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Defiant Paddy ready to seize historic moment

 

By David Kelly

Paddy Barnes can't help but enjoy some craic at the expense of others and himself - even when it is on the cusp of the biggest night of his professional career.

History beckons Barnes just as it has throughout his boxing career, having become the first Northern Ireland boxer to win back-to-back Commonwealth gold medals as well as breaking new ground with two Olympic medals and European gold.

Now he can become the quickest to a world title, in only his sixth professional fight.

Close friend Carl Frampton has drawn comparisons between such a feat and that of the great Vasyl Lomachenko who picked up his first world title in only his third bout having ruled supreme in the amateur ranks.

"I think me and Lomachenko are the same only different - he's better looking and a better boxer," quips Barnes.

It is the undoubted quality he showed as an amateur, gaining a wealth of experience along the way that has many believing he could pull off an upset and dethrone WBC World flyweight champion Cristofer Rosales - eight years his junior.

Barnes did not have the most promising of starts to his amateur career, losing his first 12 fights and he admits that it was not until he was picked to represent Ireland at the 2007 World championships in Chicago that a genuine belief in his ability to mix with the elite was instilled.

"I was the last one to get picked for the World championships and then ended up being the first to qualify for the Olympics," said Barnes.

"The big moment for me came in the training camps leading up to the World championships. One was in France and I was sparring Jerome Thomas who was world champion and an Olympic silver medallist.

"I didn't know who he was but we had this great spar and afterwards when my coach told me who he was it made me realise what I could do in this sport.

"The spars we had were so good that I remember the rest of the lads would stop and watch and there would be a round of applause at the end.

"I left that camp thinking 'if I can do that to him then I can take on anybody'. I never looked back after that."

Barnes knows that Rosales will offer him an examination of his grit and skills well beyond what he has had to face so far as a professional but he points to the Olympic semi-finals with China's hero Zou Shiming and his days in the World Series of Boxing as evidence to why he can prevail.

"Those fights with Shiming were tough but also they were on the Olympic stage and I handled the pressure very well. When I walk through those ropes I have a tunnel vision that can't be broken. You saw that in the World Series of Boxing. I had seven fights in 14 weeks, flying across the world and they were over five rounds. That's how I qualified for Rio and then at the end of it I found out I had a chipped bone in my hand the whole time.

"Whatever I have to face against Rosales I will be ready, when my back is against the wall I fight harder. I want to wake up on Sunday morning with a sore head and that green belt beside me and if I do that it will be the best earned sore head ever.

"To have the chance to win a world title in my home town is a dream come true and I just feel this is my time to make some more history and I want it to be a war because I want people to be talking about it in 50 years time."

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