Paddy Barnes [2(0)-0] admits his next fight may have gone somewhat under the radar, but correctly stresses that he is in for the first real test of his fledgling pro career.
Barnes tops the ‘Battle of Belfast’ card at the Waterfront Hall on Saturday night, live on BoxNation, where he faces experienced Romanian boxer Silvio Olteanu [16(7)-11(2)-1] for the WBO European title.
Following easy wins over Stefan Slavchev and Adrian Garzon, ‘The Leprechaun’ now faces a legitimately tough opponent. Perhaps somewhat frustratingly though, Barnes feels that the scale of his step up has been somewhat overlooked.
Just last week his former amateur team-mate Ryan Burnett claimed the IBF bantamweight title at the SSE Odyssey Arena and, while Barnes is in no way begrudging his fellow North Belfast boxer, the 30 year old believes that his own step up has been overshadowed.
While a world title will always overshadow a fight for a rankings belt, something which Barnes fully agrees with, he noted that the so-called ‘Eddie Hearn Factor’ also plays a substantial part.
Speaking to Irish-Boxing.com, Barnes outlined how “Matchroom had a show last week, and that was brilliant, Ryan Burnett won a world title, it was unbelievable. But, maybe that took the buzz [off this show]. Obviously he fought for a world title, maybe it took the shine off our show.”
“Most people probably went to the Matchroom show because of Eddie Hearn, the cult. Eddie Hearn could have two dogs fighting and people would show up because he’s there – but, one of our own fought for a world title.”
“I don’t think people really realise how hard a fight it is for me. This fella has been European champion, he’s fought for the world title and got beat on a split decision in Japan. You can take from that what you like.”
The WBO European title is not one which particularly appeals to Barnes, but it does play an important purpose.
Barnes explained how “for me, it’s a massive step up in class. I don’t care about the belt, all I care about is the top 15 ranking in the world and pushing on to world titles.”
“For some people, a WBO European title is their world title, for me the belt means nothing whatsoever. For me, all it is, is a top 15 ranking in the world and a step closer to challenging for a legitimate world title.”
39 year old Olteanu has been stopped just twice, once on cuts and once by a super flyweight Paul Butler. Therefore Barnes believes he is most likely in for a ten-round battle. A new experience for a boxer who has only been past five rounds once before.
“I’ve never even sparred ten rounds before this camp,” he laughed. “So it’s going to be good.”
“I remember sparring [Ryan] Farrag over five rounds at the start of camp and I was nearly dead. After a few spars I could pace myself. He’s a European bantamweight champion so he’s going to be stronger than this guy.”
In terms of pacing himself, the all-action Barnes conceded that “I have to, a small bit. I know I can push the tempo for as long as I want, but I know sometimes I’ll have to slow it down, it’s the name of the game.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)
LISTEN: Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill speak to Luke Keeler and Paddy Barnes on Episode 6 of The Irish Boxing Show: