Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Paddy Barnes feels pull of pro ranks

Paddy Barnes on his way to London 2012 Olympic bronze but attraction of paid ranks could see him turn pro before Rio Games
Paddy Barnes on his way to London 2012 Olympic bronze but attraction of paid ranks could see him turn pro before Rio Games

Paddy Barnes has once again said that if handed the right offer he would throw off the amateur vest and turn professional.

Barnes is one of the most decorated Irish amateur boxers in history and clearly he would be keen to take on the new challenge of professional boxing.

Flyweight Barnes has been ringside to watch close friend Carl Frampton's exciting rise up the professional ladder and it has obviously whetted his appetite for the pro ranks.

However, it is understood that while the double Olympic bronze medallist has indeed been sounded out, he has yet to receive the type or size of offer which would tempt him to give up his mission of a third Games medal in Rio in 2016.

At 26, the fiery Belfastman – a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist – would seem to be running out of time to go pro though naturally he is not going to toss away the security of top funding from the Irish Sports Council without a gold-plated professional deal.

Barnes (right) said: "Funding is reviewed at the end of every year and it can be cut-throat. I have done well in amateur boxing, why not turn pro? If I win a medal at the next Olympics in Rio, it is not going to get me any more money.

"I'm thinking for my own career, my own life and it's my job. I've no education because I chose to box so I'm out now to make as much money as I can and try to secure my future.

"I'm well funded by the ISC and they've been really good to me but nothing's guaranteed. After every year your funding is reviewed and if you're not performing well it could be cut so I'm just looking long term."

Watching close friend Frampton rise to box office success and number two in the WBC and IBF world rankings has clearly increased the Belfast man's thoughts about leaving the amateur game behind.

Barnes, Frampton's best man at his recent wedding, seems eager to enjoy the kind of Odyssey nights that the Jackal has been headlining with huge crowds watching his European title victories over Kiko Martinez and Jeremy Parodi this year.

Barnes said: "He is fighting in front of 9,000 people while I am fighting in front of 100. If someone offered the right contract I would be away in the morning.

"I have had offers and there are people from America talking to me right now – guys who have signed a few boys.

"I have thought about it a few times. At the Olympics, you fight in front of large crowds and I want to be doing that more and maybe professional boxing is best for that."

Barnes, also a European gold and silver medallist, concurs with the view that he is now in the middle of the best window of opportunity for him to make his move into the professional ranks.

He added: "At 26 I would be seen as old turning pro, but then at my weight and with my experience if I did go I'm sure that I would be fast-tracked. But it's up to somebody to make me an offer."

Looking at the flyweight division in Britain, Barnes could certainly move quickly up the rankings – just as fellow Belfast man Damaen Kelly did in the late 1990s, winning a Commonwealth title in his eighth fight before going on to quickly win British and European belts.

So it's now over to the world's top promoters to see if they can come up with a deal to give Barnes the chance to have a crack at the professional business.

Meanwhile, Barnes is also concerned about how the amateur sport is being promoted and developed across the island, despite the ongoing success story of boxing at the highest international level with regular medals brought home from World and European championships at every level.

"I thought by winning another medal in London my profile would be raised higher but I'm still the same person as I was in Beijing, the same people know me. The way the IABA is pushing boxing, it's not good enough," added Barnes.

"I don't know if it's because the ISC isn't giving the IABA enough money but I feel the IABA is not letting the wider public know when fights are on, about who we are, what we do and what kind of training that we do.

"We need something in place to try and sort that out or amateur boxing is definitely going to take another step backwards."

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