Paddy Barnes could become first five-time Olympian boxer
PADDY BARNES has admitted this summer could be his Olympic swansong - but the double bronze medal winner also says there is a possibility he could hang around for the next two Games to become boxing’s first-ever five-time Olympian.
Barnes would be 32 by the time the Tokyo games come around in four years’ time and 36 if he does the unthinkable and sticks about until 2024 - and given his dedication to the sport, you wouldn’t put it past him.
“Possibly, yeah,” he says when asked if Rio would be his last hurrah.
“But I could do another two Olympics, I’d only be 36 - it just depends. I would probably move up [in weight], but we’ll see what happens.”
Talk of turning over to the professional ranks after Rio have been shelved as, with less than 100 days to go until the start of boxing at the Games, Barnes is fully focused on the job at hand - bringing back gold.
As an ambassador for Electric Ireland, he found himself in the slightly unfamiliar surroundings of the Balmoral Show at the end of last week - “I had a cow in a headlock... I’m not sure if it was 49kg or not” - but it hasn’t got in the way of the Holy Family star’s preparation.
“No, no, I was training at Jordanstown this morning and then I’ll train at the club tonight,” he says.
Barnes, along with fellow Rio hopefuls Conlan and Joe Ward, is part of an Irish team that is in Lithuania at the minute for the Socikas tournament, which starts on Tuesday.
As there is no light-flyweight class at the multi-nations event, he will compete at 52kg - and warmed up with a test match against Kazakhstan’s number one flyweight Olzhas Sattibayev at the National Stadium last Wednesday night.
Despite not having fought competitively since the World Series of Boxing ended around this time last year, Barnes insists he feels sharp - and says the whole Irish team has been buoyed by their move to the new High Performance training centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. It was straight down to business too as the Kazakhs, as well as teams from Great Britain, India and Germany, jetted in to sample the new facilities.
Barnes said: “We got in last week. It’s something similar to Jordanstown - it’s brilliant because only a few of us got to experience how good Jordanstown was, so now the whole of Team Ireland know what it’s like to train in world-class facilities.
“Before that, we were training at the stadium, which is old and cold, there was no proper heating system, the showers were terrible. I hated it. But the training has gone brilliantly, I’ve had top class sparring against some of the best boxers in the world.”
Barnes admits it will be his proudest moment in the sport when he carries the national flag into Rio’s famous Maracana Stadium on August 5 and says he feels much more relaxed going into these Games than before Beijing and London.
More confident than ever that he will be returning to Ireland with gold around his neck, Barnes admits being the top dog at his weight has changed his outlook: “I used to think about the draw and what way it went - now, I’m the one people are looking for,” he said.
“I don’t want to watch anybody else because I’m going with the same game-plan in my head. People need a game-plan to beat me, I don’t need a game-plan to beat them. I don’t worry about anybody else.”
THE last Irishman to have his hand raised against world champion Michael Conlan will make his return between the ropes on Friday night after five years out of the ring.
Declan Milligan beat Conlan in the Ulster senior flyweight final in February 2011 - 18 months before the Clonard fighter, then boxing out of the St John Bosco club, went to the London Olympics as a relative unknown and returned with a bronze medal.
And while Conlan has gone on to become one of the biggest names in the sport and is fancied to win gold in Rio this summer, Poleglass man Milligan fought just once more - in a club show a few months later. Still only 24, he makes his comeback against two-time Ulster senior champion Anthony O’Rawe in a St Paul’s Boxing Club v Ulster Select show at the Felons' Club.
It’s hardly the easiest way to get back into the swing of things, admits Milligan, who says he has St Paul’s coach Ralph McKay to thank for the pairing: “Ralph loves that, he loves giving you the hard ones to come back with,” he said.
“But that’s the way I like it, you want a good hard fight, it makes you train harder. It’ll be a good fight, I’m looking forward to it. It’s good to be back.”
Milligan’s boxing career was put on hold when he headed off to university in Liverpool, where he found the discipline required for the noble art and student life don’t exactly go hand in hand.
But his interest was rekindled after taking nephew Padraig Hall down to the west Belfast club earlier in the year: “After a while, Ralph said to me there’s a fight there if you want it, so about seven weeks ago I started applying myself, training five nights a week to try and get back into it properly,” said Milligan.
“It’s tough getting back into the swing of things, especially working full-time, but I enjoy it. You don’t realise how much you missed it until you’re back at it.”
The night he beat Conlan was under the old computer scoring system and many observers felt the wrong man had got the decision. Milligan is philosophical about it now and admits he is delighted that his former foe has reached such heady heights.
He said: “It was the old scoring system, so I just boxed with a tight guard. Conlan’s such a technical boxer, he’s unreal, so I had to play to my strengths.
“I thought I landed the cleaner shots, but he has gone on and done so much and, fair play to him, he’s an absolute credit to the sport. Technically, he’s so gifted.”
The action will get under way at the Felons' Club on Friday night at 8pm, admission £5.
BELFAST’S James McGivern won his ninth Irish title last weekend when he picked up the U18 bantamweight title at the National Stadium with a unanimous victory over Nathan May.
The Commonwealth Youth Games gold medalist, who fights out of the St George’s club, was in control throughout to register another impressive win. He joined the other Ulster winner on the night, Terry McEntee, after the Old School flyweight had too much for Crumlin’s Craig Kavanagh.
McGivern and McEntee, as well as Oak Leaf’s Brett McGinty, will be in the Ireland squad that heads to the European Championships during the summer.