Irish Olympic legend Paddy Barnes surprised when revealing the sporting success that mattered the most to him.
The Belfast fighter, whose name will be forever etched in Irish sporting history due to his Olympic success, didn’t plump for his Beijing 2008 or London 2012 bronze wins.
Rather the amateur standout recalls a gold medal won in a competition most casuals are relatively unaware of with a great deal more fondness.
When reflecting on his career with BBC’s Sportsound Barnes confirmed his European gold medal win stands out.
The revelation might catch a host of guard, but those entrenched in Irish amateur boxing will understand.
A European medal has a ‘holy grail’ element to it for Irish amateurs. It’s deemed a lot harder to win than an Olympic medal and to win gold in such a talent packed tournament is an achievement of note.
“For me it’s the European gold,” said Barnes when asked which success means most.
“The Olympic Games are obviously massive and get lots of media coverage.
“But ask anyone in boxing and they will tell you that the European Championships are the hardest competition to get a medal at.
“Nobody from western Europe was winning medals at those championships back then. They were dominated by the eastern European countries so for me to go to Russia and win gold was hands down.”
Barnes also stated his amateur career was a lot more enjoyable than his relatively brief pro innings.
“My amateur days were definitely my happiest. You travelled the world representing your country, picking up medals for your country and carrying flags for your country,” Barnes continued.
“You couldn’t buy experiences like that. It was unbelievable. My dream was to win the Olympic Games, which I didn’t do, but I think I did OK to win two medals.
“I never had aspirations of going professional. I was 29, my funding as an amateur was going to be cut and I had nowhere to go.
“When I turned professional I wanted to repeat what I had done as an amateur and create history. I wanted to be a world champion faster than anyone else.
“I was afforded the chance to win a world title as fast as possible. I was thrown in at the dip end, it did not work out, but I have no regrets.”