Firebrand Barnes ready to go
Paddy Barnes came from nowhere in the 2008 Beijing Olympics to win a bronze medal after being defeated in the semi-finals against eventual champion Zou Shiming.
From the famous Holy Family Amateur Boxing Club in Belfast, Barnes had an inauspicious start to his amateur boxing career losing a considerable amount of his early bouts as a young amateur. The light-featherweight persevered, however, and at the age of 21 found himself as one of Ireland’s three medallists in boxing along with Kenny Egan and Darren Sutherland at the 2008 Olympics.
Barnes gained further attention for his impetuous outburst after not being awarded a single point in his semi-final, after which he declared: "They can keep the bronze medal, I don't care. It's for losers."
Despite that outburst, or maybe because of it, people warmed to Barnes and at 25 he is one of the most popular, colourful and tenacious amateur fighters in Ireland, with his frenetic, all-pressure style.
He is now one of the elder statesmen of a boxing squad of six that Irish Amateur Boxing Association President Tommy Murphy said would “be disappointed if they don’t get six medals.”
With such high expectations of the squad ahead of the Olympics Barnes told JOE that he has matured as a fighter and now has a high reverence for the Olympics and the prestige of the event.
JOE: In 2008 did you feel like you really knew about the significance of the Olympics and what you were boxing in at that stage?
PB: No not at all! I remember going to the Olympics and even at the Olympic Village not thinking it was really that big like! I didn’t really watch that much TV so I didn’t realise how big they were and the effect they had on people in the community.
After I came home from Beijing I realised how big they were, how important they were and how special they are.
I immediately started thinking then that I need to get myself to London again!
JOE: Given that you’ve been there before are you taking on a more senior role and advising the younger guys on what to expect?
PB: Yeah I’m probably one of the more experienced members of the team, I’ve been to the Olympics and World Championships. But these guys – my teammates – they’ve been all over the world boxing too so it won’t be that big a shock.
I was only 20 or 21 when I went there and it wasn’t really a big shock to me when I was young so it shouldn’t be for them, it is only a sporting tournament too after all.
JOE: Yourself and Carl Frampton are good friends. It’s weird that both of you are having so much success at the same time...
PB: It is weird - me and Carl grew up together, followed each other and we’re still good friends now. Carl will hopefully be fighting for a European title by the end of September. I’m improving every year and he’s improving every year and he’s one of the best professionals in the world in my opinion.
JOE: Professional and amateur boxing are quite different sports in many ways but would yourself and Carl talk to each other about different techniques and how you go about things?
PB: No, but I watch Carl and he’s got a different style from being an amateur. He’s planting his feet more and he’s working at it more and he’s picking his shots more from when he was an amateur and the reward he’s getting for it is unreal.
JOE: That seems be something that you’ve added too. In the Olympics in 2008 you had a really exciting, frenetic style but in subsequent years you seem to have added cleverness and that ability to pick your punches...
PB: Well every year the computer system changes. In 2010 it was more a peek-a-boo style, this year it’s going to be more boxing, a bit more fighting you know?
So you have to change your style to suit the computer scoring which is [he's laughing now] even harder because you are trying to fight one way and as soon as the computer system changes you have to change to another way!
JOE: Is that something that you are conscious of going into London with the scoring system or is it something you just let the coaches and team worry about?
PB: Oh no I will worry about it because it’s my style and... if my style isn’t good enough I shouldn’t be here. My style has got me here so I’ll press on.
JOE: Do you analyse some of your opponents in your weight division ahead of the fight or do you just concentrate on fighting your own fight and beating whoever is put in front of you?
PB: No I believe I’m good enough to beat anybody. So I just concentrate on myself, my own performance and how I feel.
JOE: You're quite active on Twitter and you were mentioning some of your favourite boxers growing up the other day – talk to us about them...
PB: I grew up watching fights with my Dad, one of his favourite fights was Barrera versus Morales. That was one of the best fights ever, there can never be a better fight - just two great athletes!
JOE: So it would be the lower weight divisions that you’d take inspiration from?
PB: Ah yeah, the best divisions! They don’t get enough media attention – it’s just big boring heavyweight fights. It’s boring, so it is! You look at the lower weight divisions and it’s people killing each other and that’s what the people want to see.
JOE: Finally what would it mean for people in your boxing club and in Belfast to see you go one better than in 2008?
PB: It would be great not just for my club but for all clubs. Just for boxing and Ireland in general, I really think it will lift the whole nation.