Paddy Barnes hopes to follow on from friend Ryan Burnett on another big Belfast fight night
PADDY Barnes was at the SSE Arena last weekend to cheer Ryan Burnett to a world title, and hopes to give Belfast fight fans further cause for celebration at the Waterfront Hall tomorrow night.
The pair were Holy Family club-mates as amateurs under the watchful eye of Gerry Storey, and Burnett’s victory over Lee Haskins has given Barnes a pep in his step as he heads into his WBO European title showdown against Silvio Olteanu (16-11-1).
Burnett was at the Ulster Hall for yesterday’s ‘Battle of Belfast’ press conference, and Barnes insists he wasn’t surprised to see him coming up trumps on the big stage.
“He’s a good friend of mine, we’ve been training together since he was a kid,” said the three-time Olympian.
“Since he was a kid he was unbelievable. I’ve never doubted for a second that he’d be world champion as a professional. He’s still only 25, it’s crazy. I think he can improve and become a multi-weight world champion like Frampton.”
And Barnes believes the knock-on effect from last week’s successful show at the SSE, allied with him topping the bill at the Waterfront, can only bolster a thriving Irish boxing scene.
He added: “If I win this fight that brings Boxnation back to Belfast.
“People in Belfast who never got a crack will be on the undercard, and now Burnett’s won a world title Matchroom will be coming to Belfast too. Then there’s Frampton as well, so it’s brilliant for boxing in Ireland.
“It gives Irish fighters a chance.”
Before he can start looking too far down the line, Barnes must first take care of Olteanu.
The Madrid-based Romanian has mixed it in good company during a 12-year pro career, and lost a split decision when challenging for the world title against Daiki Kameda in Japan seven years ago.
Compared with Barnes’s previous two opponents, Olteanu represents a major step up in class, but the 30-year-old insists he has no interest in wasting time padding out his record with “bums”.
“Records like 10-0, full of journeymen, I don’t really care about that,” he said.
“For people to fight 10 bums, that’s all well and good because it helps build their profile, but I’m lucky.
“I’ve been to the Olympics three times, two Commonwealth Games, so my profile’s high already. That’s why I don’t really need to go around the country and fight bums. My name’s already out there.
“I can’t wait [for Saturday night]. I think it’s going to be a great fight, a really exciting fight because, unlike the others, he’s a live contender and he comes to fight, and so do I. It’s going to be a great match of styles.
“He’s a very tough and durable fella, and he should’ve been a world champion. This will be a good gauge of my own ability and show me where I am.”
Having fought everywhere from Mexico to Japan, Olteanu is clearly not fazed by the prospect of facing home favourite Barnes in Belfast.
The 39-year-old admits he doesn’t know much about his next opponent, but believes his experience will tell when they step between the ropes at the Waterfront.
“He only has two fights. He was a big boxer as an amateur so now we will see if he is prepared for this challenge,” said Olteanu.
“The intensity is different, you have to work step by step. I have boxed 14 times for title fights so I know what it is. I don’t know if he knows what it takes. He was good, but he’s not Lomachenko.
“I have boxed all over the world, it’s nothing new for me. I know the Belfast crowd is very noisy, but I feel good.”