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Paddy Barnes: Accepting MBE was a bad decision

Boxer hoped receiving accolade would bring people together

Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes has said his decision to accept an MBE has backfired, saying he had hoped it would bring the people of Northern Ireland a little closer together.

The 30-year-old boxer has a chance at winning a title on Saturday night as he bids for the WBO European flyweight title in what will be only his third professional fight.

In an interview, which was published by the Guardian, the Catholic Ardoyne man said he wanted to "clear up" his decision on accepting an MBE.

Barnes was awarded an MBE for his services to boxing in the 2015 New Year's Queen's Honours list after twice winning Olympic bronze medals for Ireland and gold for Northern Ireland in the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games.

I thought I’d get more abuse for turning it down but now I feel like it was a bad decision. Paddy Barnes

"I am a proud Irish sportsman, a proud sportsman from Belfast and I take great pride in representing everyone in Ireland, north and south, in whatever way I can," he said of accepting the award at the time.

"If my achievements in boxing can inspire others and people can be united through sport, then my efforts will have been worthwhile."

However, in the interview published on Wednesday, Barnes admits he missed the deadline for accepting the award in the hope it would be forgotten about.

"Then I was put on the spot and so I said yes," he said.

"I represented Ireland and Northern Ireland and hoped it’d bring people here a little closer together if anything. But some people in Northern Ireland are so f****d up nothing brings them together. I thought I’d get more abuse for turning it down but now I feel like it was a bad decision.

"I was just trying to show respect and maybe bring the communities together. That’s the only reason I accepted it.”

In the interview the Olympian also reveals that in 2008 Barry McGuigan, who has helped guide Carl Frampton to two world titles, approached him about turning professional, but he turned him down.

He said: "I wanted to make history by becoming Ireland’s most successful Olympian. I was also on a government grant, which is a risk-free salary that pros don’t enjoy."

He believes that had he joined current gym MTK in Spain, after the London Games in 2012 he would already be a world champion.

Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Barnes next fights at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on Saturday on the same bill as Jamie Conlan. Barnes has won each of his fights since turning professional in November, and next meets former European champion Silvio Olteanu from Romania.

"I watched him get unfairly stopped and even though he was well behind on points he was raging. He’ll be well up for this, topping the bill live on UK television. It should make for a great fight,” added Barnes.

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