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Paddy Barnes helped make me a better boxer, says Michael Conlan

Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan ahead of 2016 Rio Olympics
Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan ahead of 2016 Rio Olympics
Gold rush: Paddy Barnes onvway to Commonwealth Games gold at Glasgow 2014, beating India’s Devendro Laishram
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Paddy Barnes has thrown his last punch in anger and will go down as one of the all-time greats of Irish amateur boxing.

Having declared his retirement, it could be argued that he is the number one boxer to have donned the green. That is an argument for another day and one of those who would come into such a debate is his friend and former team-mate Michael Conlan who has revealed the extent of the impact Barnes had on his career.

Together they travelled the world, winning medals together at Commonwealth and European Games while also enjoying success in the World Boxing Series - both men qualifying through that highly competitive route for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"If it wasn't for Paddy I'm sure I wouldn't be the boxer I am today," said Conlan, who is looking ahead to his grudge clash with Vladimir Nikitin on December 14 at Madison Square Garden.

"I remember the very first spar I had with Paddy. I was a young cocky guy preparing for the Commonwealth Youth Games and I thought I'd just go in and dance around, outboxing him but he kept pressurising me and pressurising me and by the third round I was hanging on. If I'm honest he gave me a bit of a beating.

"From then on our friendship developed. I grew to really respect him and the way we sparred and the way he pushed me made me improve. He made me become a better boxer.

"It was so important for my development to have Paddy in the same High Performance Irish training camp because we kept pushing each other in every way. Even if it was hitting the heavy bag - if he went hard at the bag, I had to go even harder.

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"I remember leading up to the Commonwealth Games in 2010 we were sparring so well that people were saying we were both in with a great chance of gold. It probably made me too confident but Paddy went and got the gold and four years later we both got gold.

"The only thing I won't miss is his grumpy face when he is making weight on fight week - he wouldn't even speak to me at times!"

Barnes, 32, has announced his retirement after 21 years in the sport. Having bagged two Olympic bronze medals, European gold, World Boxing Series glory and two Commonwealth Games gold medals, the fiery Belfast man turned professional and despite having had only five fights he reached for the stars when challenging for the WBC World flyweight title in August 2018 at Windsor Park. That defeat followed by two more led Barnes to call it quits.

Barnes stated: "After taking some time I've come to a decision to retire. I've had a great career and achieved so much.

"I have loved every minute of boxing, it has been my life for the past 21 years. I have achieved my dream of becoming an Olympian and getting to carry the Irish flag at the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

"Professional boxing was never a dream of mine, but I tried and threw myself into the deep end straight away. It didn't work out but I wouldn't have had it any other way," he added.

"I'd like to thank my family for supporting me throughout my entire career, my wife Mari for keeping my feet firmly on the ground and helping me towards my goals."

A true Irish warrior, Barnes will be remembered for his exploits at the Beijing and London Olympics - as well as his forthright opinions - but arguably his finest hour was European gold in 2010, such was the relentless high quality of opposition.

Belfast Telegraph


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