Paddy Barnes hints at retirement as Michael Conlan wins at Madison Square Garden

Paddy Barnes lost to Oscar Mojica at Madison Square Garden and is now contemplating retirement
Andy Watters

IN November 2017 Paddy Barnes lit up the SSE Arena when he beat Eliecer Quezada to win the vacant World Boxing Organisation Inter-Continental Flyweight title.

Barnes was electric that night. Looking fit and strong, his footwork was precise, his punching was fast and spiteful off both hands and he stopped the experienced Nicaraguan to take the title.

Fans left the Arena excited about what 2018 would bring and they would have had high hopes that ‘the Leprechaun' would realize his dream of becoming a world champion.

Eight months prior to losing to Barnes, Quezada had gone the distance with his fellow countryman Cristofer Rosales who went on to win the WBC title by stopping Daigo Higa in Japan. Rosales made the first defence of his title against Barnes at Windsor Park the following August.

As the rain poured down at Windsor, Barnes fought furiously and superbly for almost four rounds and, as the fourth frame came to an end, his cornerman Danny Vaughan shouted: ‘You've done enough Paddy”.

But one punch can change a fight and Rosales stepped in and landed it. He caught Barnes under the ribcage with a left hook and the Belfast man went down and couldn't get back up.

His career never recovered either and now it sees like it could be all over for Barnes and that is a shame because he hasn't hit the heights he could have as a professional.

Bloodied and typically honest, he admitted he was contemplating retirement after he lost to Oscar Mojica at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

Making flyweight was a struggle and, boxing at bantamweight for the first time, Barnes showcased his sweet boxing skills and fast hands once again but looked out of his depth physically against the taller, stronger Mojica and lost on split decision.

He had his nose broken in the first round and was sent to the canvas after being hurt with a bodyshot (the referee ruled it as a push) in the second. Roared on by a partisan Irish support, he fought bravely to the finish but said afterwards that he felt Mojica had won all six rounds.

“I strongly think that it is,” replied double Olympic medalist Barnes when he was asked if it was time for him to hang up his gloves after seven professional fights.

“He caught me a great shot – the bodyshot.

“It was a dipping shot and he hurt me with it but in the first round he broke my nose and I couldn't really see out of my left eye.

“To be honest I don't know how the judges scored it so close because I thought he won every round. I was basically in defending mode after he broke my nose because I could hardly see and he was bigger and stronger than me.”

Barnes hadn't fought since the Rosales loss at Windsor Park. He was scheduled to appear on the undercard of Frampton-Warrington but pulled out of the fight in Manchester.

“I took this fight to get back to winning ways after my last fight,” he said.

“I've been out of the ring nearly a year but I'm too small for bantamweight and, to be honest, I'll probably retire now, I don't see any real point in boxing on after a defeat like that.

“The fans are great but, at the end of the day, it's my health and if I'm going to box like that – what's the point in boxing anymore?

“I always thought that if I lost again I'll retire. I jumped up to bantamweight to fight him and I felt his strength in the ring and basically the first right hand that hit me broke my nose. The fight wasn't even close, I felt he won every round.”

As an amateur, Paddy Barnes' highlights reel included Commonwealth Games and European Championships gold medals as well as those bronze medals from Beijing and London.

If this is the end for Barnes, he will be missed. If he does hang up his gloves, he leaves us with great memories and whatever the future holds for him, he can be proud of what he achieved in the ring.

MICHAEL Conlan outclassed experienced Ruben Garcia Hernandez to move to 11-0 with a shut-out points win at the Madison Square Garden Theatre on Sunday.

Apart from an occasional counter, Conlan, who switched between orthodox and a southpaw stance, was absolutely dominant over 10 one-sided rounds and was awarded a 100-90 verdict by all three judges.

Conlan's footwork and ringcraft were a delight at ‘the Garden' and it was obvious that he was banking the rounds as he and coach Adam Booth prepare for more demanding challenges in the future.

“I think I just used my skills as I said I would. I think I showed a lot of good defensive movements and things I've been working on,” said Conlan afterwards.

“We were in no rush to try and take out this guy, he's tough and he went the distance with (Nonito) Donaire and a few other top fighters.

“He had a tough head on him. There were a few times I probably could've stepped on it, but we wanted to practice things we've been working on. I felt I did that tonight.”

Coach Booth added: “These are developmental rounds that will help him become a world champion and I am very pleased with what I saw in there.

“He is working on exactly what we are practicing in the gym, and it's working.”

Vladimir Nikitin, the Russian who controversially beat Conlan at the Rio Olympics, also appeared on the card and progressed to 3-0 with an unconvincing points win over Juan Tapia.

“Vladimir, I know you're here tonight,” said Conlan.

“We need to do it again for the fans. I need to right a wrong that shouldn't have been written.”

A WORLD title fight with Oscar Valdez this summer is looking increasingly possible after Carl Frampton signed for with Bob Arum's Top Rank organization.

Frampton came close to retiring after losing to IBF champion Josh Warrington in December last year but he has regrouped and is determined to be a world champion again and an announcement on his next opponent is expected soon.

“I want to be a world champion again,” said Frampton.

“There are a few fighters around who are world champions and I'm nor one of them so Warrington, Santa Cruz, Valdez, Garry Russell… I'd like to fight one of them.

“Potentially (I could) have a fight before I fight one of them boys but I'm ready to jump back in at the deep end as well. I want to be a world champion again.”

He added: “The Leo (Santa Cruz) fight should have happened already. What are we waiting around for? Why has the third fight not happened?

“I can't wait around on him and let him dictate my career so if Oscar Valdez wants to fight then that's a fight that I'm very interested in.”

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