouth-born McKinson’s
commanding lead was stretched even further in the fifth when Harkin went down
once more from a left, which replays proved to be low. He only just made it up
from one knee to beat the count.

Spurred into action, Martin’s best work of the night
came immediately afterwards, but while he kept plugging away he never did quite
get the measure of his evasive opponent.

The scores of 100-88, 99-88 and 97-91, from respective
judges Steve Gray, Howard Foster and John Latham, show just how clear this one

Swansea flyweight Jay Harris, defeated over the distance by Julio Cesar Martinez while challenging for the WBC belt in Texas in February, had initially been slated to take on Liverpool’s Marcel Braithwaite in a defence of his Commonwealth crown. However, with the man from Merseyside failing a check weigh-in earlier in the week, this one went ahead as a non-title 10-round affair.

Every one of the tenacious Liverpudlian’s 11 previous
contests had run its course, including a loss to Sunny Edwards in a clash for
the vacant British super-flyweight title last time out. So the smart money was
on this tussle going the distance. While Marcel eventually went down on points
once more, he gave Harris more than a few things to think about, most memorably
a huge left to the chin in the fourth which rocked the Welshman.

Harris, who picked up a nick by the left eye along the
way, was generally the busier man, landing the cleaner shots, though
Braithwaite, scoring with single punches, was never particularly troubled. He
even enjoyed a period of success in the seventh and eighth.

The cards of judges Edwards, Foster and Latham at the end
of a thoroughly enjoyable fight read 98-92, 97-93 and 98-92, all in favour of
Harris. Mr Gray was the man in the middle.

With an eye on challenging for world honours once again, Ellesmere Port’s ex-IBF bantamweight champion Paul Butler banked eight good rounds against Newham’s Ryan Walker. Having been in with British and Commonwealth champ Lee McGregor at this same venue just a couple of months ago, Walker certainly can’t be accused of avoiding anyone.

Switching stance at times, Butler, with his jab-right
hand combination working well, looked sharp from the outset. He proved a level
above his game-but-outgunned opponent, increasingly beating him to the punch
and scoring with crisp shots.

The closing couple of rounds proved a little closer
but by that stage the contest was as good as over. Referee Latham scored 79-73 to

Belfast first-timer Paul McCullagh goes by the moniker of “Irish Drago” and in a light-heavy
four-rounder against Bolton’s Ben Thomas
he managed to avoid any Rocky moments prior to triumphing early.

Calm, and making the most of his long reach, Paul
wasted no time on pleasantries, beating a steady tattoo on the body of Thomas,
who landed precious little of note in the first. Although Ben did score with a
couple of jabs at the start of the second, it wasn’t long before he was backpedalling
and grabbing.

Transmission problems meant that viewers at home were
denied the chance to see McCullagh finish the job but finish it he did. Referee
Foster completed his count with 70 seconds of the third session having elapsed
after a body shot sent Thomas to the mat.

The Verdict A couple of positive COVID tests in the week prior to the show make for a shorter evening, but an entertaining one nevertheless.

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