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Barnes casts doubt over future of Northern Ireland's boxing revolution

 

By David Kelly

County Antrim Board President Paddy Barnes says he is convinced that a Northern Ireland team will never compete on the global stage, outside of the Commonwealth Games every four years.

Barnes, the father of two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two-time Olympic bronze medallist, Paddy Jnr, is adamant that the world governing body, AIBA, will not bring the Northern Ireland Boxing Association into their fold.

Members of the NIBA revealed in Saturday's Belfast Telegraph that they were expecting the world body to grant their affiliation within the coming months - possibly before Christmas.

Secretary of the NIBA, Terry McCorran, stated that it "was not a case of if, but when" they would become affiliated and recognised as the sole authority of boxing within Northern Ireland.

Currently, the amateur code is run by the Irish Athletic Boxing Association's Ulster council along with the county boards, of which Antrim is the most powerful - boasting numerous Irish champions down through the years.

McCorran and NIBA chairman Billy McKee have made it clear that they want to see young boxers have the opportunity to box in a Northern Ireland vest on a regular basis, but Barnes insists he has documentation that states it will not be possible.

"I have a letter from the AIBA stating that they will only recognise one governing body on the island of Ireland. They will not recognise the NIBA," said Barnes.

"It is also my understanding that there is no way that GB are going to allow another territory to join England, Scotland and Wales. And Northern Ireland will not be represented at the European or World championships because AIBA are actually looking to reduce the number of countries at the World championships.

"It also has to be pointed out that earlier this year, the IABA brought in a pathway for any boxer who wants to have the chance to box for Team GB. That is something that we have fought hard for and is now there.

"As far as I'm concerned, it is to the benefit of every boxer here to be part of the IABA because of the structures, the funding and the competition."

McCorran, the head coach at the City of Belfast Boxing Academy, is nevertheless convinced that the NIBA remain on course for recognition from AIBA.

"We have it on good authority from a member of the executive committee of AIBA, that the NIBA's affiliation to the world governing body is being looked at favourably," said McCorran.

"It is news to us that AIBA have decided not to recognise us and we will be looking into this.

"As for a pathway for any boxer to represent GB, that is for the elite boxer - we're talking about the right to represent Northern Ireland from junior level, right through to the elite level.

"I would also point out that we have already made contact with England, Scotland and Wales and have had no negative reaction.

"The fundamental point remains that this is an issue of equality and why would anyone involved in sport not want to give a young boy, or girl, the chance to compete for Northern Ireland?

"It just doesn't make sense to me. As far as we're concerned, we believe that this will happen and, if that means we have to go to court to fight our case, then so be it."

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