Paddy Barnes eyes top 10 slot as opponent misses weight
Paddy Barnes will be looking to move up in the world by landing the WBO inter-continental flyweight title at the SSE Arena tonight.
Barnes scaled just inside the eight-stone limit after slipping off his underwear, while opponent Nicaragua's Eliecer Quezada was a stunning four pounds over championship weight and, after a two-hour sweat session, could only shed another one-and-a-half pounds.
Barnes can lift the title, but if Quezada triumphs he cannot take the belt home.
Paddy said: "This is a serious step-up. I feel I need to showcase my true potential.
"That fear of losing kicks in and if I'm not at my best I might lose this fight. I feel at this stage that I can beat anybody."
Barnes had been expecting to defend the WBO European flyweight title he won in a hard-fought battle against Silvio Olteanu in June at the Waterfront. But when a fight with undefeated Spaniard Aramis Torres fell through, and no other suitable opponent could be found, Quezada was brought in to fill the gap.
Victory would elevate Barnes into the top 10 of the WBO flyweight ratings.
Last month, Paddy defeated Juan Hinostroza in Scotland. The Spanish-based Peruvian tasted the canvas in round two, showing that Barnes is sitting down on his shots and adding more spite to his punches.
"That helped me shake off the ring rust coming into this fight," he added.
Barnes will need a bit of pop to keep rugged Quezada at bay. The 26-year-old arrives with a solid 21-6-3 record, but only eight knockouts indicates he may have issues keeping the marauding Barnes at a safe distance.
Quezada will enjoy a height and reach advantage, however, so the Belfast man will need to adapt.
"I was training for a small come-forward fighter and now I'm fighting a taller opponent, so that's changed a lot," said Barnes.
"In the amateurs you're fighting different styles every day at major tournaments so I'm used to it. I'm just looking forward to the fight."
Quezada has fought recent Jamie Conlan victim Yader Cardoza three times.
The Nicaraguan may hail from the land of Alexis Arguello and Roman Gonzalez, but he will likely become another name on Barnes' slate as 'The Leprechaun' ascends towards world honours.
"I can't wait, I'm very excited and I'm flying fit.
"It's going to be a massive night in Belfast and a cracking bill," added Barnes.