Irish Olympic boxing hero Paddy Barnes says Ireland needs a team in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) and has called on the Irish Government to make it happen.
The Holy Family man, who has won two bronze medals at Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012, and two Commonwealth Games gold medals (2010, 2014), will represent Italia Thunder for a second consecutive year in the WSB, starting on January 17 with a clash against AZERBAIJAN BAKU FIRES at the Guba Olympic Complex.
The WSB bouts are accredited by the International Olympic Committee as qualifiers for the Games in Rio, Brazil next year.
Barnes said: “Ireland badly needs a franchise team in the World Series of Boxing if our boxers are to continue the progress they have displayed over the past number of years. We are among the best in the world at the moment but it still feels like we are punching above our weight. The WSB will give our amateur boxers a professional edge.
“Maybe it’s the Irish Government or the Irish Sports Council who have to take the opportunity, or maybe a big brand could do it; the Italia Thunder team has substantial commercial support and the Italian sports fans love the team. I love being part of it and taking on the training and preparation. The bouts are so much more demanding and professional and that’s the way the amateur division is developing.”
While Barnes welcomes the ‘professional’ challenge that lies ahead as a member of Italia Thunder in Season V of WSB, participation means he will spend more time outside his native Belfast between now and April than he will in it. That means valuable time spent away from his new-born daughter Eireann.
He added: “The next few months are going to be tough; I will be travelling to Poland and Kazhakhstan among other places. But that’s what comes with the task of qualifying for the Olympic Games and I am ready for it.”