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Paddy Barnes fight: Mari keeps Belfast boxer on his toes ahead of crucial showdown at Waterfront Hall

 

By David Kelly

Paddy Barnes has his grumpy head on, so that can only be bad news for former European flyweight champion Silvio Olteanu at the Waterfront Hall tonight.

Well known in the amateur ranks for his narky persona in the days leading up to making weight, partner Mari decided to give him his marching orders when he returned home after a six-week camp in Spain.

"He was coming in from training and I was all chatty asking him how training went and he's like 'Don't talk to me, don't talk to me about it', so I told him to go and stay in a hotel for the week," quipped Mari, who marries the double Olympic bronze medallist on July 8.

"There was no point him staying in the house because he gets so uptight and grumpy. I understand that because he's having to get down to the weight... and I've told him that the next time he just spends the whole time in a hotel.

"It's just what he has to do so he can give his best in the fight. After this he'll then have to start focusing on the wedding!"

Barnes meets Olteanu in a WBO European flyweight title bout - not to be confused with the established EBU belt but nevertheless a championship that pushes a fighter into world title contention.

Belfast man Barnes insists he wants to be fast-tracked to the top and has been on a steep learning curve with coach Danny Vaughan.

"I've been sparring 10 rounds to make sure that I'm ready for this step up from six rounders to a 10-rounder with such an experienced fighter.

"I was sparring with bantamweight Ryan Farrag, the former European champion who went the distance with Ryan Burnett.

The first two times I was boxing at too high a pace but in the third 10-rounder it just clicked and I got it right.

"Farrag has been in the pro game a long time and he's heavier than me so it was a very good spar.

"I was really pleased with this camp because I felt that I understood more about handling myself as a professional - like you can only win the round 10-9 so there's no point wasting energy just battering a guy for a full three minutes. I've been working on taking a breather and just taking my time to launch my attacks."

Madrid-based 39-year-old Romanian Olteanu, also a former world title challenger, nevertheless believes that his experience will be the telling factor this evening.

"People may think that I'm old but I'm telling you that I am feeling good and I'm not just here for the money," said Olteanu, who has a record of 16 wins, 11 defeats and a draw.

"I was surprised that they wanted to fight me because he has only had two fights. Like all Irish fighters he is strong and aggressive but I have the experience and I believe I'm stronger.

"Also, I have boxed many times for titles. I've gone 10 and 12 rounds and he hasn't boxed more than six rounds.

"I think he will be surprised about trying to do the 10 rounds."

Barnes can expect the Romanian to put up some early resistance but a stoppage around the seventh round is expected.

On the supporting bill, light-heavyweight Steven Ward is hoping to take a step towards an Irish title fight with a win over Mitch Mitchell.

Fellow Belfast man Tyrone McKenna should easily defeat Lucasz Gworek as he looks to stay on course for a title fight in September.

The fight of the night could come in the lightweight scrap between Steven Ormond and Craig Evans.

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