Belfast Telegraph

Paddy Barnes can join Mary Peters as our greatest Olympian

Frank Brownlow

Paddy Barnes is currently cutting a swathe right through the ranks of the continent's finest amateur boxers at the European Championships in Belarus.

Barnes is guaranteed at least bronze after Wednesday's points win over Hungary's Istvan Ungvari.

The Belfast light flyweight already has two Olympic bronze medals as well as Commonwealth and European gold tucked safely away and will almost certainly bid for Olympic gold in Rio in 2016.

After that, whatever the outcome, most would expect him to make a switch to the professional ranks – but Barnes should turn his back on the punch for pay game.

Rather than turn pro after Rio at the age of 29 – old for the lighter weights – he should stay amateur and have one more crack at the Olympics in 2020.

Barnes has the best of tools for the amateur game, which has a heavier emphasis on skill and technique.

Barnes' great pal Carl Frampton turned his back on amateur boxing to become a pro at 22 and has been a massive success.

But Frampton's approach is based more on power so he is ideally cut out for the professional game.

With solid financial backing from government bodies, Barnes can go on to box in the Olympics on two more occasions, with great success.

And join Mary Peters as Ulster's greatest Olympian.

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