13 November 2008 – By Cormac Campbell
Despite boxing his way to Olympic bronze in August, Belfast light-flyweight Paddy Barnes said he is still fighting for the funding which would enable him to reach his full potential.
Speaking exclusively to irish-boxing.com, 21-year-old Barnes said that making ends meet remains a constant battle.
Despite winning the medal I still get virtually no funding, he lamented.
I qualified for the Olympics without any money. But if I had been funded before the World Championships, when I qualified, I believe I could have gotten a gold medal. I would have had more time to train and would have been more comfortable. But my family had to pay for everything for me.
These frustrations arent just confined to funding but also the facilities he and his Irish team mates endure in spite of their ongoing successes.
This year alone, from Irish junior cadets to seniors, we have won medals at every major tournament in the world. It just shows how good we are. But I would be down to Dublin for training every week and we are staying in a horrible dorm on top of the gym. It is disgraceful. Its inhumane,” he fumed.
This is a far cry from the pomp and ceremony of Barnes exploits in Beijing. One of three Irish medal winners alongside Darren Sutherland and Ken Egan, Barnes returned home a national hero and is admittedly enjoying the recognition for his hard work.
Life has changed so much. When Im walking through the streets I see people noticing me, congratulating me and asking for autographs. Ive been invited to special functions and club events. Thats affected my training but I know that wont last forever so I have to make the most of it while I can.
The next date in the diary will be switching on the Christmas lights in his native city next Tuesday. But getting the chance to box for his country in Belfast is something Barnes says is proving frustratingly elusive.
Ive never fought or seen an Irish team except during the World Championships in 2001 – fighting in Belfast. It annoys me. You would get more fans in Belfast than you would at the National Stadium itself. It really is a disgrace. The Kings Hall or the Waterfront Hall would be amazing for a change.
The senior finals, you get a good turn out, but for anything else, including internationals, there are very few there. The Ulster Seniors would be better organised and publicised than the All-Irelands.
Despite such obvious frustrations, Barnes insists that he does not want to turn professional and explains that London 2012 remains his long-term focus.
Ive resisted going professional so far. There have been a few promoters who have asked me to join their stables but I have just turned them down because I want to win a gold medal at the Olympics,” he declares.
It being in London next time will be amazing I will have massive support. I will probably never get that anywhere else because I know Ireland will never hold the Olympics. Its just too small and we dont have the facilities.
With London 2012 four full years away, Barnes would be foolish to lose focus on the here and now. And, after a well deserved break, he is back in training, preparing for the defence of his provincial and national crowns.
The Irish seniors are in February and the Ulster Seniors are in March or April. Then it is the World Championships in Italy.
So this year my ambition is to become World Champion,” he states.