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Paddy Barnes is fighting to keep focus on professional debut

By David Kelly

Paddy Barnes has somehow managed to keep his famous sense of humour intact despite one of the most stressful weeks of his life. Seven days ago he was celebrating the birth of his second daughter Fianna but hasn't been able to see her since Sunday after wife Mari was forced to remain in hospital after being hit by a serious infection.

Consequently, the three-time Olympian admits he just cannot wait for tomorrow night's professional debut against Bulgarian journeyman Stefan Slachev to be over.

"He's only got 24 losses on his record, so hopefully I make it 25!" smiled Barnes, who is part of the Frank Warren show at the Titanic Exhibition Centre headlined by Jamie Conlan and also featuring Marc McCullough among others.

Barnes has largely only been able to train once a day due to his wife having to be hospitalised over the past eight weeks, while he looked after daughter Eireann and did his best to be fit for his first fight as a professional.

"If this fight hadn't been in Belfast I wouldn't be fighting. I haven't been able to prepare anywhere near the way I have wanted. I just want to get the job done and go and see Mari and the baby," added Barnes.

"I haven't been able to go near them in case I got the infection that Mari has. I feel so sorry for her because she had weeks of being in hospital and then when she thinks she is going to get home it turns out she gets an infection in there.

"Making my debut in Belfast is special but to be honest it just doesn't feel the same because I am too concerned about Mari.

"It's been a crazy week for me. I was at Michael Conlan's press conference last week when I got the call to get to the hospital and it was Sean McComb who drove me up and I just made it in time.

"The birth went well but then Mari got the infection. Not only is Mari very bad but Eireann has been sick as well and I had to take her to the doctor this week. The only one who isn't sick is Fianna."

The 29-year-old is adamant that once life returns to normal he will be focusing on making a major surge up the flyweight rankings.

"I had asked for a Celtic title fight on my debut but with everything that has gone on it's right that I have a six-rounder," added Barnes. "But I really want to be boxing eight and 10-rounders very soon. I believe that I will be ready for a European title shot in four or five fights."

Francis Warren, representing his father Frank at yesterday's press conference, is confident they can drive Barnes to title contention at full throttle - and points to the way they have moved top Indian amateur Vijender Singh up the world ladder in rapid fashion.

"Singh is in the top 10 of the WBO and he's had only seven fights, so it can be done," said Warren.

"Paddy's amateur record speaks for itself. He says he wants to be a three-weight World champion so he's clearly got big ambitions."

Barnes, along with Conlan and McCullough, are lined up to be part of what Warren has described as "a long-term plan for Belfast".

He added: "We go to where the talent is and there's a lot of talent here. There's a lot of guys who want to have successful careers. It's been a while since we were here but we know that the people of Belfast love their boxing."

Belfast Telegraph


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