Paddy Barnes knows well that the Irish boxing team don’t get anywhere near the acclaim they deserve.
Granted everyone knows they’re brilliant, but it doesn’t translate into funding, personal sponsorships, and actual recognition and realisation of the unbelievable achievement of consistently medaling at major international tournaments.
On Friday there is the encouraging move of a test international match against Russia, but this is just a fraction of what could be done if boxing was given the prominence its performance warrants.
When Eric Donovan was part of the Astana Arlans WSB team he was shocked to see packed arenas supporting the team and his own face on the side of buses and billboards. When Barnes and Mick Conlan qualified for the Olympics last year in Venezuela (a country which is far behind Ireland in terms of international boxing success) it was in front of an attendance of thousands and live on Venezuelan television.
Barnes, however, doesn’t envision a situation like this in Ireland in the near future, and laments the lack of funding that is keeping boxing firmly in the ‘Other Sports’ section of newspapers and websites. The double Olympic bronze medalist told Irish-Boxing.com that “a WSB team in Ireland is definitely out of the question, if we haven’t got the money for our own team to move out to the purpose-built facility in Abbotstown full-time then no way we will have it for a WSB team.”
“Friday night is only a test match, it has no decisions, and it’s not the #1 Russian team, but nonetheless the public can see who they are cheering on from the Irish Olympic boxing team.”
Barnes feels that the answer is more publicity, rather than a hastily-assembled bandwagon when major tournaments come round, noting how “no one on the team bar maybe Katie [Taylor] has a great profile.”
“We are travelling the World winning major medals in countries that very few people have heard of, and come home to only a few people at the airport.”
While his opponent on Friday night has yet to be confirmed, it will not be Olympic light flyweight gold medal rival Vasily Yegorov, something Barnes describes as “unfortunate, but I don’t really care as long as I get rounds.”
One of Ireland’s most successful sports stars ever, Barnes jokes that once the Olympics are over he is looking forward to “sitting on Copacabana Beach with a 24 pack of Harp.”
While just a joke, it’s textbook Barnes. He’s his own man and fully confident in his own abilities and achievements.
Gold medal favourite for Rio and looking to upgrade his previous two bronzes for the elusive gold, a lesser athlete could crumble, but not the Belfast man.
He admits that “nerves will always be there, but I feel no pressure because whilst I’d love to win the gold for my country I don’t feel pressure myself to prove anything to anyone.”
In terms of cost and World-class quality sporting action, Friday night at the Stadium is almost unparalleled, but if you are still on the fence, Barnes is as convincing as ever, describing it as an opportunity “to come and watch the great Paddy Barnes, you don’t need another reason.”
Ticket details for Ireland v Russia at the National Stadium:
Friday July 1st 2016
€5 for Children <14s
€10 for Adults
Tickets will be available on the door.
Doors Opening @ 6.30pm