Paddy Barnes has assembled his team, he has scouted the terrain and now, with the path clear to his first world title fight, he is ready to rob the bank.
32Red ambassador Barnes (5-0, 1KO) isn’t planning a long stay in the sport and – at 31 years old – he is more than aware that he needs to get in and get out with the gold as quickly as possible.
Don’t expect to see him sprinting out of Windsor Park on August 18th, slinging the WBC flyweight title onto the backseat of a waiting car and screeching away, never to be seen again though. The double Olympic bronze medallist has a series of heists in mind and Nicaraguan champion Cristofer Rosales (27-3, 18KO’s) is just the first victim. Find all the latest boxing odds here.
“I want unification fights. This isn’t the end of my ambitions. I know I don’t have as much time in the sport as some others but I’ll be around for a while yet and I want the big fights from here on,” Barnes told 32Red.
“When I would be training for the Olympics or for a major championships, I would have a fire in my belly and I have that again now. I still feel eager and highly, highly motivated because there’s a massive thing at stake. I’d be lying if it felt different.”
The famous Belfast big fight atmosphere has come to the fore recently. Mick Conlan revelled in the noise created by the Irish fans at his recent homecoming bout and whilst Luke Jackson will arrive determined to rip up Carl Frampton’s carefully prepared script this weekend, Frampton can soak up the occasion at Windsor Park, reassured by the knowledge that as long as he boxes to the best of his ability he should beat the Australian.
Barnes has no such luxury and the event and the venue are secondary to the task at hand as he takes a step into the unknown. The funny and sarcastic ‘Leprechaun’ usually seen in front of the cameras transforms into something more akin to the character from the 1980’s horror film series of the same name during fight week.
The personality change should help prevent him from getting carried away by what is predicted to be a carnival atmosphere.
“I’m a demon during fight week. I talk to nobody. I’ll be in my hotel or apartment and I’ll sit in my own wee world and hate everyone. I can’t even look in the mirror because I’d hate myself too,” he says.
“I’m over in Glasgow training so I’m not sure what the buzz is like back home in Belfast just yet but I’ve seen pictures of my face on billboards. I had billboards up for my debut and for my last fight. People walk past and see that Paddy Barnes is fighting for a WBC world title. My kids love it too. My 4 year old loves seeing her daddy up there on a billboard.
“I never had any ambition of winning a world title at Windsor in particular. I always just wanted to be a world champion. I didn’t care where it happened.”
Barnes has a European amateur title and a pair of Commonwealth Games gold medals sitting alongside his Olympic prizes and having competed against the world’s best in a vest for so long, maybe it is unsurprising that it took him a few fights to readjust his sights.
Whether Barnes had previously been fighting down to the early level of opposition or whether it was just a case of him beginning to feel comfortable and confident in the professional ring, maybe it is no coincidence that in his most recent appearance last November, Barnes began to look like a well-rounded professional.
On that occasion he dismantled his best opponent to date, the decent Eliecer Quezada, in five rounds. The same Quezada who took Rosales to a split decision.
“That’s the only thing we have in common. I’m sure he’s watched that fight quite a lot. He keeps mentioning my amateur experience so he certainly knows about me. People say that amateur boxing counts for nothing, but it does. It counts for a hell of a lot.
“I’ve seen him mention that a lot and I also think I may have given him a shock because I was only 4-0 when I fought Quezada. He might have looked at my record, saw that I’ve only had one knockout and thought it was an easy defence. Nah, not today.
“As well as finding my feet, a lot of it was getting used to the small little 8oz gloves. I’ve been used to the bigger gloves in the amateurs and it took me a few fights to get my confidence to use the defensive skills I’ve been working on.
“My style as an amateur was to always come forward with a nice tight guard. I found that a bit hard in my first few fights because the gloves were so small. In my fourth fight, I just seemed to get used to it.
“I think another part of it was that I was fighting journeymen and I didn’t like being caught by somebody of that level. My defence has improved and I feel like I’m a whole better fighter defensively and offensively.”
Rosales scored one of the upsets of 2018 when he derailed the previously unstoppable Japanese tank, Daigo Higa, to win the WBC belt in April. It was a result that guided him directly on to Barnes’ radar.
Rosales will be Barnes’ biggest test to date but the Irishman isn’t planning on stealthily stealing away the title, he is set on bursting right through the front door and snatching the belt away.
“Having ten or twelve weeks to figure out one style and one opponent is better. It isn’t easier but it’s better. In the amateurs you can be fighting against any style on any day so in that way, the pro’s is much better.
“Rosales wasn’t really on my radar. I initially had my eye on somebody else. What he does isn’t overly impressive but he does the basics and the fundamentals perfectly. Everything is straight apart from a long left hook he has. I know that I can either outbox him or outfight him and I think I’ll know in the first three rounds what I’m going to do.
“He can’t change his style and I can fight in any style. The only thing he does do is up his pace and his tempo but plays into my hands because I’m a high pressure fighter. I’m not gonna have to go looking for him. He’s gonna be right in my face and that’s something that I need.”