Brazil-bound Barnes is better than ever

Paddy Barnes is a man on a mission.

The two-time Olympic bronze medalist is currently in preparation for a third attempt at gold in Rio – and the Belfast light flyweight is training harder than ever.

To take a quick example, Barnes travelled over to Manchester alongside the thousands of Irish fans for Carl Frampton’s World title unification with Scott Quigg.

However, it was by no means a party weekend for the decorated star who showed up to Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club, unannounced, for a training session.

Indeed, such is the ferocity of Barnes’s training, the 28 year old has trouble finding sparring partners that can match him at his weight.

Recently Barnes engaged in a test match with current Elite 49kg champion Stephen McKenna, but the Olympic gold medal favourite was left wanting more after his bout with the talented teenager.

The charasmatic Holy Family GG puncher spoke to irish-boxing afterwards and told how “I think it went very very well.”

“Stevie McKenna is a young kid, a very good one for the future, but he’s young.”

“He’s very very tough, I hit him with some hard shots, he done well.”

Currently Barnes is in Assisi for a training camp with the rest of the Irish Olympic hopefuls as well as boxers from Italy, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Finland.

The WSB #1 was excited at the prospect, noting that “I need international opponents.”

“I’ve a few good opponents there [in Italy] to keep me sharp for Rio.”

And as not many can keep up with him at light flyweight, Barnes is pitting himself against larger men.

“In Europe there are some good flyweights [52kg], so I will be sparring them, there’s the Azerbaijan flyweight World champion [Elvin Mamishzade] who I beat in the 2010 European final.”

While Ireland’s nine-strong panel fly from Italy to Turkey for the qualifiers this week, the already-qualified Belfast man will return home to continue his training – and with just over four months to go, it looks like we will see the best ever version of Barnes in Brazil.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]