Zelfa Barrett Motivated By Family Loss And Fired Up To Prove A Point Against Jordan Gill

Boxing Scene

Pat Barrett is happy. “That’ll do you,” he tells his nephew, Zelfa, after just a few rounds of sharp pad and tactical work.

“Everything’s good. Look at me. I can talk. I can smile. I’m sweating,” Barrett laughed as he sat by the side of the ring pedalling casually on an exercise bike. “I’m excited.”

Ten days out from his fight with Jordan Gill, the 30 year old super featherweight is happy and relaxed. 

After nine years as a professional, Barrett finally has the chance to top the bill at the same venue that so many of Manchester’s great fighters have headlined. It means a lot to Barrett. It is not only a symbol of just how far he has come and how hard he has worked to make his way up from the estates of Harpurhey in North Manchester, but it is also what he hopes is the start of something big. This isn’t just a stage managed homecoming appearance; the winner of the fight will move to within touching distance of a world title shot. On top of that, plenty of pundits are picking Gill to win. Barrett has wanted this type of expectation and attention since he started boxing. 

“I just feel different. I’m gonna destroy him. Jordan’s a good fighter but I just know my level,” told the writer for 32Red.

“Seeing myself on the big billboards they have put up to advertise the fight is sick but I need to go and prove it now and let everybody know what I’m all about. My desire is different. Normally, any fighter will tell you they have a few nerves but I’m more excited than nervous and I wanna prove a point. 

“This fight will open a lot of doors up for me. I can make the arena my home. That’s another reason for me to grit my teeth. Everybody wants me to do it. I love it. I love it. Some people can’t handle pressure like that. I love it when people come and watch sparring. That’s the only time in my life when I like the attention. I thrive off it. I don’t get gassed off it but I just like to think, ‘OK. Watch this. I’m gonna show you’, and I always steal the show. Some fighters blag you that they love it and when it comes down to it they’re like a small rabbit in the headlights. I’m a big fish in a big pond. I love the pressure, although I don’t think of it as pressure.

“I’m made for this. I always have been, right from the start. I deserve to be a top dog.”

One of those who occasionally comes to watch sparring is Barrett’s young daughter, Remilia. Just a few weeks ago, the toddler pottered about in the weight room at the Collyhurst and Moston gym and stuck her head under the ropes while Barrett completed 12 rounds with two different fighters. 

Barrett may fight to provide he and his family with a better life, but making his loved ones proud is an even bigger motivation. Before the fight with Gill starts, the former European champion will touch the tattoo on his chest of his beloved mum, Sonia, who passed away after a short battle with cancer and kiss the image of his elder brother, John, who died in 2011, which is etched onto his forearm. He will then hug his uncle Pat and turn to focus on Gill. 

None of Barrett’s children will be at the fight but family will never be far from Barrett’s mind. 

“She [Remilia] doesn’t come. She’d be asleep. I probably won’t fight until 10.30pm. She shouts, ‘Daddy, daddy’ when she sees me on TV. That gets me. She watches the sparring though. She’s not shy of it,” Barrett said.

“People have spent their hard earned money to come and watch me. I’m headlining at the arena in my hometown. My kids are relying on me. I want to make my mum proud. That alone pushes me. That drives me on. 

“When it gets deep and dark, I think, ‘Oh hello. I’ve not seen you for a while’ but I’ve been there before. He [Gill]’s been there too, both inside and outside the ring. It’s not a competition but I’ve been deeper. I’m not trying to put him down because he’s a good fighter. I just believe in myself so much.”

The previous evening, Barrett had watched Matchroom’s ‘Make The Days Count’ preview show. Countdown programming does a good job of building a fight and creating backstories for the fans to get invested in. Barrett watched the show but looked beyond the promotional gloss and the nice camera work and listened to what was being said.

“He’s gonna be in the ring with a hungry fighter. I’ve heard him say that he doesn’t have to box, he does it because he loves it. Well, I’m doing it to put food on the table for my children. It’s a different kettle of fish,” he said. “You have lions in the zoo and lions in the jungle. A lion in the zoo accepts food that’s given to him. A lion in the jungle has to wait for his food for hours and wait for the right moment to pounce and take it.

“I don’t want to take any credit away from him. I’m excited to perform but also because I know Jordan is gonna be competitive. He’s really going to try and win in there but all that’s gonna do is bring the best out in me and I feel dangerous. You think you can beat me? Alright. We’ll see about that.”

Barrett has already had one shot at a world title. In 2022 he stepped in on a month’s notice to box Shavkat Rakhimov for the vacant IBF belt and dropped the Tajik fighter before being stopped in the ninth round. If he is to earn a second shot, he knows that he will need to beat Gill mentally as well as physically. The 29 year old rebounded from some serious issues in his private life to stop Michael Conlan in Belfast last December and will travel to Manchester with no fear and plenty of ambition of his own. 

“One thing I will give Jordan Gill is that he’s got heart. He isn’t a quitter. Michael Conlan called him a quitter but I don’t think he is. He’s a tough man and he’ll be in there to win until the end. He’s got a good team around him who believe in him and little things happen in life. Those things will have helped him too.

“I just feel like he’s getting into the ring with a whole different type of fighter though. I’ve got that mentality. That flair. That power. That speed. The timing. Everything. It’s like the guys at the top level.”

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